FOOTBALL: Mustangs can’t hold slim lead, lose to Leland 19-7

Gilroy's Thomas Harrington tries to beat out a tackle by Leland

GHS grabs a 7-6 halftime lead, but Leland responds with two
third-quarter touchdowns to spoil home opener.
GILROY – A tale of two halves – one of these nights the script will call for a favorable ending to the Gilroy High football team’s saga.

Last week against Saratoga a disastrous first half doomed the Mustangs.

This time around a bitter second 24 minutes soured Gilroy’s effort in a 19-7 loss to visiting Leland on Friday night.

“It’s the little things we have to capitalize on,” said wide receiver Brent Newton, who hauled in a 38-yard catch to set up the Mustangs’ lone touchdown of the evening “We make the hard plays, but we aren’t making the easy ones.”

A second quarter 35-yard Niko Fortino to Julius Travis touchdown connection put GHS up 7-6 heading into the locker room. But the promising start quickly became a tangled mess of penalties and minor mishaps – bobbled snaps, missed tackles and the like – throwing a chink into the Mustangs’ rhythm.

“Those things plague a football team,” head coach Greg Garcia said. “And we have been plagued the last two weeks.”

The remedy is simple.

“Getting better,” Garcia said sternly. “You have to rep it, rep it, rep it. For the most part we had a great week of practice – it showed. We are doing good things, but it’s the execution and the finishing part of it.”

Running back Chris Santini had the honors of punctuating the Chargers initial possession of the second half, finishing off a 62-yard excursion in five plays to grab a 12-7 lead.

A botched snap disrupted the Mustangs’ ensuing series, resulting in a three-and-out. Leland used favorable field position to its advantage, briskly traveling 50 yards in five plays, culminating with a 22-yard scamper by Kenny Portera to paydirt to stake claim to the 19-7 cushion midway through the third quarter.

Portera finished with 162 yards on 14 carries. His counterpart, Santini, who plunged in from four yards out in the first quarter, churned out 95 yards and two scores on 11 touches as the Chargers piled up 249 rushing yards.

“They were taking advantage of the outside, so we have to get a lot better on bringing secondary force from there.”

After the Mustangs stopped the Chargers on fourth down with five minutes to go in the final period, Fortino and the offense mounted a clean pursuit down to the 3-yard line as time ticked to two minutes.

However, the threat came crashing down as Chargers’ linebacker Stephan Economy intercepted a Fortino pass in the end zone, ending all aspirations of late-game heroics.

Fortino had completed 6-of-7 passes on the drive before the turnover.

“We had a good first half,” two-way lineman Cordero Gonzales said. “But we kind of broke down and let the little stuff get into our heads. We just have to forget about it. “Everybody needs more confidence. We put together good drives but once one little thing goes wrong then everybody gets down.”

Fortino hit six different receivers en route to a 19-of-28 performance for 237 yards. Travis ended his night with 95 yards on six catches while Thomas Harrington nabbed five catches for 49 yards. Newton corralled two for 45 yards and Ryan Alba had two for 19.

Christian Salazar, who nearly broke loose on a couple occasions, was held to 42 yards on 13 carries.

The Mustangs have a bye next Friday before kicking off Tri-County Athletic League play at North Salinas.

NOTES: Alba forced a fumble in the first quarter, stripping Leland quarterback Jason Habash. Felix Gonzalez fell on the loose ball. Brett Newton came away with a sack for a nine-yard loss in the second quarter. One week after suffering a broken leg, senior Andrew Santiago was on the sideline in a cast supporting his teammates.

Leave your comments