CALEXICO — The Central Union High School football team launched an aerial assault at Calexico High’s Ward Field on Friday, Oct. 1, scoring a 42-6 victory over the Bulldogs in the Imperial Valley League opener for both teams.
The Spartans (2-4 overall, 1-0 in IVL) had dropped three straight games coming into the contest, but scored six touchdowns, all through the air, and put the game away with a 21-point second quarter on Friday.
Damian Rodriguez, Central’s junior quarterback, had his best game as a Spartan, completing 17-of-29 passes for 339 yards with six touchdowns and one interception.
“I think we kind of stopped their running game early in the game and they went to the pass and it was working,” said Fernando Solano, Calexico High’s second-year head coach. “And then it kept working and they stuck with it.”
Central took the opening kickoff and marched 52 yards in 11 plays with Rodriguez finishing the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to junior Gavin Marini. Mylas Rodriguez booted the extra point and the Spartans had a quick 7-0 lead with 7:14 left in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs’ offense took advantage of a Spartans’ fumbled punt and drove down to Central’s 18-yard-line late in the quarter but came up short on a fourth-and-nine play when junior quarterback David Esquer hit junior receiver Andres Ramirez for just a seven-yard completion.
After that, the Spartans took advantage of some errors from the Bulldogs (3-3 overall, 0-1 in IVL) to put up 21 points in the second quarter.
Central scored on a 77-yard pass from Rodriguez to freshman Sergio Garcia with 11:44 left in the second quarter on a ball that could have been intercepted but the Calexico defensive back mistimed his jump on the underthrown pass.
The Spartans scored again after a botched Calexico handoff turned the ball over at the Central 14-yard-line. The Spartans got a 31-yard touchdown pass from Rodriguez to sophomore Arturo Estrada with 4:24 left in the half to up their lead to 21-0.
The third score of the quarter came after a 16-yard punt gave Central possession at the Bulldogs’ 36-yard-line with 1:45 left in the half. Six plays later Rodriguez hit Garcia with a 12-yard touchdown pass and the route was on at 28-0 with 13 seconds left in the half.
“When they started going to the air we started making simple mistakes and we didn’t do our jobs,” said Calexico senior linebacker and quarterback Abram Zazueta. “Offensively we could move the ball but a simple mistake like a low snap or somebody not knowing the play just kills us. We can compete, but we have to play better.”
Early in the third quarter, Calexico’s Ramirez was able to intercept a Rodriguez pass and return it to the Bulldogs’ 47-yard-line. Calexico moved the ball to the Central 26-yard-line but there Zazueta threw an interception that the Spartans’ Skylar Cook grabbed at the 1-yard-line.
Rodriguez would then hit Marini for a 54-yard touchdown that saw Marini manuever his way across the field for the score.
Central finished its scoring on the second play of the fourth quarter when Rodriguez hit Estrada on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 10:09 left in the game to make it 42-0.
Calexico took the ensuing kickoff and marched 67 yards in eight plays with Zazueta finishing the drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left to make the final 42-6.
“The first half we had them in a lot of third-and-longs and they were able to pick them up,” Solano said. “We have got to get better and getting off the field on defense. They were converting those third downs and it was frustrating.”
Central has a nine-game winning streak against the Bulldogs dating back to 2012. Calexico’s late touchdown stopped ended a scoreless streak the Bulldogs had against the Spartans, losing in 2019 (58-0) and in the Covid-spring season in March (45-0).
Central will step out of the IVL schedule for a week when the Spartans host Del Valle High of El Paso, Texas, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, at Cal Jones Field in El Centro. The game is a return visit after the Spartans went to Texas in 2019 and walked away with a 34-21 victory.
For the Bulldogs, they will trek to El Centro on Friday, Oct. 8, for a 7 p.m. kickoff against IVL rival Southwest. In the spring season in March, Calexico beat the Eagles, 19-12, in Calexico for the Bulldogs only win of the shortened season.