Yucaipa sophomore quarterback Kai Smith prepares to throw.

The Yucaipa High football team, led by the band, enters the stadium. AC-DC’s “Thunderstruck” blares. As the T’-Birds sprint onto the field, the crowd erupts.


Yucaipa won its season opener last week, 34-28, Friday, Aug. 20, against Palm Springs. Here are the key moments, turning points, and comments. KEY STAT Yucaipa senior Emmanuel “JoJo” Barajas rushed for 268 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns. Barajas dashed around the Indians early and through them late. “It goes by fast,” said Barajas of his effort. “It was just all the O-line. They’re all my friends.” They are: Hunter Wichert (6-3, 260), Josh Lopez 5-10, 250), Troy Montgomery (5-11, 215), Ryan Sorenson (6-4, 205), and Nolan Gurrola (6-0, 225).


Down 14-7 with fewer than 10 seconds left in the first half, Yucaipa struck. Sophomore Kai Smith (150 yards passing, two TDs) rolled to his right and lofted a perfect spiral to Andrew Maynard in the right corner of the end zone. The T-Birds practically danced off the field.


Five days before the game, Yucaipa’s anticipated starting quarterback quit. The new QB1 is Smith, and he soared. He started slowly though. Nerves, ya know. But then he caught fire, aided by a team that rallied around him. Smith completed 15 of 22 for 150 yards and two TDs. “Kai did great, especially for a sophomore,” Barajas said. “We gave him positive energy.” JOJO TIME Smith tossed a 20-yard TD pass with 7:45 left in the third to Timothy Monaghan for 20-14. But Palm Springs struck back on a 78-yard pass play from Isaiah Goad to Dylan Armendariz for 21-20. Then it was Barajas, rambling 64 yards around the right side for the score. Yucaipa led 27-21 with 4:45 left in the third.


The T’birds got the ball back and drove. Finally, Zach Alonso bulled over from the 1. It was 34-21 with 10 minutes left. The O-line flexed. “We had first-game jitters, but then we started working together,” Sorenson said. Said Montgomery, “We focused on the power game. We went power left and power right – both run plays toward the edge.”


Palm Springs lingered. A 13-yard Isaiah Goad TD pass made it 34-28 with seven-plus minutes left. But that’s the way it ended, as Yucaipa’s defense and running game closed it out.


Yucaipa’s Everett Head made seven tackles. Nick Juarez and Blake Atchley had five apiece. Barajas recovered a fumble.


The players yelled. The coaches smiled. And Price gathered the boys for a chat. Then Justin’s dad took over. “I believe!” 72-year-old Butch Price began the familiar chant. “I believe!” the T-’Birds followed. “I am somebody! I can’t do everything! But I can do something! And what I can do, I must do!” Wild cheers.


Fans flowed to the field. Smith, a second-stringer a week ago, was pursued by the media. “Kai hadn’t taken one snap at quarterback, and he had to take over,” Justin Price said. “To play the way he did is pretty amazing.” UP NEXT Yucaipa and visiting Silverado met Thursday, Aug. 26 (too late for publication). The T-’Birds are at Temescal Canyon at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3.


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