Perhaps total yards were actually a better indication than the score of how close Kaiser’s 14-7 win over Ayala was Friday night.
Kaiser gained 227 yards to Ayala’s 226.
The only clear difference between two undefeated teams, aside from the scoreboard, was the turnover column. Ayala committed three, two of which Kaiser converted into Marquette Washington touchdowns. Kaiser didn’t turn the ball over once.
“They’re an excellent football team,” Kaiser coach Phil Zelaya said, “and when you win a game like this, you need a little luck.”
After being stopped on fourth-and-inches at the Kaiser 5-yard line its previous possession, Ayala (4-1) finally found the end zone with 5:02 left in the game. But Kaiser again prevailed on a dramatic fourth down, converting a fourth-and-inches by the nose of the football on its own 38-yard line to salt the game away.
Armed with a defense allowing just 13 points per game entering Friday night, Kaiser (5-0) proved even more dangerous with a first-quarter lead it never lost. Washington’s 85 yards on 21 carries helped the Cats grind out all 227 total yards on the ground to compliment a defense that suffocated Ayala all night.
Had the Kaiser defense not awarded the Cats short fields on each of their scoring drives, the Ayala defense may have been the unit credited with winning the game.
“They played physical, but we played smash- mouth football,” said Kaiser running back Taleeb Isom, who finished with 67 yards on 15 carries. “We felt a little disrespected that they made us their homecoming game, so we just played off that.”
Under heavy pressure due to a running game that produced just 47 yards, Ayala quarterback Brian Meyette completed of 16 of 25 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Blake Wallace had four receptions for 56 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown with 5:02 left in the game.
The finish wasn’t so much the problem for Ayala, which also had a 62-yard drive that ended at the Kaiser 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, it was the start.
Ayala fumbled away its third play from scrimmage, awarding Kaiser the ball on its own 42-yard line just 53 seconds into the game. The Cats took advantage as Washington finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead at the 6:23 mark of the first quarter.
Ayala then fumbled the first play of its second possession, setting up Kaiser at the Bulldogs 47-yard line. A holding call that negated a play inside the Ayala 30-yard line, however, derailed a drive that could have given Kaiser a commanding lead.
The Bulldogs made it three fumbles in as many possessions, but Wallace pounced on the loose ball at his team’s own 28-yard line to keep the deficit to just seven points early in the second quarter.
Ayala committed its third turnover on its first possession of the second half when Kaiser’s Angel Hernandez jumped a deep out route for an easy interception at the Kaiser 43-yard line.
The Cats made Ayala pay again, driving for a touchdown in just five plays aided by a pass interference penalty that preceded Washington’s 15-yard touchdown run with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
“Ultimately the turnovers were the difference but we did play a heck of a defensive football game,” Ayala coach Randy Reams said. “They it us in the mouth and maybe it was one of those things where we didn’t respond to some things that we should have.”
Will Lester/Staff Photographer