Behind a wrecking crew of runners, the Bulldogs spoiled a gritty
effort from Christopher High in the teams’ season openers, rumbling
to an insurmountable first-half lead in an eventual 28-10 victory
at Gracia-Elder Sports Complex in Gilroy.
GILROY – Six years ago, the Sobrato Bulldogs absorbed their fair share of lumps as a first-year varsity program.
On Friday night, they delivered the hits on another team making its varsity debut.
Behind a wrecking crew of runners, the Bulldogs spoiled a gritty effort from Christopher High in the teams’ season openers, rumbling to an
insurmountable first-half lead in an eventual 28-10 victory at Garcia-Elder Sports Complex in Gilroy.
“A lot of it went the way I thought it might, just because we hadn’t seen any live bullets. And I knew the kids were going to be a little thrown off by their speed and strength,” CHS head coach Tim Pierleoni said.
Down 28-3 in the fourth quarter, Cougars’ quarterback Brandon Pickens connected with Brad Sigl for the team’s first varsity touchdown. Pickens floated the pass just over the defender’s outstretched arms, and after a quick bobble, Sigl came down with the ball in the end zone. A score for the history books.
Pickens finished the night with 125 yards on 10-of-22 passing, the one touchdown and one interception.
“I like the way they handled the second half,” Pierleoni said. “I thought our kids really played tough.”
Ten points by the offense, and a goal-line stand by the defense as the game clock ticked down to one minute remaining, stood out to Pierleoni as hard work personified by his group of 23 players.
“I liked our goal-line stand at the end,” Pierleoni said. “I like that the kids kept battling. And that’s what it’s about. Every single game that we play this year will be a learning experience and makes us better next year.”
Although the Cougars shut out the Bulldogs in the second half, it was all Sobrato before that.
Shaking off a slow start on its opening drive, Sobrato quickly nestled into its wing-T offense and began to exploit the Cougars defense.
“Offensively, we didn’t practice well all week,” Sobrato head coach Nick Borello said. “So I’m not surprised that we started slow on offense. It was a point we made to the kids after the game. It reinforced the importance of practice.”
The sluggish get-go didn’t last long, and on its second possession of the game, Sobrato, who tallied 240 rushing yards in the game, put on a clinic. Tough runs up the gut by junior Obi Mbonu and sophomore Drew Glines set up a pretty play-action pass completion from quarterback Jerry Jacob to Steven Villareal down to the Cougars’ 15-yard line.
Four plays later Jacob scampered six yards to pay dirt on a well-executed option keeper with 13 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
“I am supposed to read if the tackle comes down or he comes up field,” Jacob said of how the play came to fruition. “He was biting hard down field, so I had to pull it. It’s a very good way to start the season. We came out a little shaky, but we finished strong.”
On the Cougars’ ensuing possession, Bulldogs linebacker, Simon Schmidt, came free off of the left tackle and sent Pickens to the turf, knocking the ball loose in the process. Alex Hagiperos scooped up the bouncing ball and chugged 34 yards to the one yard line. Glines finished the deal with a one-yard plunge to put the Bulldogs up 14-0.
“It was a big momentum-swinging play,” Borello said. “We hadn’t run away with (the game) and they hadn’t run away with it. That was a big play made by a couple of players who we expect that kind of play from them.”
Jacob (11 carries, 43 yards, 3-of-4 passing, 74 yards) struck again on the Bulldogs’ next drive, breaking off a 37-yard jaunt down to the one-yard line. On the doorstep, Mbonu knocked down the door and increaced the cushion to 21-0. Mbonu, who recorded 17 carries for 103 yards, bulldozed his way across the line from 13 yards out with two minutes remaining in the half to put the Bulldogs up 28-0 and essentially seal the win.
“Once we got rolling we started looking better and we were a lot happier with their execution,” Borello said.
After Cougars’ defensive tackle, John Riffle, sacked Jacob for the second time of the game to stall the Bulldogs’ initial drive of the second half, the Cougars embarked on their best drive of the evening.
A six-play, 34-yard drive, which featured two Pickens to Bryant Cid completions of 18 yards and eight yards, culminated with a 23-yard field goal by Ruben Martinez.
“He has been working his behind off,” Pierleoni said of his kicker.
Jorge Ramos led the Cougars rushing attack, shifting his way for 67 yards on 15 touches.
“I have never had that feeling before,” Ramos said of the emotions leading up to the game. “Once we got onto the field we were ready to go. We started off slow, but in the second half we understood what we had to do.”
Glines ended the contest with 65 yards on the ground and the one score, while Cid grabbed three receptions for 38 yards.
The Cougars will be put to the test again next week as the Live Oak Acorns, who lost to Gilroy High 35-30 on Friday, make their way to Garcia-Elder Sports Complex. The Bulldogs host Leland.
“We need to focus on our defensive and offensive lines,” Jacob said. “We are going to have to play really well.”