The Yucaipa High School football team scored on its first two possessions and maintained a 28-25 lead in the fourth quarter but could not contain host San Gorgonio’s running game in the end, resulting in a 38-28 loss last Friday.

Yucaipa (1-3) sophomore running back Haiden Smith turned in another impressive showing by gaining 162 yards on 32 carries. His2 yard run following an interception by teammate Dylan Stevens on San G’s first play of the game gave YHS a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Smith helped Yucaipa to a 7-0 lead by gaining 34 yards in a drive that was completed by a 25-yard pass from Casey Graf to David Fisher.

Graf lifted Yucaipa to a 25-18 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter on his 1-yard run that followed his 16-yard completion to Louie Sandoval. From that point San G. (4-1) showed its defending CIF championship experience by closing out the win with two late touchdowns. The Spartans had a number of players return from its 2018 team that narrowly lost in the state championship game.

“They played like a championship team and we made them look like one,”  said YHS coach Justin Price. “We couldn’t get it done on defense but we looked much better and are improving”

San G. coach Rich McClure said he got what was expected from the Thunderbirds.

“We knew going in that they would be physical and it took us a while to adjust.”

YHS had won the previous four games between the two and holds an 8-4 record in the rivalry.

San Gorgonio presented problems when it began running outside with seniors Jaylen Matthews, Jaheim Crawford, and Demajea Mitchell, who caught two touchdown passes from Seth Burbine. Crawford rushed for two touchdown and Matthews ran for another. Burbine finished by completing 12-of-19 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns.

“They ran a complex offense using a lot of sweeps, had power up the middle and their receivers were good blockers,”said YHS defensive back Jacob Garcia. “We just need to start containing the outside run.”

Garcia, Stevens, Jackson Beamish and Wesley Cybula made crucial defensive plays throughout. Teammate Gavin Mink also played a major role with field goals of 33 and 40 yards that gave YHS the 28-25 lead with nine minutes left in the game. Mink's first field goal was setup by a 45-yard pass completion from Graf to Fisher to the Spartans’ six-yard line. That field goal gave YHS a 17-6 lead.

Smith was unstoppable until the fourth quarter. Running behind R.J. Taylor, Brandon Hernandez, and Dashawn Boutchee, Smith led Yucaipa on all its scoring drives.

“I can carry the ball about 30 times a game but we have to get our passing game going,” said Smith. “We can’t run the ball the whole game. I started getting a little tired.”

Fisher turned in another solid performance on both sides of the ball; however San G had too many senior receivers spread all over the field. He caught three passes for 83 yards. Graf completed his first 5-of-6 passing attempts for 96 yards, finishing 9-for-18 for 124 yards, including running and passing for touchdowns. His only interception came with two minutes left in the game.

The Thunderbirds play their final nonleague game tonight (Sept. 27) by hosting Silverado on homecoming. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. YHS begins Citrus Belt League play at Citrus Valley on Oct. 4.

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