The Gilroy High football team is determined to avoid costly
mistakes or allow big yard plays on defense tonight in their final
matchup against arch rival Live Oak in TCAL action. With Salinas
having to forfeit all of its games, a Gilroy victory over Live Oak
keeps the Mustangs playoff hopes alive, a loss probably knocks them
out of picture.
By Leann Shea
The Gilroy High football team is determined to avoid costly mistakes or allow big yard plays on defense tonight in their final matchup against arch rival Live Oak in TCAL action. With Salinas having to forfeit all of its games, a Gilroy victory over Live Oak keeps the Mustangs playoff hopes alive, a loss probably knocks them out of picture.
“The key for us is we have to eliminate turnovers,” said Gilroy head coach Darren Yafai. “Last week we dodged a bullet, turning the ball over three times against a very good Salinas team. Usually if you turn the ball over three times you don’t win the game.”
Mustangs’ running back Justin Sweeny is a great weapon for the offense. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound senior has rushed for 1,234 yards this season, second in the TCAL just behind the Acorns’ Muhn. In last week’s upset victory over Salinas Sweeny scored all of the Mustangs’ touchdowns.
Against Live Oak it will be especially important for Gilroy’s offense to protect the ball. The Acorns have a big play offense with running backs Dustin Muhn and Kevin Abbott and have done a good job all season not turning the ball over.
Gilroy’s defense will have its hands full with Muhn and Abbott running out of a split back offense for the Acorns. Muhn has rushed for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and Abbott has rushed for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“The combination of Muhn and Abbott make it difficult to key on just one of them. Both are fast, run hard and break a lot of tackles,” said Yafai. “We have to limit long runs by Muhn and Abbott, that is the fuel that gets their offense going. They’ve been doing it all year long.”
Three year varsity starter Bobby Best has developed into a dominating defensive lineman this season and will help disrupt the Acorns offense. Best leads the TCAL with nine sacks on the season.
Against Salinas Best carried the Mustang defense on his shoulders and finished the game with four sacks and seven tackles.
“A lot of schools try to run away from Best, so we have to be creative with where we put him. Defensively we have to make sure we make Live Oak drive the entire length of the field and earn every yard,” said Yafai.
With just three days of practice to prepare for tonight’s game the Mustangs really focused on making sure the defense swarms the ball carrier and taking good pursuit angles when making tackles. The coaching staff for Gilroy broke down a lot of film and did a lot of game planning to make sure the players are prepared.
“By losing that day it hurts both teams equally,” explained Yafai. “I think we did a good job of scouting and preparing.”
Earlier this week the Mustangs were disappointed to find out that Salinas was forced to forfeit all its games because an ineligible player, giving Live Oak and San Benito another victory and improving their records to 3-1 in the TCAL. Gilroy remains at 2-2 in the TCAL because were the only team to defeat Salinas in league play.
The situations hurts the Mustangs because before Monday even if Gilroy lost to Live Oak, they still had a good chance of making the playoffs. Now even if San Benito loses to Palma and Live Oak falls to Gilroy, there will be a three-way, possible four-way, tie for second place, according to Yafai.
The Gilroy coaches did not tell the players that the Salinas situation hurt their playoff chances. Yafai said they wanted to earn their way into the playoffs and to do that they have to win regardless.
“We put it in the players hands,” said Yafai. “They know they have to play a very good opponent and they have to play a great football game if they want to win. We told them, ‘If you win, we’re in, but if you lose, we’re probably out.”
Tonight’s game will be hard fought and emotional as these two arch rivals go after each other for the final time with not just bragging rights hanging in the balance, but playoff implications as well.
Live Oak boasts a powerful one-two punch at the running back position with Dustin Muhn and Kevin Abbott. Muhn leads the TCAL in rushing with 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season while Abbott has rushed for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns. Gilroy’s Justin Sweeny is second in the TCAL in rushing with 1,234 yards on the season but will be targeted by the Acorns’ defense. Edge: Live Oak.
Gilroy’s defensive end Bobby Best has been a monster all season, leading the TCAL with nine sacks, including four against Salinas last week. Best also leads the team in tackles with 31 and will be looking to key off on the Acorns’ quarterback. The Mustangs also have a deep secondary with seven different players with interceptions this season. Live Oak, on the other hand, has recorded just one sack and one interception on the season. Edge: Gilroy.
Live Oak won the head-to-head matchup last year and finds themselves with home field advantage tonight. Gilroy, however, has to beat the Acorns to have a realistic chance at the playoffs and they are going to do everything in their power to make that happen.
The Live Oak/GilroyRivalry From a First-Hand Perspective
“My senior year, 1991, I was on the Gilroy girls’ basketball team that was fighting for a league championship. I was returning from a family vacation … Our flight was delayed, and I wasn’t able to return in time for practice. Our coach, Julian Mancias, had a no practice/no play rule. I had to sit on the bench for my final home contest against Live Oak … (we) hit two free throws in the final seconds to win 37-35. This particular game was game three of (a 36-game winning) streak.”
Gena Gonzales former GHS athlete,
girls’ basketball,softball coach
“Jeff Garcia was (Gilroy’s) quarterback. Our whole philosophy was about stopping him by keeping him in the pocket because he could throw the ball so well on the run. We won 35-14 down at their place his senior year.”
Rick Booth, Live Oak football coach,
on the 1987 Gilroy/Live Oak l game
“Once again, we were in a hot battle for first place with Live Oak. About a week before our game, Live Oak’s all-league second baseman Steve Fink was killed in an auto accident. This tragedy was felt by both schools because the two teams had combined to play together during summer league. When Live Oak came to play at Gilroy, I invited the Gavilan baseball team to our site for a pre-game memorial for Fink. Before the game, all three teams joined hands and made a circle in the infield and we held a moment of silence. Live Oak then took infield practice with no one at the second base position. We ended up losing the game 3-1 (I believe). While I knew fully that this could give Live Oak a tremendous emotional lift for this important game, I felt more strongly that it was a time to put rivalries aside because of the special bonds these kids develop as they move on to Gavilan and become teammates.”
Jim Gama, GHS baseball coach 1986-1997 on a game in
the late 90’s between Gilroy and Live Oak
“No disrespect to Live Oak, but they have the worst gym. I think they (dim the lights) on purpose. Everybody looks yellow. It’s great, even walking into a place you don’t like. The kids thrive on that.”
Mike Baumgartner, GHS boys’ basketball coach from
1996 to 2003, on the dark gym
“There was a little bit more jawing in the paper about Live Oak and influence, whether or not CCS (had made the right choice). We haven’t forgotten. We know what we want and know what we need to do to get there.”
– Jose Hernandez, GHS girls’ soccer coach, on last
year’s controversy over TCAL runner-up Gilroy receiving
a higher seed in the CCS playoffs than league champion