Bret Harte High School junior running back Tyler Cabral said the controversy surrounding the departure of former coach Casey Kester this week did not distract the Bullfrogs from their gridiron obligation to pull in a win.
They did just that Friday night at Dorroh Field in Angels Camp, beating the visiting Arroyo High School Dons 13-7 and sledgehammering a message to their doubters.
“We came out ready to play. We really bounced back,” Cabral said as the entire team immediately departed to the lockers rooms following the victory.
It was the Bullfrogs first game under newly appointed interim coach Kelly Osborn following the resignation of Kester amid controversy about his handling of the team in the final minutes of their previous game, a 21-3 loss, against El Dorado High School.
Kester instructed the offense to take a knee with less than a minute remaining on the clock, causing a parent to complain to the school board.
Osborn, a Bret Harte graduate, former defensive coordinator for Bret Harte High School football and football alumnus of Sacramento State University, accepted an offer as interim coach for the remainder of the 2019 school year.
“I like Coach Osborn. He only had four days to prepare. I feel like he’s really good for us. He’s all about discipline,” Cabral said.
Cabral pointed out his teammate, Kodiak Stephens, who quit the team in protest over Kester’s decision and later re-joined the team under Osborn.
Cabral said he felt as if Kester “gave up on us” at the beginning of the season, but said he was now optimistic for the Mother Lode League season ahead.
Cabral led the team on most of their long-yard running plays and earned the touchdown which proved the difference between the two teams.
This Friday, with an assured lead in tow and one minute and 17 seconds remaining, the Bullfrogs appeared to have no qualms taking a knee to run down the clock.
The Bullfrogs are now 2-2 in non-league play.
Arroyo High School from San Leandro in East Bay, was coming off a 19-0 loss against Oakland Military Institute.
The Bullfrogs still appeared to be dealing with a depleted roster, though 18 players, an increase from last week, were on the field in full equipment and pads.
In their opening warm up, the Bullfrogs were spirited — many high fived assistant coaches while running practice plays, and others whooped and hopped with intensity.
By the time of kickoff, the sky was darkening and a cold breeze swept over Dorroh Field.
The game began later than anticipated — about 7:30 p.m. — due to the late ending of the junior varsity game.
Still, the Bullfrogs opened the game with alacrity and drew first blood.
Opening runs from the Dons were crushed into the backfield, but a dead ball foul allowed the opponents to secure a pass play to the Bullfrog 39-yard line. The home team took no time to take control again, pouncing on a fumble and jolting junior running back Cabral 13-yards upfield on a run into Dons territory.
Cabral led the campaign upfield after that, time after time securing first downs. It was senior wide receiver Adam Ange who brought the Bullfrogs to the one-yard line on a razorblade run to the corner, but the Bullfrogs were hindered by a foul and pushed back 5 yards.
As senior kicker Emmanuel Nava lined up to kick, he was pushed back another five yards on a false start, but drained it high and through the uprights anyway.
The Dons were disrupted on their uneven offense after a handful of incomplete passes and turned over the ball on downs at the Bret Harte 31 yard line.
A few rock solid runs and another catch by Ange propelled the Bullfrogs forward again.
Nava was called to the field again, this time for a 39-yard kick. At first the somersaulting football seemed short, but it bounced off the horizontal pole and through the uprights for another 3-point score.
In the final minutes of the half, the Bullfrogs had control of the football. Again, they were stopped short on fourth down. They gave control to Nava, whose 52-yard kick sailed just short of the uprights.
On the opening kickoff, it appeared Cabral returned for a full-field touchdown run. A push-in-the-back foul reversed it, however, and gave control of the football to the Bullfrogs 20 yards from the endzone.
Cabral redeemed the Bullfrogs moments later, earning their first touchdown in two games with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Dons then surged upfield, ending a long run play 20 yards from the Bullfrog endzone. But repeated clap backs from the Bret Harte kept the Dons at bay and they turned the ball over on downs seven yards back from where they first saw opportunity.
After a few plays, Nava laid down his block again for a 49-yard field goal attempt, but a bad snap upset the play and turned over the ball to the Dons on the 31-yard line.
The Dons seemed determined to not lay down to an inevitable Bullfrog victory. They took the ball all the way to the Bret Harte red zone as the time transitioned into the fourth quarter. The Dons undertook a sweeping pass play that was caught one handed by a wide receiver, narrowing the Bullfrog lead to 13-7 with 11 minutes remaining.
On the next series, the Bullfrogs again attempted and failed on a field goal. This time, the culprit was a botched and imprecise snap.
There were five minutes remaining and the Dons, just a touchdown and a point-after-attempt away from victory, had the ball on their own 35-yard line.
One short pass after another, they advanced upfield and eventually into Bullfrog territory. But with a little more than a minute remaining, a long pass to a Don wide receiver went awry.
The ball was turned over on downs to the Bullfrogs on the Bret Harte 38-yard line.
Next week, the Bullfrogs will face off against Linden High School at home. The week after, they will play their first league game of the season against Amador High School.