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UPDATE: Pierce wins solemn contest with Colusa
The death of a Colusa High student Friday afternoon cast a pall over the football game between the RedHawks and Pierce, a game the Bears won 42-7.
Two hours before the start of the game a single-vehicle rollover accident killed Jordan Hillis, 17, and sent his passenger, Kyle Stacey, 16, to Enloe Medical Center with moderate to major injuries. Stacey has since been released from the hospital.
Hillis and Stacey were headed to Arbuckle to watch the game when the accident happened. Hillis, a senior, was a star basketball player and a member of the baseball team last year.
News of Hillis' death reached Arbuckle by halftime of the junior-varsity game, a game in which his younger brother, John Barron, was playing, but the news was kept from the varsity players on both teams.
Pierce and Colusa took the field for the varsity game for what was supposed to be a boisterous showdown between the two best teams in Colusa County, but it quickly became something larger than that.
After trading defensive stops to start the game, the news began spreading on the Colusa sideline. By the time Pierce punted a second time, pinning the RedHawks back at their own 5-yard line, several Colusa players were in tears, including senior running back Andrew Rodriguez.
"When I heard on Friday night I was in shock, like it can't be happening, and I went to one of my coaches and I asked him if it was really true and that's when I started crying," Rodriguez said.
Ryan Abele cut through the line, out-running the Bears defense for 95 yards, to give the RedHawks a 7-0 lead after Fernando Amador's kick, but the celebration was muted as word continued to spread.
Adolfo Ramirez returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the Colusa 38-yard line and quarterback Nate Smith found Joe Howard in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass, but a missed point after left the RedHawks with a one-point lead.
The RedHawks turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on a fourth-and-inches on their own 29-yard line, setting up a 17-yard touchdown run by Andy Corona on the second play of the second quarter. Smith completed the two-point conversion with another pass to Howard for a 14-7 lead.
Neither team was able to score for the rest of half but by that time RedHawk players were aware of Hillis' death.
"We made the decision to tell them at halftime because it seemed like the information was leaking out. We left that up to those guys. If they decided not to play that was fine, there was no shame in it, but if they still wanted to play, we left it up to them," Colusa coach Paul Theriault said.
As the coaches stepped aside, the RedHawk players gathered at the east end zone and decided to continue to play.
"The biggest thing was, for us as a staff, just to allow them to do whatever they thought they needed to do to work through the process. If they wanted to stay in the game it was OK, we had guys who would rotate out and rotate back in," Theriault said.
In the Pierce (5-0) locker room, the Bears players, some of whom knew Hillis through a recreational basketball league, were still unaware of the tragedy which took place earlier in the evening, Bears coach Scott Burnum said.
Colusa (2-2) received the kick to start the second half and quarterback Kyle Cervantes completed a pass to R.J. Phillips for 17 yards on the first play but a fumble on the next play gave Pierce the ball on the Colusa 35-yard line. Ramirez broke free up the middle on the second play of the drive for a 34-yard touchdown run and a 21-7 lead.
Cervantes and Phillips once again hooked up for a 17-yard reception on the next drive, but Smith leapt in front of a pass on a third-and-nine play for an interception.
"We play good defense and we keep field position and we keep plugging along," Burnum said, crediting the defense for making adjustments to slow a dangerous RedHawk offense.
Three plays later Corona scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Smith added a 41-yard touchdown run and Oscar Sanchez scored on a 68-yard run to push the lead out to 42-7 as the game went to a running clock.
Abele rushed for a game-high 122 yards on eight carries and scored the RedHawks' lone touchdown. Connor Herrick rushed for 54 yards on three carries, and Phillips caught two passes from Cervantes for 34 yards.
Corona led the Bears with 92 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Smith (10/69, touchdown), Sanchez (1/68, touchdown) and Ramirez (10/60, touchdown) contributed to Pierce's 299 yards on the ground. Chas Benton added a sack on defense, and Howard and Preston Smith both made nine tackles.
Colusa finishes its non-league schedule next week with a game in Chester against the Volcanoes (4-0), and the Bears have a bye week before opening Sacramento Valley League play on Oct. 5 against Mt. Shasta in Arbuckle.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.