Orestimba running back Kai Brazil spearheaded a second-half surge for the Warriors, who captured their fourth outright Southern League title under head coach Aaron Souza on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

'He was going to carry us': Orestimba star shines bright in Battle for Chief

Independent Contributor

GUSTINE — Orestimba High running back Kai Brazil rushed for 120 yards on 17 carries during the Warriors' 38-21 victory over archival Gustine on Friday in their Battle for the Chief.

But none of those were as important as the 47 yards — on six consecutive plays in the fourth quarter — that led to Orestimba’s final touchdown that clinched the outright league championship.

“I was empowered to run as hard as I could,” said Brazil, a 5-11, 205-pound bruiser. “I was aiming to run over people and get the touchdown.”

With the Warriors nursing a 31-21 lead, their defense forced a turnover on downs and the offense took over on their own 46 with 10:52 remaining.

On third-and-short, Orestimba handed the ball to Brazil, who picked up the first with a 10-yard run up the middle.

Head coach Aaron Souza knew it was time to unleash his senior.

“He was in the zone,” said Souza. “He was going to carry us home.”

Souza called Brazil’s number five more times and he delivered with runs of 6, 7, 11, 7 and 6 yards for the TD that made it 37-21. Kicker Fernando Navarro, who entered the game No. 4 in the state for PATs, connected for his fifth extra-point of the game to make it a three-score game.

“We were a little upset with ourselves in the first half,” said Brazil. “We played down to somebody else’s level and we shouldn’t have.”

Gustine scored 21 first-half points to forge a tie at the intermission, but the Warriors pitched a shutout in the second half.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” said Souza, who captured his fourth outright SL title. “We changed some coverages, changed some alignments, changed a little bit of everything.”

Another change Souza implemented was giving Juan Esquivez a few carries.

Esquivez’s high energy was just the jolt Orestimba needed.

“Juan rotates with a lot of key seniors,” said Souza. “He’s been biding his time all year. He’s a stalwart on defense and when we use him on offense, we know he’s going to move the chains.”

Esquivez’s 10-yard TD run with 7:52 to play in the third quarter snapped a tie and made it 28-21.

“In my opinion, our players were really down at halftime,” said Esquivez. “One of us had to pick them and I was the one. I was just glad I got the ball.”

After Esquivez’s TD, Navarro made it 31-21 with his 23-yard field goal, setting the stage for Brazil’s heroics.

The Warriors opened the scoring just over 2 minutes into the game when quarterback Alex Millan found James Perez for a 46-yard score.

Gustine countered when Gilbert Sotera scooped up a fumble and raced 41 yards for the score.

Orestimba regained the lead when Millan and Perez hooked up again — this time from 22 yards out — to make it 14-7.

Gustine struck again when Zander Leyva hauled in a 47-yard pass from Alejandro Lugo, but Lugo missed the PAT attempt and the Warriors led 14-13 with 7:12 left in the first half.

Orestimba stretched the lead to 8 when Millan found Drew Felber for a 53-yard scoring strike, but Gustine matched their rivals when Gio Torres caught a 6-yard TD from Lugo. The Reds made good on their two-point attempt when Lugo found Julian Nessi.

Brazil, who entered the game with 903 yards rushing, finished the game with 126 yards on 17 carries — 104 of those yards came in the second half.

The Chief, a 5-foot wooden Indian and one of the most iconic rivalry trophies in the state of California, stays in Newman for another season.

“We’ve been playing for the Chief since 1987,” said Souza. “It’s a staple off the Newman and Gustine communities and added to the intrigue of the rivalry.”