HANFORD – For the first 24 minutes of the Central Section Division II quarterfinals Friday night, Garces looked prepared to shock the world.
But those thoughts fell silent as the Rams turned the ball over five times in a 33-20 loss to No. 1 Hanford on the road.
Garces (5-7) went into halftime with a 14-13 lead as Brennen Sevier forced a Bullpups (11-0) fumble and Logan Bowers returned it 68 yards as time expired heading to the locker room at intermission.
That score was a big boost of confidence for the defense that had shutdown the Hanford offense in the first half follow the Bullpups opening drive that went 82 yards on 16 plays.
But Bowers (five tackles), Zach Buckey (3 tackles for loss, two sacks), Aaron Martinez (six tackles), Sevier (four tackles), Jalen Smith (seven tackles) and Phillip Bradford (team-high eight tackles) kept the undefeated top-seed out of the end zone the rest of the first half.
But Hanford scored on the opening possession of the third quarter to five the Bullpups a 19-14 and scored 20 unanswered until Joseph Campbell found Isaiah Bell for a 49-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Hanford capitalized, scoring on ensuing drives on two Garces fumbles in the second half.
Campbell also connected with Dom D’Amato in the first half on a 69-yard touchdowns that tied the game at 7-7.
Campbell, along with best friend JonPaul LaFever lead a group of 18 seniors that depart the football program with a lasting legacy.
“Our senior class here, hats of to them,” Garces first-year coach Paul Golla said. “They welcomed this new staff. What a great group of young men. Hopefully we were able to teach them some life skills.”
Five of the seven teams the Rams lost to in the regular season are in the semifinals in the section.
RUSHING: Smith 9-31, Wimberly 7-11, Campbell 4-(-10).
PASSING: Campbell 17-34-1-242
RECEIVING: Bell 4-67, Bradford 3-17, Marshall 6-79, Wimberly 1-0, Smith 1-2, Hatten 1-8, D’Amato 1-69.
Tackles: A. Martinez 6, Garcia 5, Eccleston 6, Bradford 8, Jalen Smith 6, Uphold 1, Buckey 4, Bell 2, Sevier 4, D’Amato 2, Beldo 1, M. Martinez 1.
Tackles for loss: Sevier 1, Buckey 3.
Sacks: Buckey 2
Fumble recovery: Bowers
Forced fumble: Sevier