FOOTBALL: Toreadors too much for Cougars in league opener

Christopher's Rayshon Mills tries to beat out a tackle by

MONTEREY – Four first-have turnovers helped Monterey jump out to
a 27-0 halftime lead in an eventual 37-0 win over Christopher.
MONTEREY – Play by play and game by game, the Christopher High varsity football team is laying the foundation for the future, one layer at a time.

Conditions are often tough, progress strenuous and some layers may take more grunt work to complete than others, but each serves a purpose.

However, Friday night wasn’t an ideal night at the office.

Getting their first taste of Monterey Bay League action, a disastrous first half grounded the Cougars (1-3 overall, 0-1 TCAL) before they had a chance to take off against host Monterey.

A bigger and flat-out more physical Toreadors (3-1 overall, 1-0 TCAL) squad capitalized on four Cougars’ first-half turnovers, grabbing a 27-0 halftime lead en route to a lopsided 37-0 victory.

“We are going to learn from that,” head coach Tim Pierleoni said. “I think, maybe, our kids were a little taken back by how physical they were. They came in with a different coverage than we worked on all week, which is a great job by their coaching staff.”

The Cover 2 defensive scheme the Toreadors utilized kept the Cougars air attack stagnant throughout. Coupled with the passing problems, the Cougars’ run game never got on track.

“We had a bit of a hard time adjusting to what they were doing,” Pierleoni said. “I thought maybe we could have been a little more physical running at them.”

CHS didn’t cross midfield until the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter and managed a mere 79 yards of offense.

“Today, I didn’t have any time,” quarterback Brandon Pickens said. “I would have liked to have seen a few blocks made, me hit some receivers and put some points on the board. I just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

Pickens was picked off on the team’s fourth play from scrimmage and the Toreadors cashed in three snaps later on a third-and-23.

Toreadors signal caller Stephan Ventimillia bootlegged right and floated a jump ball toward receiver Nate Malone, who turned inside and corralled the ball for a 44-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead, where it stood as the first quarter expired.

Manuel Avila momentarily shifted momentum in the Cougars’ favor, stripping Ventimillia on his way into the end zone midway through the second quarter. However, the Cougars gave it right back on their own 5-yard line, a bobbled snap the culprit.

Ventimillia punched it in on the ensuing play for a 14-0 Toreadors’ advantage.

The shifty quarterback hurt the Cougars with his arm and legs, finishing with 84 yards on seven carries and three scores, also connecting on 5-of-9 passes for 122 yards and another two touchdowns.

“I think we hung in there tough but it’s just a learning experience for us,” linebacker Patrick Mank said. “It shows us how much we have to work on in practice.”

A fumble cancelled the Cougars’ next possession, supplying the Toreadors with prime field position at the CHS 27. After a nine-yard run and a penalty, Ventimilla hit paydirt from nine-yards out with four minutes left in the half.

A brief Cougars series of downs gave the ball back to Monterey with three minutes remaining before the break. Showing no signs of letting up, CHS lineman Matt Almeida sacked Ventimilla, who coughed up the ball and Steven White pounced on the prize as the clock ticked under a minute.

Knowing they needed to produce something before halftime, Pickens threw a deep ball down the left sideline, but his effort was intercepted at the Toreadors 25 yard line.

Monterey proceeded to travel 75 yards in four plays and 41 seconds, highlighted by an improv pass-and-catch touchdown from Ventimillia to Malone, who slipped a tackle and raced 37 yards to the pylon, lifting Monterey to the 27-0 intermission lead.

Despite the score, the Cougars’ effort demonstrated that they had it in them to finish what they started, even if it didn’t result in a win this time around.

“They didn’t back down at all,” Pierleoni said. “There were a bunch of chances for them to back down and get into a shell and they didn’t.

“We talk about it every week, being able to get better for each game and compete,” Pierleoni added. “We are young. We have to get stronger. What we are going through is going to make us better for the future, for next year and for next week. We will have our turn.”

The Cougars have Homecoming against MBL opponent Pajaro Valley next Friday.

“We have to keep working hard, that’s all we can ask for,” Mank said. “We are building off of each game. If we keep the work ethic up, I think we will start winning.”

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