By Louie Vera
When things aren’t going just right coaches are always looking for that one play to spark a fire.
The wick was lit on the legs of Gustavo Vasquez who scored a pair of touchdowns each half and added 143 yards rushing to bolt Veterans Memorial past the Raiders 35-16 Friday night at Sams Stadium.
“It was a great football game against the Raiders,” Chargers coach David Cantu said. “We had a couple of turnovers that made it a tight game but I’m proud of our kids. We played a really good football team and came out on top.”
With their back to the wall at the one yard line Vasquez busted open with a 63-yard run then three plays later punched it in from one-yard out for a 7-0 Veterans Memorial lead in the first quarter.
The Raiders got themselves on the board with a 44-yard field goal by Robert Melendez with 5:36 left in the second quarter.
After an exchange of possession Vasquez struck again when Isaiah Solis hit his teammate on a perfectly executed screen pass down the sidelines for 60 yards and a 14-3 advantage with 30 seconds left in the half.
Rivera capitalized on opening second half fumbled and saw Jesus Muniz scored from one-yard out to cut the Chargers lead to 14-9.
Moments later Veterans Memorial answered with another huge play as Abel Martinez took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to pay dirt to boost the lead to 21-9 with 8:50 remaining in third quarter.
“Isaiah made a great throw to Gustavo on the screen to get a score in before the half then Martinez’ kickoff return. Those were two back-breaking type plays that went in our favor, so I was pleased about that.”
The Raiders weren’t done just yet and delivered a counter-punch 11-play 74 yard touchdown capped by Anfernee Garcia’s four-yard scamper.
Rivera Raiders Head Coach Tom Chavez said there were many positives to take away from the game but it always stings to lose a gritty battle on the gridiron.
“I’m really proud of the effort but it hurts hard for everyone to lose,” he said. “Our boys did a lot of good things out there but we just have to clean it up and get the offense and defense going together. We’re going to learn from this and keep our heads up. We’re not down by any means and we’ll be ready for district.”
After a Chargers interception Veterans put the game away when Vasquez punched in his fourth touchdown from two yards out. The Chargers also had two interceptions and would’ve had a third back for a touchdown if it weren’t for a penalty.