Early Penalties Costly for Gilroy late; Acorns Rally from 20
points down for Victory
Morgan Hill – Against Live Oak Thursday night, a few too many penalties ended up costing the Mustangs more than yards. They cost Gilroy the game, and possibly a trip to the playoffs.
Despite three touchdowns and a season-high 321 yards rushing from Justin Sweeney, Gilroy fell 28-27 to Live Oak at Richert Field after a scoreless second half in the last regular season game for both teams.
The win put Live Oak (6-4, 4-1) in a three-way-tie for the TCAL title with San Benito and Palma, enough for the CCS playoffs. The ‘Balers defeated the Chieftains 28-24 Thursday. Gilroy (5-5) finished in fourth behind them at 2-3.
“We hurt ourselves with some costly penalties,” said Gilroy head coach Darren Yafai. “We had three 15-yarders in crucial situations.”
One followed a 95-yard Sweeney touchdown run in the second quarter. After the play, the referees called the senior for unsportsmanlike conduct for showboating after the score, which pushed Gilroy’s extra point attempt back to the 25-yard line. Gilroy missed the 35-yard attempt, and while the ‘Stangs still had a 27-7 lead, that point would prove to be a crucial one.
Another damaging penalty occurred on the last play of the first half. Another 15-yard penalty was called on the Mustang defense after an incomplete Live Oak pass into the end zone with no time left. Instead of giving the Acorns the option to accept or decline, the referees decided to assess the 15-yard penalty to the opening kickoff. To open the third quarter, Live Oak opted to onside kick. The kickoff bounced off some Gilroy players and the Acorns recovered the ball. One play later, Live Oak running back Kevin Abbott ran 29 yards for a touchdown. Kevin Mounteer made the extra point to bring Live Oak to within 27-21.
“I don’t agree with the 15-yard penalty,” said Yafai, who argued the call. “They could just decline or accept it and instead, the ref said, ‘We’re going to assess it on the opening kickoff of the second half. So of course we know they’re going to onside kick. They’re kicking from our own 45.”
The Mustangs weren’t quite the same after that score.
With 3:58 left in the third quarter, Live Oak recovered a Sweeney fumble. The Acorns took over at the Gilroy 28-yard line and Abbott (21 carries for 143 yards, 3TD’s) eventually scored again on a 4-yard run with 33 seconds until the close of the quarter. Mounteer’s extra point gave Live Oak the 28-27 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Live Oak forced two turnovers, one of them on downs. Gilroy had one last shot to score when after forcing the Acorns to punt with just over three minutes left. On third down of the series, Gilroy’s David Alejo hauled in a 16-yard pass from quarterback Chris Velasco for first down. Velasco then hit Paul Gonzales for 13 yards for another first down at Gilroy’s own 45-yard line. But Gilroy’s hopes to for a comeback were cruelly dashed when Velasco’s next pass up the middle was tipped as soon as it left his hand and Live Oak defensive lineman Erik Cifuentes came up with the interception. Live Oak took over at the Gilroy 42 and wore the clock down, making the Acorns owners of the final league victory between the rival schools. Live Oak will be moving to the Blossom Valley Athletic League next year while Gilroy will stay in the TCAL.
“We’ve talked to the team all year about finishing. And the last two weeks they really stepped up and finished it off. There are times that we’re going to bend. But we didn’t break,” said Live Oak head coach Rick Booth. “Gilroy/Live Oak is what high school football is all about. This has been a rivalry I’ve been a part of for the last 30 years. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s truly high school football at its very best.”
At the beginning of the game, Sweeney started things off with a bang. At the 9:41 mark in the first quarter, the tailback broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run that quieted the Live Oak crowd. Abbott answered a little over a minute later with a 1-yard TD run to tie the score at seven.
Gilroy scored back-to-back touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead halfway through the second quarter. Sweeney had 9-yard run with four minutes left in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Velasco faked a hand-off to Sweeney before hitting Gonzales for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Neil Martin converted his third PAT of the night to make it 21-7 Gilroy.
After Sweeney’s 95-yard touchdown and Martin’s missed 35-yard PAT, Live Oak running back Dustin Muhn (19 carries for 180 yards, TD) escaped several tackles for a 60-yard touchdown run with 3:16 left until the half. Mounteer’s extra point made it 27-14.
Now all Gilroy can do is sit and wait to see if they will be an at-large bid to the Large School division CCS playoffs.
“It was two good football teams battling and we came up a point short,” Yafai said. “So now we’re kind of praying a little bit to see if some other games work out to see if we can squeak in.”
Unfortunately for Gilroy, the nine games Salinas had to forfeit this past week for using an ineligible player only hurt the Mustangs, despite the fact they upset the Cowboys last week at The Pit.
“Without the Salinas forfeits, Live Oak could not have gotten in (to the playoffs) with a win and Hollister wasn’t going to get in unless it beat Palma,” Yafai said. “So the Salinas forfeits definitely hurt us.”
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q F
Gilroy 14 13 0 0 -27
Live Oak 7 7 14 14 -28
Gilroy (5-5, 2-3), Live Oak (6-4, 4-1)
GIL – 9:41, Sweeney 75-yard run (Martin kick), GIL 7-0
LO – 8:10, Abbott 1-yard run (Mounteer kick), TIED 7-7
GIL – 4:02, Sweeney 9-yard run (Martin kick), GIL 14-7
GIL – 7:17, Gonzales 8-yard pass from Velasco (Martin kick), GIL 21-7
GIL – 4:20, Sweeney 95-yard run (Kick failed), GIL 27-7
LO – 3:16, Muhn 60-yard run (Mounteer kick), GIL 27-14
LO – 11:19, Abbott 29-yard run (Mounteer kick), GIL 27-21
LO – :33, Abbott 4-yard run (Mounteer kick), LO 28-27
Total Rushing: 358 Total Passing: 69
Total Yards: 427
Sweeney – 26 carries for 321 yards, 3TD’s
McCrimon – 4 carries for 10 yards
C. Velasco – 6 carries for 9 yards
Giacalone – 6 carries for 16 yards
Gonzales – 1 carry for 2 yards
Velasco – 5-8, 69 yards, TD, INT
Quistian – 2 catches, 29 yards
Alejo – 2 catches, 32 yards
Gonzales – 1 catch for 8 yards, TD
Martin – 3-4 PAT’s
Total Rushing: 321 Total Passing: -5
Total Yards: 316
Muhn – 19 carries, 180 yards, TD
Abbott – 21 carries, 143 yards, 3TD
Mounteer – 3 carries, 0 yards
Bennett – 1 carry, -2 yards
Webb – 1-4, -5 yards
Bennett – 0-1
Abbott – 1 catch, -5 yards
Mounteer – 4-4 PAT’s