HANFORD — The Clash of the Claws resulted in the 55-18 clawing of the Golden Bears Friday night at the Neighbor Bowl.
After last year’s thrilling 36-34 victory by Hanford West (3-1), the Huskies wasted no time making sure the trophy (and bragging rights) would be staying with them.
Leading 34-6 at halftime, it’s hard to believe Sierra Pacific (1-3) was within striking distance at one point in the game — albeit briefly.
But there were the Golden Bears scoring on a 15-yard run by Phillips Jackson to pull within a point. The kicker missed the extra point and it was 7-6 at the end of the first quarter. But that was as close as Sierra Pacific would come to tying for the rest of the night.
“Things were open early, things were competitive early, but when they jumped on us, we didn’t react the way I thought we would have,” Sierra Pacific head coach Dion Tate said.
On their very first offensive play, Hanford West quarterback Ethan Natera rifled a pass to wide receiver Desmond Howard who broke one tackle and raced down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead.
It was the beginning of a huge offensive night for Natera and the rest of the Hanford West offense.
“[Natera] does a great job running the offense,” first-year Hanford West head coach Cannon Sanchez. “He does a good job of identifying [the playmakers] and just controlling the offense, especially with the tempo.”
Sanchez’s tempo offense got moving in the second quarter when they put up four touchdowns. Jayron Jenkins scored the first of those three on a first-and-goal from the eight with a run to the outside.
Natera added three more touchdown strikes of 24, 43 and 12 yards to receivers Howard and Shaun Koelewyn. Natera shredded Sierra Pacific’s secondary over the middle and the receivers had excellent blocking on bubble screens.
“My receivers caught very well, my line blocked well too,” Natera said. “I’ve never really had a line like this before. They’re my best line I’ve ever had. I love them a lot.”
The 24-yard strike to Howard came after two fakes to the tailbacks, which caused the Golden Bears to bite and Howard to gain separation for the touchdown. His 12-yard touchdown was a pinpoint pass from Natera over the middle on a second-and-four with 21 seconds remaining in the half.
“For a sophomore, [Natera’s] poised,” Howard said. “We got so much confidence in him to get the job done.”
Sierra Golden didn’t have much working for them after their first touchdown. Dropped passes, missed tackles, missed defensive assignment, penalties, you name it. Not much went right for the Golden Bears.
“I’m going to get back and look at the film,” Tate said. “We didn’t tackle well, we didn’t block well, all that just culminated into what happened.
Three Hanford West touchdowns were negated due to penalties and a running clock was instituted in the fourth quarter after the Huskies led 48-12 at the end of the third.
“When it’s a rivalry like this, you got a lot of fans out here,” Sanchez said. “You kind of get a little too excited, you need to calm down a little bit.”
Hanford West is now 2-0 in the Clash of the Claws.
Hanford West will play in the Dog Bowl next Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Hanford (0-4) in the West Yosemite League opener for both teams. Sierra Pacific has time to go back to the basics since their next game isn’t until Thursday, September 28 against Orosi (2-2) at home at 7:30 p.m.