Football loses to Baldwin Park, 6-21

Falling to 1-4 in the season, football lost to Baldwin Park (2-3), 6-21 in its annual Homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 25 at home.

“This game isn’t going to affect us because this is all pre-season. We have league in two weeks and that’s when we’ll see who we really are and how we play the games,” linebacker coach Robert Herrera Jr. said.

Running back junior Cameron Walker scored the only passing touchdown of the game, while running back senior Alex Yen led the running game with 35 yards on five carries. Defensively, outside linebacker senior Bryce Onunwah and strong safety senior Christopher Covarrubias forced two interceptions.

The Mustangs got off to a slow start after going three and out on its first drive and then allowing a six play touchdown drive by the Braves. On Walnut’s next drive, Walker fumbled the ball, which resulted in another touchdown for Baldwin Park. Walnut’s next possession resulted in a turnover on downs as the team failed to complete a fourth and third at the Baldwin Park 31-yard line. After a series of unsuccessful drives from both teams, the Mustangs were down, 0-14 at the end of the first quarter.

“During the first, [being down early] put a lot of pressure on us for the rest of the game. Especially, because [it was] the Homecoming game,” middle linebacker Jason Ma said. “I wouldn’t say that the pressure made us play bad, but it gave us confidence. It made us not give up and [it gave us] a lot of pride since a lot of the alumnis are back and we had to make them proud.”

In the second quarter, the Mustangs continued its rough start after running back junior Isiah Hall mishandled the ball while receiving a punt at the 7:39 mark, allowing the Braves to recover the ball at Walnut’s 15-yard line. However, on the Braves’ drive, Covarrubias intercepted the ball in the end zone, regaining the possession back to the Mustangs. Despite getting an interception, the team failed to capitalize on the turnover and were forced to punt the ball away. Even though the Mustangs had stopped the Braves from scoring in the second, they failed to put up points by the end of the half.

“[My interception] gave us more hope than what we had even before the game. It gave us confidence to keep playing [even though we were down, 0-14],” Covarrubias said. “The momentum shifted and we began to focus on getting a score.”

During the third quarter, Walnut’s first two drives began with two three and outs, while Baldwin Park capped off its second drive with a 29-yard touchdown catch, widening the lead to 0-21. After going another three and out again, the Mustangs’ next drive resulted in a 33-yard touchdown pass to Walker. But after a missed extra point kick by junior Vincent Merino, the Mustangs were still down, 6-21.

“That touchdown felt really good because it brought me back up. I had a rough start. I lost yards and fumbled the ball, but after I scored I knew I still had the [fight] in me. It boost me up,” Walker said. “After [I scored], it turned everything around and the touchdown brought our team back. I knew we wouldn’t go down without a fight.”

In the closing minute of the third quarter, Walnut reclaimed possession as Onunwah intercepted the Braves’ pass and brought it back to the Baldwin Park 48-yard line. After losing two yards, the Mustangs capped off the quarter by bringing it to the 29-yard line after a 21-yard catch from wide receiver A.J. Gomez.

On Walnut’s first play of the fourth quarter, quarterback senior Micah Maes threw his first interception of the game, but the Braves failed to convert a third down, resulting in another chance for the Mustangs to comeback with 8:08 left. Walnut’s next drive consisted of 12 plays and three first downs that brought them to Baldwin Park’s 20-yard line on a fourth and two.

Needing a score, Walnut decided to go on the fourth down but were stopped after Ma came up one yard short. The Braves regained possession and on their first play fumbled the ball, which middle linebacker senior Joseph Aguilar recovered. However, the Mustangs failed to convert its next two drives, ending the game with another Maes interception.

“I’m not proud with the score, but we played our hearts out. We held them down to 21 points, but we just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We played outstanding, and that score doesn’t dictate our heart and fight and how we play because we know we gave it all we got,” Ma said. “We play as one unit and we all contribute to the team. [Onunwah] got an interception, [Covarrubias] got an interception, and [Walker] got his first touchdown, but individually those [achievements] doesn’t matter. We are a team and everything we do is together and one.”

Despite the loss, the Mustangs are still confident in their playing, especially once league starts.

“[To prepare for league], we just take it step by step each day. Next week we don’t have any games so we can continue practicing and just focus on our mental game,” Herrera Jr. said.

Football will play its first league game against Los Altos on Friday, Oct. 9 at home.

By Joshua Shen, Sports editor

Photo by Aaron Yong