HANFORD - The Hanford West football team found itself in unfamiliar territory Thursday night at Neighbor Bowl.
For the first time in five years, the Huskies were playing in the Central Section playoffs. And for the first time in 12 years, they were hosting a playoff game.
Without playoff experience, Hanford West was still up for the challenge.
After falling behind 14-0 early on, the Huskies scored 24 unanswered points then held on to beat Bishop Union 24-21 in a Central Section Division V playoff opener.
Hanford West, the No. 7 seed, advances to next Friday's quarterfinals against No. 2 Shafter (8-2).
No. 10 Bishop Union ends the season with a record of 5-6.
The Huskies see advancing as a second chance to prove themselves after nearly falling to the Broncos.
Midway through the second quarter, Hanford West found itself with just five yards of total offense and with four turnovers. While the Huskies' offense would get going later on, Hanford West head coach Cannon Sanchez said it was the defense that kept the team in the game.
“The defense played well all game,” Sanchez said. “Those big plays saved us but we know that won't be enough to win next week.”
With 8:29 left in the first quarter, Bishop Union took a 6-0 lead on Luke McClean's 5-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown that was set up by a 40-yard screen pass.
With the Huskies pinned up against its on goal-line, the Broncos got a safety to push the lead to 8-0.
And with 9:06 left in the half, Bishop Union took advantage of a Hanford West interception deep in Huskies' territory that was tipped at the line. On the following play, Bishop Union scored from the 6-yard-line with McClean finding Mike Molina in the end zone.
Hanford West's offense would finally get going after the defense got an interception from Dayamion Houston deep in the Broncos' territory.
Hanford West capitalized on starting inside the Bishop Union 20-yard-line.
Facing fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard-line, Josiah James caught a touchdown pass from Ethan Natera to cut the Broncos' lead to 14-6.
Three big plays give Hanford West the lead for good in the second half.
On the first possession of the second half, Huskies' running back Jayron Jenkins scored his first of two touchdowns on a 50-yard run to pull Hanford West within 14-12.
Later in the quarter, Natera found a streaking Zhaevon Luster, catching Bishop Union off-guard on a pump fake, for an 80-yard score.
After forcing a 3-and-out on Bishop Union's next possession, the Huskies scored on their first play, with Jenkins breaking off another 50-yard touchdown to push Hanford West's lead to 24-14.
Hanford West's defense would bend but not break to hold on for the win.
The Broncos went on a 12-play drive to score early in the fourth quarter, then had two possessions in the final minutes with the Huskies forcing turnovers on downs.
Hanford West was able to kneel to run out the clock from there after not being able to run out the clock on the previous possession.
For the game, Jenkins led the way for the Huskies, rushing for 147 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns.
Sanchez said the team will be eager to play better next week against the Generals.
“They're a good team,” Sanchez said of Shafter. “They're physical and play a similar style to us. Offensively we're going to have to perform better.”