FOOTBALL: Mustangs last-minute drive falls short in 21-17 loss to Alisal

Eric Vegas follows his blockers for a short gain.

The difficult defeat drops the Mustangs to 1-5 overall and 0-3
in league with three TCAL tilts left.
GILROY – In a rugged, smash-mouth affair, the Alisal Trojans managed to stave off a Gilroy High would-be game-winning drive, intercepting a pass in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining to cling to a 21-17 victory in Tri-County Athletic League action on homecoming Friday night in Gilroy.

The Mustangs had a simple, straight forward approach and moved the ball with some effectiveness. But after another game where maximum effort yielded minimal results; simply put, the players are perturbed.

“What makes it frustrating is that we work hard all week and when it comes down to it we just lose,” a clearly emotional senior GHS lineman Devon Castaneda said.

It wasn’t the most attractive ball game on either side of the ball as both teams chose to primarily run between the tackles, combining for 83 rushing plays to just 12 through the air.

“I think both sides had the same game plan, to come out, keep it simple, run at each other and see the best man win,” said Alisal head coach Sunil Smith, whose Trojans pick up their first league victory of the season (2-5 overall, 1-2 TCAL). “If you are a football fan, you love these types of games. It came down to the final play.”

Five different Mustangs took snaps from various formations during the game. Quarterback Niko Fortino didn’t throw a pass until the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs had 51 rushing attempts and piled up 253 yards on the ground. But most of the damage done by the offense was in between the 20s, and only two touchdowns to show for it.

“If you want the truth, it sucks when you bust your butt all week, you think you are going to win and then this happens,” a stoic Cesar Garcia said.

The difficult defeat drops the Mustangs to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in league with three TCAL tilts left.

“We will find out through thick and thin whose blood is thicker,” Mustangs head coach Greg Garcia said. “We are overcoming some things. Was it solid? No. But it is better than what we have been through. The kids had the belief that the win was there.

“I asked the kids for four quarters of football and I got that much.”

With the outcome hanging in the balance, the Mustangs took over at their own 21-yard line with three minutes and 41 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, poised for a come-from-behind finish.

A 20-yard pass completion to the 42-yard line from Fortino to Jourdan Soares on third-and-14 kept the drive alive as time ticked to 2:35. Fortino then connected with tight end Colin Humber for 16 yards and a first down at the Alisal 42-yard line. The Mustangs converted another third-down play, getting an 11-yard run from Romeo Travis to the 24 with 1:20 showing on the scoreboard.

After a 6-yard gain on first down, Fortino took a shot into the end zone and Soares drew pass interference, setting up GHS with first and goal from the nine. A Newton run for no gain and a Fortino incompletion set up third and goal. The junior’s pass was picked off on the ensuing snap.

“We are starting to put in the effort,” Greg Garcia said. “Now are they going to capitalize on it. There is another football game in front of them.”

GHS jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a Soares 47-yard burst to the bank three minutes into the opening quarter.

Alisal answered right back with a 20-yard score from Oscar Pearson. The Trojans grabbed the lead on their ensuing possession. Quarterback Marcos Rosales made his lone completion of the evening count, finding Pearson open over the middle. Pearson took the short pass and turned it into a 16-yard touchdown with 9:59 to go in the second quarter.

Mario Gomez was true on a 34-yard field goal for the Mustangs to narrow the gap to 14-10 at the break.

A 45-yard punt return by Alisal’s Johnny Morales set up the Trojans at the Mustangs’ 31-yard line and two plays later Taylor Tomas busted loose on a 34-yard scamper to paydirt, elevating the advantage to 21-10 at the 7:07 mark of the third quarter.

Gilroy responded with urgency on the following series of downs. Romeo Travis capped an eight-play, 65-yard excursion with a 36-yard touchdown run with 2:45 left in the third. The score brought the Mustangs to within four at 21-17, where it ultimately stood.

“If you quit now you are quitting on your teammates,” Greg Garcia said. “I believe there are enough guys here that are frustrated and want a ‘W’.”

NOTES: Jourdan Soares had an interception in the second quarter, his first of the season… Thomas Harrington forced a fumble in the third quarter…Alisal’s Johnny Morales had an 85-yard touchdown run negated on a holding penalty…Romeo Travis posted a game-high 86 yards on nine carries but was taken off the field on a stretcher on the Mustangs’ final drive of the game. Travis took a vicious hit to the upper back and was bent forward as he went to the ground. Head coach Greg Garcia said after the game that Travis had full movement of his extremities.

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