The Fremont Firebirds lived up to their namesake to open the game on Friday night against the Homestead Mustangs. Fremont was on fire both offensively and defensively the first two drives of the contest.
Firebirds defensive lineman Fernando Guerra recovered a fumbled snap on the game’s very first drive, giving the Fremont offense terrific field position for their first drive. The Fremont offense then drove down 60 yards, all the way down to the Mustangs’ one-yard line. Tailbacks Owen Street and Ivan Valladarez led the way, breaking off 10-20-yard chunk runs. Unfortunately for Fremont fans, that’s where the Firebirds’ bad luck and self-inflicted wounds started to turn the game around.
After getting down the one-yard line, multiple penalties backed the offense up to a second-and-goal situation from the 15. A sack on third down left Fremont with a fourth-and-goal from the 22. The Firebirds would go to attempt a field goal, but the snap was high and quarterback Bronson Stein was tackled well short of the end zone.
On the very next play, the Mustangs would score on an 80-yard touchdown run, their first of two 70-plus-yard touchdowns. Penalties and explosive plays combined to cool off the Firebirds, as Homestead would eventually cruise to a 34-10 victory.
“We were in the red zone six times and only had one touchdown and one field goal out of that,” noted Firebirds Head Coach Rob Swartz. “It was mainly penalties that caused us problems, we ran the ball really well. Ivan Valladarez had 167 yards on 19 carries.”
Valladarez would score the Firebirds’ lone touchdown, at which point Fremont was still very much in the game. The senior tailback, who made the switch from wide receiver just this offseason, made a nice patient cutback run on a toss play to score from a six-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 13-7 with just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
“It was a toss to the right, and I was just waiting for my blocks to get in front,” recalled Valladarez on his touchdown. “Once I saw that the defense started over pursuing and my blockers were in front of me, I saw the hole, made a man or two miss and was able to walk in.”
Homestead would answer the Fremont touchdown less than a minute later with back-to-back passing plays, one of which went deep over the middle for 45 yards. Fremont came right back down the field and a nice scramble and run by Stein set up freshman Don Martinez for a 28-yard field goal with under 10 seconds remaining in the half. Trailing just 20-10, the mood at halftime on the Fremont sideline was actually quite upbeat.
“I felt like we moved the ball better, we just shot ourselves in the foot, we had mental errors that cost us the game” added Valladarez. “If we clean those up, I think we are good to go.”
Fremont will look to bounce back this Friday night when they play host to Lynbrook.