Thunderbirds stay close early before decisive loss to Cajon

It was a rough season for the Thunderbirds but they fought hard all season.

Trailing 41-0 to Cajon with seconds left in the game as well as in their high school careers, Yucaipa quarterback Casey Graf was still trying to throw scoring passes to David Fisher and Zach Murray in an attempt to squeeze every last yard out of the 2019 football season. The home crowd appreciated the three senior’s efforts albeit failing on three pass attempts to gain that elusive Yucaipa touchdown as the clock blared for the final time.

“We came out and played hard and had our opportunities,” said YHS coach Justin Price. “Cajon is two-time league champion and they played like it in the second half.”

The Thunderbirds finish the season at 3-7 and 2-3 in Citrus Belt League. Cajon enters the playoffs at 8-2 and 5-0 in CBL.

The first half was a slightly different game. YHS was behind 8-0 after one quarter and trailed 13-0 with four minutes left in the half when it lost a chance to get closer after starting quarterback Elijah James completed a 55-yard pass to Fisher to the Cajon 20.

But the play was called back and Yucaipa penalized because one of its assistants was steps onto the playing field during the play and bumped into the line judge. Yucaipa protested but officials determined it a 15-yard infraction with the ball returned to the Yucaipa 14, basically a 66-yard turnaround. “They could have given us a warning,” said Price. “If we get that play things might have been different.”

Cajon capitalized immediately. With 28 seconds left in the half, the Cowboys scored on a 52-yard pass from Jonathan Calderon to Larenzo McMillan to make it 21-0. Yucaipa could not recover. James did keep Yucaipa’s slim chances alive by running for five first downs to get his team into Cajon territory. McMillan led Cajon with five receptions for 117 yards. Calderon threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Yucaipa multi-purpose player Kaleb Stamps, a junior caught five passes good for 53 yards.

Cajon went right to work in the second half. Less than two minutes in, it scored on a 30-yard pass from Calderon to James Lindsay. Cajon continued to showcase its deep roster in the third quarter when Amir Brown and Freddy Fletcher both reached 100 yards rushing. A.J. Waters caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and scored on a 60-yard punt return, making it 41-0 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

“We couldn’t get our tackles tonight and I messed up, too,” said junior YHS linebacker Justin Stevens. “We worked like a team but Cajon made some great plays. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Teammate Dylan Sprague, a junior starter at offensive tackle called Cajon a great opponent. “Tonight we played for our seniors and I’m looking forward to my senior year. We improved a lot this year and we have a lot of potential.”

Jacob Garcia had ten tackles for YHS and Jackson Beamish finished his high school career with nine tackles and a sack. Price thought Nevada-Reno recruit R.J. Taylor played well on defense in his last prep game. Likewise, junior Devrajsinh Zala caught Price’s attention.

“Obviously we competed tonight and played all 17 of our seniors. I like a lot of the guys coming back,” said Price. “It will be hard to replace Fisher and Bolinger and we lose our whole offensive line. I cannot say enough about what Casey Graf meant to this team.”

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