Benicia High School kicked off its homecoming party Friday night, and Jesse Bethel crashed it.
Trailing 2-12 in the second half, Bethel stormed back and scored 20 unanswered points. The final six came with less than two minutes before Jordan Ratchford’s pick-six sealed the deal and gave the Jaguars a 22-12 win.
It was the first win of the season for Bethel (1-4), while Benicia fell below .500 for the first time this season with a 2-3 record. The Bethel victory came after a bye.
“Training this week was focused, but last week we had to get some things right,” said Bethel head coach Daniel Martinez. “We had to go back to do what we’re good at Bethel. We got away from that for a while and are now trying to get back to it.”
Bethel led 2-0 at halftime thanks to a Laverdius Tensley Hughes safety spread throughout the field.
“LV (Hughes) did it all. He got us back in the game,” said head coach Daniel Martinez. “I didn’t say anything to the team. #7 got us back in the game. Its engine did not stop. He didn’t get any penalties tonight and that’s what we wanted from him.”
Hughes agreed. In his last game against Vallejo he had seven penalties but against Benicia he had none.
“As long as I can stop taking all these penalties and hurting the team, I think we can win every game on defense,” Hughes said. “The bit that I got the security in was because of something that we found out on the film that we’ve been working on all week. He said keep hitting the guard’s inside hip and you’ll get in there.”
Benicia’s Joshua Baca was carried off the field on a stretcher with a back injury, causing a half-hour delay in the third quarter. It was the second serious injury suffered by a Benicia player in two weeks after Morgan De Lago suffered a season-ending leg fracture last week.
During the long break, Martinez urged his team not to lose focus.
“You just keep repeating what you train,” Martinez said. “You keep telling them to stay focused and focus on the next game. They’re waiting for them to tell us it’s time to go. You get up and start stretching, but you stay focused. The body will respond to the mind.”
It was Benicia who reacted well after the delay and took the lead for the first time in the third quarter as Dean Quiambao found Donavan Lee open for a 9-yard score that led to the 6-2.
Benicia increased the lead to 12-2 early in the fourth quarter, but it turns out Bethel was just warming up.
With almost nine minutes remaining, Bethel quarterback Travis Jackson ran across the right touchline and scored a 13-yard score to make it 12-8.
Jackson later scored again in the fourth, this time with just under three minutes to go to make the Jaguars 16-12. Jackson didn’t do too much passing on the night and only had two throws, but his 51 yards rushing on seven carries made a difference.
“He also got out of his own head,” Martinez said. “He threw a pick early in the first half and did too much with the ball and he stopped trying. In the second half he put his head down and just played football. That’s what I like.”
Benicia had one last chance to take a 2:53 lead in the game, but Quiambao was picked off by Hughes for a 65-yard dagger.
“I know number two (Darrell Hurd) is her usual receiver,” Hughes said. “Playing as safety, I knew the corner didn’t match, so I figured I’d read the quarterback’s eyes and I knew he’d look where he’s throwing since he’s not looking away, and I just ran straight away over, waited and made a game. It felt good to finish the game after I scored.”
While Bethel clinched their first win over Benicia since 2014, Panthers head coach Craig Holden said the road to the front would only get harder when next Friday’s league game against Campolindo gets underway.
“They caught us physically. They put it right in our necks,” Holden said. “Not much we can do. You can name games. Things haven’t changed for the first three quarters, but we just got out of physical strain in the fourth quarter… It’s just frustrating that things just aren’t going the way we want them to at the moment. We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us.”