HANFORD - While facing a schedule that had, arguably, the toughest first two games of the Central Section season, the Hanford football team looked poised to pick up its first victory Thursday night at Neighbor Bowl.
Unfortunately for the Bullpups, it was the little things that made the difference.
For the third straight game, Hanford's offense struggled to find the end zone and a missed extra point in the first quarter ended up being the difference, as Madera knocked off the Bullpups 7-6 in a low-scoring matchup.
After losses to Buchanan (48-6) and Sanger (42-0) to start the season, Hanford had a chance for its first win, to potentially kick-start momentum in a rematch of the 2014 Central Section Division III championship game.
But Hanford's youth was once again on display as the team struggled to move the chains.
Using two quarterbacks, Hanford stuck with the run game to limited success early on, with one prolonged drive ending the Bullpups scoring skid -- which went back to the first quarter of its opening game.
After Hanford went 3-and-out on the opening drive of the game, Madera jumped out to an early lead following a prolonged drive.
Taking over on its own 36-yard-line, Madera took nine plays to go 64 yards, scoring on fourth and goal from the Hanford 4-yard-line.
From the shotgun, Cole Bricefield took a high snap and was still able to corral the ball in and take it in on a quarterback keeper to make it 7-0.
On its next possession, Hanford took 13-plays – all runs – to go 80 yards, with Jupri Hughes giving Hanford its first touchdown since its first possession of the season.
After the touchdown, however, the extra point was blocked as Madera (2-1) kept a 7-6 lead.
The teams went into the half with the same score with both teams missing opportunities.
Daylon Davis came up with a key interception to halt a Madera drive in the second quarter and later on, the Bullpups couldn't score after pinning the Coyotes deep in their own territory with Hanford taking over at the Madera 32.
In the second half, Hanford's best chance to score came on its second possession when the Bullpups took over at midfield, and marched to inside the Madera 10-yard-line looking for the potential go-ahead score.
But on fourth down, a bad snap allowed the Coyotes enough time to get a sack, ending the threat.
Starting at its own 5-yard-line with 10 minutes left, Hanford was able to pick up a few first downs after going to the air for the first time of the night, but the drive stalled and Madera took over with 4:42 left.
Hanford wouldn't get the ball back.
Hanford head coach Josh Young said the team has plenty of work to do but that the season was way from over after an 0-3 start. With a team that plays mostly underclassmen, he saw improvements
“We have to work on the little things to get better,” Young said. “You can tell they're starting to get better at doing their assignments and we're doing a better job on the line.”
For the Bullpups, Travone Houston led the way with 19 carries for 99 yards.
Madera's Bricefield was 16-of-29 for 217 yards passing with an interception.
Julian Collier had six catches for 79 yards.
After starting the season with three home games, Hanford (0-3) will now hit the road next week when it travels to face Porterville Sept. 15.