Buena’s big first half too much for Royals to overcome

Before the deluge hit Friday night, the San Marcos football team took a heavy pounding from a big Buena offensive line and fell behind 31-0 in the first half of the Channel League game at Warkentin Stadium.

The Royals played better in the second but the deficit was too much to overcome and they fell, 31-13, ending their hopes of making the CIF playoffs.

Buena (4-5, 3-0) clinched a postseason berth and will play for the league title next Friday against city rival Ventura.

San Marcos (3-6, 1-2) still has plenty to play for next week. It enters the Big Game against Santa Barbara with the City Championship at stake.

Buena dominated the line of scrimmage from the start and rolled down the field to take a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Quarterback Noah Martinez guided the Bulldogs 82 yards in eight plays and scored on a 20-yard run.

“Our guys came out ready and they knew what was at stake,” Buena coach Tim Gutierrez said. “Today was going to be our first goal of the year, making the playoffs. There was some urgency behind them today and that was great.”

San Marcos, with the aid of four Buena penalties, moved the ball to the Bulldogs’ 41 before running back Ivan Reyes was stopped short of a first down on a fourth and two.

Buena struck quickly as Martinez hooked up with wide receiver Blake Burnett for a 50-yard pass play. Running back Josh Cookson ran the final 10 yards to put the Bulldogs up 14-0 with 3:28 left in the first quarter.

Cookson continued to pick yardage behind his big offensive line, and he scored again on a 15-yard run for a 21-0 lead with 4:14 left in the second quarter.

Things got worse for San Marcos as it fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving Buena the ball at the Royals’ 27. Six plays later, Cookson ran 7 yards for a touchdown, increasing the lead to 28-0.

Cookson rushed for 90 yards in the first half and finished the game with 121 yards rushing on 21 carries.

“We made some mistakes that just hurt us,” San Marcos coach Anthony Linebaugh said of the first half. “Obviously, the fumble on the kick return really changes how you look at things because you’re only going to get so many possessions. We knew they were playing for the playoffs, and this was the first time we’ve had a meaningful game in quite a long time, Senior Night and everything. We did our best to manage all our potential distractions.”

The Bulldogs didn’t let up. After their defense held San Marcos three and out, they moved the ball into range for kicker Jacob Bentivolio. He booted a 42-yard field goal with five seconds left in the first half for a commanding 31-0 lead.

Buena amassed 300 total yards in the first half to San Marcos’81.

Cookson’s running on Buena’s first series of the second half set up Bentivolio for a 42-yard field goal attempt. The Royals got a break when he missed wide.

San Marcos’ offense found its rhythm behind the running of Reyes. He carried the ball 10 times on an 80-yard drive and got the Royals on the scoreboard on a 7-yard run at 11:54 of the fourth quarter.

“It was kind of funny, we got a little drive going and the rain happens,” Linebaugh said. “We responded pretty well.”

Reyes responded well in the second half, rushing for 87 yards on 20 carries. He finished the game with 115 yards on 27 rushes.

“He’s a tough young man, and he’s a junior,” Linebaugh said. “D’Shaun Vines is also a junior. We have a lot of juniors who are playing key roles now and they’ll have a chance to continue.”

With the rain pouring down, the Royals put together another long drive for their second touchdown. Senior quarterback Sage Reid finished the 67-yard drive with a 5-yard sweep on fourth and goal. The pass for a two-point conversion failed.

The Royals now set their sights on playing for a City Championship.

“I told them, ‘Short memory,’” Linebaugh said. “We’ll watch film tomorrow and we have a big game next week. The City Championship, and it’s been awhile since we’ve played in that, too. It’s another opportunity for us.”

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