The emotions could have gotten to Chaparral.
Instead, the Cowboys channeled their response to the confluence of events taking place on Friday night into a dominating, 50-0 victory over rival Eldorado in the annual “Cleat Game,” played since 1973 for a trophy cleat donated by then-Los Angeles Rams standout Merlin Olsen.
Friday’s game took on greater significance for Chaparral early this week, however, when senior captain Paul Smith was cleared by doctors to put his uniform back on for the first time this season. Smith had missed most of the preseason and the first two games of the year after he was shot in the pelvis by three men while walking home after practice on August 1.
“This is a very traditional night,” Chaparral coach Paul Nihipali said. “This game means a lot to the community. And having Paul back in uniform, just his leadership, he’s a big example to us.”
Smith spent most of the first half on the sidelines watching before getting some playing time in the second half. The Cowboys (2-1) did plenty of damage in his stead.
Santiago Vialpando threw four long touchdown passes to Kentrell Petite, TyRay Collins returned a punt and an interception for two more scores, and the Cowboys defense intercepted Eldorado quarterback Jaime Rangel three times — all in the first half.
Collins’ interception return, good for 94 yards, came with 5 minutes, 42 seconds left in the second quarter. That score made it 36-0 and invoked the running clock the rest of the way. Each team had the ball only three times in the second half.
The only score of the half came with 50 seconds left in the contest. Adan Bernal payed off an 89-yard Chaparral drive with a 4-yard plunge. Jesus Casa Mayor’s kick created the final score.
The first half fireworks were a different story.
Trayvius Hodge got things started for the Cowboys, when he intercepted Sundevils quarterback Jaime Rangel on the third play of the game.
Vialpando found Petite on Chaparral’s first play for a 27-yard touchdown strike. That would turn out to be the shortest of the four TD connections between the senior tandem.
The offense didn’t even get to participate for the second score. After another three-and-out from Eldorado (0-3), Collins grabbed the ensuing punt on his own 47-yard line. He made one cut, got to the right side and raced 53 yards for a touchdown and a 15-0 lead.
Vialpando and Petite would then add strikes of 51 and 48 yards, much of both coming after the catch as Petite refused to go down.
“Honestly, our offense is just pretty good,” Petite said. “We just executed.”
Vialpando would finish the game with 301 yards through the air, completing 13 of 18 attempts. Petite caught seven of those balls for 208 yards.
Petite was awarded the game ball by the coaching staff for his efforts.
The Cowboys intercepted a total of four passes from Eldorado quarterbacks, as they kept the bronzed “Cleat” trophy for the second straight season.