FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: After Long Shootout, Bonita Falls 39-35

September 16, 2017
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Team captains, from left, J.P. Andrade, Matthew Sanchez, Andrew Flores and Diego Jimenez eagerly await the start of the game.

LA VERNE, California, GLENN DAVIS STADIUM, September 15, 2017 — The historic shootout at the O.K. Corral lasted all of 30 seconds while the one at Bonita’s Glenn Davis stadium whipsawed on Friday night for 48 minutes before the Bearcats finally fell to the Buena Bulldogs 39-35.

It looked as if Bonita would be the last man standing when the Bearcats took the lead, 35-32, in the fourth quarter with just under two minutes to play on a desperate third-and 25 30-yard touchdown pass completion from J.P. Andrade to No. 25 Kevin Bullock. Bedlam broke out on the Bearcats sidelines, with victory all but certain.

But Buena still had some powder left in its pistol and returned fire. With 1:05 left, Buena quarterback Cody Barber found a streaking Justin Anderson over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown completion to regain the lead 38-35, and then 39-35 after the extra point.

Staggering but still alive, Bonita first saw John Harris return the kickoff to the 49-yard line of Buena and then Andrade direct the offense down to Buena’s 28-yard-line with 15 seconds to play before the Bearcats finally ran out of ammunition, the last ball dropping to the ground,  inches from the goal line and victory. On the turnover of downs, Buena took a knee and the game was over.

Perhaps, as they did at the O.K. Corral, they’ll put a marker or plaque on the field to commemorate the contest of wills that the fans witnessed on Friday.

Andrade enjoyed strong protection from his offensive line and displayed good command of the offense.

It was Buena that started the game, making a statement on Bonita’s home turf, marching down the field with impunity, deftly mixing in the pass and run to keep the Bearcats off balance. With 6:19 left in the first quarter, they struck the first blow, a 5-yard touchdown pass from Barber to Kevin Linkletter. After the extra point, Buena led 7-0.

In response, Bonita marched the ball deep into Buena territory before the effort fizzled with a blocked field-goal attempt.  

But then the Bonita defense stiffened, and got the ball back for the offense. This time the offense didn’t disappoint as Bullock hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Andrade. After a two-point conversion, Bonita led 8-7.  Making the play sweeter for Bonita was that the touchdown came after a Bearcats holding penalty.

Bonita’s lead was short-lived, however. Barber delivered strikes to Anderson and Peyton Shelton and then pounded the ball on the ground with Robert Aguilar leading the way. Finally, early in the second quarter, Buena’s Tanner Butterbaugh punched paydirt with a 1-yard plunge, giving Buena a 14-8 lead, which would stand up at half-time.

Bonita saw one second-quarter drive fizzle on Buena’s 37-yard-line and Buena appeared to lose a touchdown on a holding penalty. Bonita also withstood another furious Buena assault when No. 24 Kenny Coulson recovered a fumble inside the red zone.

Andrade’s favorite Friday night target was Kevin Bullock, who scored three touchdowns.

In many ways, Bonita was fortunate to be trailing at the half by only six points. Buena’s offense seemed crisper and more consistent. In fact, Buena had rolled to 11 first downs in the first half, completing six of nine third-down opportunities.

For the start of the second half, Bonita got the ball first, and they showed they knew what to do with it. Bonita struck so fast that many fans were caught watching the action still waiting in line at the snack bar, the big play coming on a 64-yard gallop from Ivan Wilson-Bey before Andrade connected with Michael Musherbash on a quick-strike 2-yard touchdown pass. After the extra point, Bonita was back on top, 15-14.

After forcing a Buena punt, Bonita went to work again, starting from its own 12-yard line. The drive started with a strike to Bullock, then a 28-yard run by Wilson-Bey, who was starting to run wild. Then Andrade had hook ups with Musherbash and Harris. Then Bullock boxed out his defender and grabbed a 14-yard touchdown pass from Andrade. After the extra point, Bonita led 22-14 and clearly appeared to be on its way to victory.

Bonita forced another Buena punt, but the Bearcats mishandled it, and as a result, Buena was suddenly in business at Bonita’s 24-yard-line. Although Bonita was able to keep Buena out of the end zone, the Bulldogsā€™ tacked on three more points on the strength of Andrew Tilkensā€™ 38-yard field goal. Instead of enjoying a runaway, Bonita was now hearing footsteps, clinging to a 5-point lead.

But clearly Bonita had owned the third quarter and the fourth started just as well, when on the very first play of the final 12 minutes of action, Nathan Otto scored on a 16-yard pass, expanding Bonita’s lead to 28-17.

Ivan Wilson-Bey broke off some electrifying runs in the second half to help swing the momentum Bonita’s way.

But just as suddenly, from its own 36-yard line, Barber and Anderson connected again, this time for a 64-yard touchdown with 11:06 left. After the two-point conversion, with the score now 28-25, only a field goal separated Bonita from Buena.

In its next possession, Bonita moved the ball from its own 20 to the Buena 17 before the Bearcats failed to convert a fourth and two situation, turning the ball back to Buena on downs.

Buena seized the opening, completing the last 51 yards of its scoring drive on a pass from Barber to Tilkins. Now Buena was back in front, leading 32-28 with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter.

But that’s when Bonita with its back against the wall, looking at a third down and eternity to make a score, found the magic on Bullock’s third touchdown of the game, a remarkable feat considering he had been sidelined with an injury for three weeks. The completion between Andrade and Bullock was a coming out party for the two young captivating players.

But Buena had some magic and superb playmakers of their own and they responded to Bonita’s challenge with a remarkable touchdown drive that in the end Bonita could not overcome

The half-time show almost showed as much drama and resonance as the game.

It was a shootout worthy of some commemorative token to mark the hard-fought battle. Bonita coach Eli Aguilar wasn’t quite as charitable in his assessment of the game. What he saw were too many mistakes, too many missed opportunities to move the ball in short-yardage situations and too many complaints directed to the refs.

“We can’t let that stop us,” a frustrated but outwardly calm Aguilar said.

Despite the mistakes, the Bearcats proved they could put together a key fourth quarter drive. Now he needs to see his defense also rise to the occasion.

“We definitely can’t give up 39 points,” he said.

Still, the Bearcats proved they can hold their own in a shootout over 48 minutes. But in the next one, they want to be the survivors, not the victims when the last shot is fired.

Lucas Kelly, getting a breather on the bench, played a prominent role on defense.

On a night the action seesawed, finding the right balance was a delicate proposition.

Andrade, with all the passes he’s completing to his vaunted cast of receivers, is quickly becoming one of the league’s top gunslingers.

Bonita’s half-time show ranks as one of the valley’s best.

Bonita’s pride runs deep, from the fans, to the football players, to the flag wavers.

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