HANFORD — On the verge of a three-game losing streak and a 0-3 start to league play, Hanford West needed a stop on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line to give themselves a winning chance. They couldn’t get it.
Instead, Mount Whitney quarterback Jaedyn Pineda dropped back in the pocket, scrambled and squeezed next to the right pylon and into the end zone for six. Mt. Whitney led 42-34 with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies needed to block the extra point to keep it a one-possession game and give themselves a tying chance. They couldn’t get it either.
And so they walked off the field for the third straight week, this time losing 43-34, while falling to last place in the West Yosemite League standings.
“The biggest thing is we get into these big-time situations where we need either big stops or a big first down and we’re just not getting it,” Hanford West coach Cannon Sanchez said. “It’s just situations, we’re not finishing.”
Friday night was another chapter to the season-long issue of Hanford West’s inability to put a complete game together. The last two weeks the Huskies (3-4, 0-3 WYL) had been jumped on early and trailed for the majority of the night, but against the Pioneers, they actually led the entire first half.
“We did a real good job game planning and we executed really well in the first half,” Sanchez said. “The guys knew what we had to do offensively and that’s kind of why we scored points quick, but again we just didn’t put it together.”
Hanford West wide receiver Lavazyon Handsbur caught a pass from quarterback Ethan Natera, sidestepped a defender and ran 56 yards for the touchdown. After the missed extra point, the Huskies led 6-0 with 4:39 left in the first.
Mt. Whitney (2-4, 1-1 WYL) came back quickly with a field goal on their next possession and then forced Hanford West into a safety to trim the lead to one, 6-5, at the end of the first quarter.
Hanford West started off the second quarter with an interception, but Mt. Whitney gave it right back on the next play with a fumble.
After a flag, it only took the Huskies two plays to move the ball 53 yards culminating with Natera’s 24-yard scramble into the end zone. Natera faked a handoff before sidestepping one tackler and saw nothing but green after that.
Mt. Whitney settled for a field goal to cut the lead to five, but Hanford West scored quickly again on Jayron Jenkins’ 10-yard touchdown run. Wide receiver Antonio Perez set up the score with a 41-yard catch.
Coming out of the third quarter, something changed. The run defense suddenly opened up and the offense stalled. Sanchez said he thought his team came out complacent and that Mt. Whitney wanted it more.
“After the first half, we thought too much that we already had it, so we came out thinking [Mt. Whitney] wasn’t going to make anything happen,” Handsbur said. “But they kept pushing and they did what they had to do.”
Mt. Whitney scored 28 points in the second half, 14 in each quarter, and Hanford West struggled to move the ball.
“We just got to bring it on Monday,” Jenkins said. “The momentum was there, everything was there, we just have to push harder, keep going.”
Hanford West will try and get their season turned around against first-place El Diamante (3-3, 2-0 WYL) next Friday at the Neighbor Bowl at 7:30 p.m. El Diamante defeated Mt. Whitney 38-16 on September 22.
“WYL is a tough league and we knew that coming in,” Sanchez said. “We thought this was going to be a win we needed bad and, obviously, it was, but we have three more opportunities to get wins.”