CHULA VISTA 鈥 The 2023 girls鈥 flag football season came to an end here Tuesday night in a CIF-San Diego Section Division I semifinal playoff game as the Bonita Vista High Barons defeated the visiting Calexico High Bulldogs by a score of 33-13.

The Division I fourth-seeded Bulldogs (17-3, 11-1 IVL) jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead but the hosting top-seeded Barons (18-1), ranked first overall in the CIF-SDS, scored the next 26 points en route to the victory.

鈥淲e dropped more balls and made more mistakes tonight than we have all season combined,鈥 Calexico coach Guillermo 鈥榗oach Willie鈥 Castro said. 鈥淚t was mostly nerves on our part but they are good and had a good rush. They have a lot of seniors.鈥

On their first possession of the game, Calexico used one of their favorite connections when Bulldog sophomore quarterback Giovanna Ortiz threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to junior Paula Cruz.

鈥淎s a team, we were ready to go and we wanted to score and get the lead,鈥 Ortiz said. 鈥淲e ran a two-deep to the corners of the end zone to split the safeties and Paula was more open than our other receiver.鈥

The diminutive but speedy and shifty Cruz made the catch despite two bigger defenders closing in.

鈥淚 was nervous at the start and I saw their two girls and I thought they might intercept the ball but it just got over them and I caught it,鈥 Cruz said.

Calexico took an early 7-0 lead following another patented play, by a one-point conversion pass from Ortiz on a crossing pattern to the Bulldog鈥檚 tallest target, senior Jacqueline Martinez.

The Barons, however, then used their advantage in size, speed, and physicality to stymie the Bulldogs on both sides of the ball to reel off four unanswered touchdowns.

Bonita Vista鈥檚 athleticism came as no surprise as the Barons reportedly have five players from last year鈥檚 Southern California Regional basketball champions in addition to girls recruited from successful girls' soccer, softball and volleyball programs.

Bonita鈥檚 first score drew them to within one of Calexico at 7-6 and after the Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs, a Calexico defender slipped on the slick turf field allowing the Barons an easy score.

Following an interception, Bonita Vista struck on a 50-yard touchdown pass to go up by a score of 20-7, and as Calexico pressed to get on the scoreboard dropped passes and a relentless Baron rush took its toll.

鈥淎s they scored, I felt like it put pressure on us and the dropped ball affected us too because we were trying to catch up,鈥 Ortiz said, who connected with Martinez on a 36-yard pass before half-time to get inside the Barron 20-yard line before two sacks by the Baron defense halted the drive.

Bonita Vista went up 26-7 on a second-half opening drive touchdown but Calexico answered when Giovanna Ortiz found her sister, freshman wide receiver Lizbeth Ortiz on a touchdown pass.

The one-point PAT conversion pass attempt to Martinez failed but with 10:09 left in the mostly running-clock second half, Calexico was within striking distance until an interception on their next possession led to Bonita Vista鈥檚 last score of the game.

Calexico then changed their offensive scheme on their final two drives by substituting Cruz at quarterback for the first time this season.

鈥淭he coaches moved me to quarterback because I鈥檓 fast running and I can pass,鈥 Cruz said. 鈥淭hey wanted to change things up to see if we could make something happen.鈥

After the game, Castro reflected on the Imperial Valley League champion Bulldogs' successful first season of flag football.

鈥淲e only have three seniors so most of the team is coming back and we plan to be back in the playoffs again,鈥 Castro said. 鈥淔or me, this season was near perfect...we were just one step from the CIF title game.鈥

Going into the semi-final game, Calexico was the last team remaining in the inaugural CIF flag football playoffs after second-place Division I Brawley Wildcats (16-5, 10-2 IVL) lost a quarter-final game at second-seed Torrey Pines High (17-0) by a score of 14-13 last week.

Also eliminated in last week鈥檚 CIF Division II quarter-finals were the IVL third-place and eight-seeded Imperial Tigers (9-10, 7-6 IVL) who lost to top-seeded Classical Academy 19-0 in Escondido.

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