The Birmingham Patriots defeated the Banning Pilots on Friday, November 14 in their first playoff game this year. The Pilots played a good game but they were no match for Sterling Salguero who came up big and delivered an MVP performance to lead the team into the second round playoffs. The final score was 36-30 with Salguero running for over 300 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
In the first quarter of the game, things weren’t looking good for Birmingham. Banning came out running and scored the first two touchdowns of the game, both coming from running back J. Valoaga. The Patriots kept at it and finally came up big with two back to back plays. On defense, Ryan Mendoza picked off a Banning pass which set up Sterling Salguero for his first rushing touchdown of the game to cut the deficit to 14-8 after the successful two point conversion as the first quarter ticked down.
Salguero kept dominating in the second quarter picking up first down after first down. Tylin Scott came up with Birmingham’s second TD of the game in the form of a 30 yard run to give the Patriots the lead, 16-14, with 9 minutes to go in the second and another successful two point conversion. However, the Pilots would not let their playoff chances go so easily as they regained the lead with a receiving TD from Chris Fernandez, putting them back up 21-16 after the extra point. After a 30 yard kick off return from Birmingham’s Scott, back to back penalties would pin the Patriots at their own 10 yard line. A couple possessions later, Salguero came to the rescue with a spectacular 80 yard rushing touchdown, his second of the game which would return the lead to Birmingham, 22-21. Banning managed to squeeze in a field goal right before the half ended to take the lead 24-22.
After intermission, which saw performances from Birmingham’s Marching Band and Color Guard, the teams came back out to start the third quarter. The Patriots put the ball into Salguero’s hands and he delivered two back to back first downs which would ultimately lead to his third rushing TD of the night, helping the Patriots regain the lead 28-24. Birmingham’s solid defense forced the Pilot’s to punt with 6 minutes left in the quarter. The Patriots had similar challenges with their possession as they were also forced to punt with 4 minutes remaining. Fortunately, the teams defense kept playing at its best and forced Banning to turn over the ball on downs with 40 sec to go in the third. Birmingham would regain possession going into the deciding quarter.
In the fourth quarter the two teams began to slow down as they each punted on their first possessions. The Patriots regained the ball at their own 39 yard line with 9 minutes remaining in the game. Salguergo put the team on his back and managed to string together some big rushing plays setting up his fourth touchdown of the game to secure Birmingham’s lead at 36 – 24 with five minutes to go. The Pilots wouldn’t let their playoff hopes slip away just yet as they managed to score another touchdown to cut the lead down to 36-30 at the 2 minute warning. Banning attempted an onside kick but were unsuccessful. The Patriots put the game on ice and secured the ball for the remainder of the game. As the clock expired, the crowd cheered for their Patriots who won the game with a final score of 36-30. Birmingham will face Garfield in the second round playoffs on Friday, November 21 at 7:00 pm.