Elijah James threw touchdown passes of 68, 44, and 11 yards to David Fisher and Haiden Smith ran 33 yards for another but the Yucaipa High School football team came up short, 35-26 at Carter in a Citrus Belt League contest. YHS is now 1-6 overall and 0-2 in CBL. Carter is 3-4 (1-1 CBL).
The Thunderbirds held a 12-7 lead at halftime and took a 26-20 lead when James and Fisher connected on the 68-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. However, YHS had a hard time stopping Carter's Gustavo Lopez who ran for four touchdowns, including a 67-yard scoring reception from quarterback Jonathan Salabaj. Lopez totaled 255 yards rushing and receiving on 31 touches. Lopez' last two touchdown proved the difference in the game.
"It was a battle tonight. Just like the San Gorgonio game, we didn't finish, said YHS coach Justin Price. Both Price and Carter coach Justin Randall considered David Fisher and Gustavo Lopez outstanding talents. Fisher caught eight passes good for 168 yards and three touchdowns. At defensive back, he batted down three long passes by Carter.
Yucaipa running back Haiden Smith was also on his way to a big game until he suffered a leg injury two minutes into the third quarter. The quick thinking Smith gained most of his 94 yards on 14 carries in the first half. His 33-yard run cut Carter's lead to 7-6. "Number 24 (Smith) is just a great ball carrier," said Randall. "He was hurt pretty bad." YHS could gain only 26 yards rushing after Smith was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Randall called the Thunderbirds offensive line the best he's seen this season. "They are physical and just a hell of an offensive line. You just don't see a 1-6 team play that good."
The Thunderbirds got numerous outstanding plays including Austin Bolinger's only touch of the game, a 34-yard reception from James. Teammate Cole Chessman made an interception and returned it to the Carter 4, leading to Yucaipa's largest lead of the game at 20-7. In his second varsity start, James showed improvement by throwing for 195 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception on 6-of-18 attempts. He had four passes dropped.
Yucaipa got good defensive efforts from Jacob Garcia (12 tackles) and Dylan Cruz (12 tackles). Jackson Beamish and Dylan Stevens both had nine tackles. Garcia and Daniel Romero both broke up potential touchdown passes. YHS backup quarterback Casey Graf made a sensational tackle with ten seconds left in the game.
Yucaipa hosts Redlands East Valley tonight (Oct. 18). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.