FOOTBALL: Soares piles up 187-yards receiving in 49-21 GHS loss to Salinas

Jourdan Soares catches a pass between two defenders during the

A depleted Gilroy High football team illustrated that bright
spots can emerge even from the deepest, darkest ruts.
A depleted Gilroy High football team illustrated that bright spots can emerge even from the deepest, darkest ruts.

Dressing just 22 healthy players – all that remains from an opening-day roster of 37 – and despite trailing 28-0 in the second quarter, the Mustangs, with a brief and inspirational second-half resurgence had themselves within two scores of visiting Salinas with most of the fourth quarter still to play.

However, the Cowboys, who rushed for a staggering 448 yards, scored twice in the final period to secure a 49-21 victory in Tri-County Athletic League action Friday night.

GHS wide receiver Jourdan Soares caught five passes for a game-high 187 yards and two acrobatic touchdowns. Ryan Alba hauled in three passes for 81 yards. And Eric Vegas collected three catches for 60 yards and a score.

“We come out and try the best we can,” Vegas said. “Hopefully we impress sometimes.”

Seeing his first significant action in four games, quarterback Niko Fortino completed 16-for-31 for 316 yards. The Mustangs even choreographed and perfected a halfback-option pass as Soares, who received a backward toss from Fortino, squared up and delivered a strike to a wide-open Alba for 56 yards late in the fourth quarter.

“That’s just backyard football,” Soares said.

The ominous fact, though, lingering after another we-are-almost-there defeat – the Mustangs are now 1-6 overall and 0-4 in league with games against Palma and San Benito on the horizon.

Salinas easily navigated its way through the Mustangs’ defense early and often to build its four-touchdown lead.

The Cowboys scored one-minute and 19 seconds into the ball game, using three plays to chew up 58 yards capped by a Josh Estassi 8-yard score.

Estassi (17 carries, 191 yards, 2 TD) scampered 48-yards untouched off left tackle to sink GHS into a 14-0 hole with 2:30 to play in the opening quarter.

Having gained 11 yards of offense through a-quarter-and-a-half, the Mustangs ditched the run-first game plan, reverting back to airing it out, desperately searching for a big play to turn the tide.

The Mustangs had -4-yards of offense after one quarter of play and did not gain a first down until a 12-yard run by Vegas at the 6:01 mark of the second quarter.

“The last two quarters everybody was playing all out,” lineman Cordero Gonzales said. “No matter what you have 48 minutes to play.”

After the Cowboys climbed to the 28-0 advantage, Fortino and Soares hooked up on the first of two circus touchdown connections.

Soares came down with a jump ball between two defenders, stayed on his feet and took it the distance for a 78-yard score, giving the Mustangs life at 28-7 with 3:06 to play before half.

“I’m just worried about catching the ball and securing it,” Soares said of his approach.

The catch electrified the team, but the Cowboys countered immediately, travelling 65 yards in four plays, leaving 1:27 on the clock.

“Once we scored, everybody got all excited, everybody was pumped up,” Gonzales said. “That’s why I like playing football.”

Adlibbing, the Mustangs stuck with the passing attack and two Fortino completions led GHS to its 49-yard line with 15 ticks to go before the break. Fortino heaved a pass toward Soares, who again out-jumped two defenders, broke three tackles and dove across the pylon for a 51-yard touchdown, leaving GHS behind 35-14.

Neither team produced much offense in the third quarter. A fumble by Cowboys’ running back Raymond Cerda, recovered by Vegas, set up GHS at the Salinas’ 33-yard line nearing the conclusion of the third.

The Mustangs capitalized on the ensuing offensive snap. Vegas took a short screen pass, followed two blocks from Alba and Brent Newton, plowed over a would-be tackler at the 15 – where he lost his left shoe – and coasted the rest of the way for the touchdown.

“I love the contact,” Vegas said. “I just keep trying, keep pushing and get as many yards as I can every play.”

Salinas put the game away later in the quarter as Beau Schuler returned an interception for a touchdown and Jayr Ongy found paydirt on an 11-yard rushing play.

“We aren’t going to just let people roll us over,” Gonzales said.

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