The Atwater Falcons used a time-sapping drive in the fourth quarter that helped them defeat Ceres 38-20 and give coach Seneca Ybarra his first win as a varsity head coach on Thursday night at Dave Honey Stadium.
The previous victory for the Falcons (1-3) came in the final week of the 2015 season – the last under head coach Bob Valladao – when they beat crosstown rival Buhach Colony. Atwater went 0-10 season, its only under head coach Nelson Medeiros.
Ybarra is the third Falcons coach in three seasons.
With more than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Ceres marched inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line with a chance to cut the deficit to 31-26. A potential two-point conversion could’ve brought the Bulldogs to within a field goal.
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But free safety Darius Hyde stepped in front of a Dalton Durossette pass and Atwater took over on its own 6 with 8:52 remaining in the game.
It was the Falcons’ third pick of the night. Andrew Hernandez and Isaias Solora came through with the other two.
Nearly seven minutes and a dozen run plays later, the Falcons were nearing the red zone and threatening to put the game on ice. However, a third-down conversion was necessary to keep the drive alive. That’s when Ybarra called for a halfback-option pass that fooled everybody. Running back Jesus Bautista took the toss, ran left toward the home sideline and then pulled up to launch a pass to a wide-open Hernandez, who was pushed out of bounds at the 2. The pass was underthrown, but Hernandez made a good play coming back on the ball.
From there Crisanto Perez cashed in to produce the final margin with only 1:57 showing on the clock.
“Yeah, we’ve been practicing that a little bit,” said Ybarra, a Golden Valley graduate who played on the Cougars’ squad that reached the 1995 Sac-Joaquin Section title game in just the school’s second year of existence. “We’ve got to be a ball possession team. The kind of athletes that we have, we have to hold onto the rock and drive down. I just enjoy that kind of football.”
It’s easy to enjoy “that kind” of football when you get a performance like the one delivered by Charles Jackson.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound sophomore had touchdown runs of 77, 81 and 56 yards, showing off dazzling speed.
“I know that last year we were 0-10 and I kept thinking, ‘How can I help them,” said Jackson. “And I guess tonight was the night.”
Bautista also had a long TD run for the Falcons, going 75 yards for a first-half score. During the clinching drive, Alberto Ramos had several key runs – including for 36 yards – to help the Falcons keep the chains moving.
After trailing by 17 at two different junctures in the contest, Ceres pulled to within 31-20 when senior running back Andrew Gibson dashed in from 49 yards out with about three minutes to go in the third quarter.
About two minutes after that, Atwater fumbled and the Bulldogs took over on their own 35.