Early in the first quarter of Friday night’s season opener between Live Oak and Gilroy, Acorns quarterback Taylor Turnipseed and wide receiver Dominic Maciel had a 24-yard touchdown connection nullified by penalty. It stung. The drive stalled. Little did they know at the time that they’d have a few more flag-free opportunities. Three, to be exact.
The tandem teamed up for a trio of second half touchdowns as the Acorns stretched a seven-point halftime advantage into a 35-21 victory over the visiting Mustangs – snapping a three-game losing streak against their old rivals.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Turnipseed, whose four touchdown tosses (7-of-15 for 141 yards) helped Live Oak also dissolve a 12-game losing skid, dating back to Nov. 2010. “We wanted it bad.”
The Acorns went winless on the field in 2011 – their lone victory awarded to them via forfeit. Friday marked the first victory of Gilroy since 2005. The two teams didn’t play each other from 2006 to 2008.
“The kids battled,” Live Oak head coach Mike Gemo said. “The kids are excited to get it done. Once they got the lead, they were able to finish the game.”
Gilroy, which never led, drops its season opener for the first time since 2002 and is now 3-10 in its last 13 nonleague games since 2009 – not counting the postseason.
“I’m not disappointed. I thought we played right with them. It’s a stepping stone and we have to move forward,” GHS head coach Brian Boyd said.
Senior Mike Guerrero started his first game at quarterback for the Mustangs and, at times, struggled to find unison with his receivers. He finished 8-of-23 for 136 yards, though he did not surrender an interception.
“We had some drops. I had a couple bad passes. We have to work on our passing game,” Guerrero said.
Live Oak running back Trevor Bearden and Gilroy running back Brandon Boyd honored the hype that followed them into the game, accounting for their respective teams points in the first half.
Bearden, behind a wall of blockers, turned a screen pass into a 36-yard score to put Live Oak ahead 7-0 at the tail end of the first quarter. Bearden ended up recording 194 yards on 27 carries.
The Mustangs and Boyd responded and tied the contest on the next series. On 4th and 1 from the Acorns’ 35-yard line, Boyd, who rushed for 131 of his 151 yards (15 carries) in the first half, busted through the first level of the defense and raced the rest of the way down the left sideline.
It was again Bearden’s turn. He answered the bell with a 38-yard run, bouncing it left at the line of scrimmage and cutting back at the 5-yard line to complete the journey and give the Acorns the 14-7 halftime lead.
Though the game’s two main attractions owned the first half, it was Turnipseed and Maciel who stole the show in the second half.
With the ball at the nine-minute mark of the third quarter, the Acorns traveled 63 yards in six minutes, chewing up the final 23 yards through the air as Turnipseed found Maciel on a fade route in the back, right corner of the end zone.
“I knew I was going to get another chance,” Maciel said, referring back to the one that wasn’t in the first quarter. “We came out after halftime and knew what we had to do. We clicked in that second half. (Taylor and I) have been playing together since Pop Warner. We have a chemistry. It’s natural.”
The pendulum swung further in Live Oak’s favor on the ensuing kickoff when Gemo surprised all but a couple on his staff by calling for an onside kick. It worked. Mitch Crowley pounced on the bouncing ball on the Mustangs’ 36-yard line. Five plays later Turnipseed hit Maciel on an identical fade route. This one went for 24-yards and gave the Acorns a 28-7 cushion into the fourth quarter.
“It was a chance I had to take,” Gemo said of the onside kick. “We had a little momentum and I wanted to keep it on our side.”
Gilroy countered quickly. Guerrero unloaded his best ball of the evening, which fell into the hands of a wide-open Jakob Method for a 58-yard gain. Boyd rumbled in from 3-yards out three plays later to get the Mustangs within 14 points with 11 minutes to play.
Turnipseed and Maciel produced their third and final act – a 13-yard touchdown with 7:25 to play.
Brendan Holler gave Gilroy life, returning the ensuing kickoff 88-yards. The offense had the ball twice more, but couldn’t close the gap.
NOTES: The Acorns outgained the Mustangs 404 (263 on the ground) to 277. Gilroy had the only turnover of the game, a fumble midway through the fourth quarter… Joe Matalora and Darius Alexander-Jones had one sack each for the Mustangs… Tyler Jenkins has a sack for Live Oak… Nick Rizzo recovered the fumble for the Acorns…The junior varsity Acorns won 45-6…