Garces High School lost star quarterback Conor Bruce to a broken leg on the second play of the game, still bolted to a 17-0 lead and held on to defeat winless Edison 27-20 Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium.
“Devastating,” Rams coach A.J. Gass said of Bruce, who was tackled cleanly by Tigers linebacker Matthew Torres but locked up his left leg upon contact and it gave way.
Torres, seeing Bruce’s foot aimed in a gruesome direction, grabbed his helmet with both hands and sprinted to Edison’s sideline.
On-site emergency medical technicians, summoned immediately, stabilized the leg, placed Bruce on a stretcher at midfield – his parents, Bill and Analise, by his side – and transported him to nearby Community Regional Medical Center.
Bruce, the fastest of an extremely fast Garces 4-1 team ranked ninth in the Central Section by The Bee, placed fourth and third last May in the section Masters Championships 100- and 200-meter finals.
He had started for the Rams in the fall after also starting as a sophomore, when he was lost with an ACL tear early in the season.
“I feel so bad for him,” said Gass, a former Fresno State standout defender now in his second season at Garces of the Southwest Yosemite League. “He overcame so much to get where he was, and he was on top and doing all the right things. It’s a shame, and he has that hill to climb again. But, knowing Conor, he’ll work hard to be back on top.”
Senior Joseph Tobias replaced Bruce and completed 4 of 9 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rams took a 17-0 first-quarter lead on Chris Coleman’s touchdowns of 43 (receiving) and 8 (rushing) yards and a 38-yard field goal by Brandon Villalobos. The Tigers had three turnovers in the quarter.
But, with Edison surging, Garces twice delivered defensive stops after the 0-5 Tigers reached the Rams’ 10- and 14-yard lines in the fourth quarter.
The first stop had Scott Boylan and Jeremiah Johnson double-team Edison’s spring-loaded wide receiver Teyjohn Harrington in the end zone on fourth and 8 from the Garces 10.
The second one had defensive end Michael Barnett pressure Tigers quarterback Adrian Galarza into a wild misfire to the left sideline.
Galarza passed for 159 yards and three TDs and converted a couple of key first-down runs for Edison, which will open the County/Metro Athletic Conference at Madera next Friday.
Jaylan King rushed for 85 yards, Isaiah Haddad caught a 77-yard scoring pass and Harrington easily won a one-on-one jump ball for a 17-yard TD reception for the Tigers.