Big plays burned upset-minded Christopher High in the first half and injuries to three starters made its task of handing visiting Salinas its first Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division loss that much more daunting.
An inspired effort did not reflect in the final score as the Cowboys stormed past the Cougars 50-16 on Friday night in Gilroy.
“That’s a good football team,” CHS head coach Tim Pierleoni said nodding toward the Salinas sideline. “But our kids fought hard. They have no give up. They played hard until the end. I think the game was played harder than that 50-16 up there.”
Salinas (4-2 overall, 3-0 MBL) threw the ball just four times, choosing instead to stick with its bread and butter – a straight ahead rushing attack.
The Cowboys, led by Jordan Torres (14 carries, 139 yards two touchdowns) and the division’s leading rusher Everett Ball (13 carries, 99 yards three touchdowns), churned out 383 yards on the ground.
Freshman Zach Almash accounted for 125 yards of the Cougars 222 total offensive output. Almash rushed19 times for 49 yards and also caught five balls for 76 yards.
“I like that we are running the ball more,” senior offensive lineman Tyler DeCarlo said. “I like where the offense is heading.”
Twenty-seven points were had in the first quarter and 20 belonged to the Cowboys.
Kyle Salao returned a punt 60 yards to make it 7-0 90 seconds into the game.
CHS forced a pair of Salinas fumbles in the first half. The first, coming on a punt, was recovered by Armond Kohayan. One play later, quarterback Sterling Montgomery connected with Rayshon Mills for a 31-yard score to tie it 7-7.
A 2-yard run by Torres made it 13-7 at the 6:03 mark of the first, and Vince LaSala jumped an out route and took that interception 22 yards to the end zone for a 20-7 Salinas lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter.
Ball, from 2-yards out, took in his first of three touchdowns midway through the second quarter to lift the Cowboys ahead 27-7.
Isaiah Campos recovered the second Salinas fumble, and once again, the Cougars cashed in the offering. Montgomery dove in from 1-yard away on 4th and goal to inch the Cougars closer, 27-13.
Almash got the Cougars to that point with back-to-back runs of 17 and 5 yards down to the one yard line.
The touchdown was the only one scored by the Cougars in three trips into the red zone.
On its ensuing possession, Salinas grabbed the momentum right back as Torres trekked 49 yards to pay dirt for a 33-13 advantage.
Raul Meza added a 26-yard field goal to leave the Cougars down 33-16 at halftime.
Ball recorded 2-yard and 31-yard rushing touchdowns on Salinas’ first two possessions of the second half.
Ramiro Rangel was good on a 43-yard field goal to cap the scoring on the first snap of the fourth quarter.
“They are a good team. They are probably going to (the playoffs),” Campos said. “We are a young team and we gave it our all. We never gave up and that’s what I appreciate about this team.”
The Cowboys ran 32 plays to the Cougars 21 in the second half and held the ball for the final 8:34 of the fourth. Two CHS drives were stifled by Salinas interceptions and another on downs deep in Cowboys territory.
“We tried. We worked our butts off,” DeCarlo said. “We made some mistakes, but we will get better.”
The Cougars (1-6 overall, 1-2 MBL) have a bye next week, before visiting San Benito Oct. 26.
“We are going to work on scoring in the red zone, get some guys healthy,” Pierleoni said. “The kids have been working really, really hard the last three weeks. And being so young, having 10 freshmen or sophomores starting, we aren’t going to take much time off. I see the improvement.
• The Cougars lost the services of receiver Max Sanford, linebacker, and leading tackler, Jacob Moen and linebacker Andrie Arroyo to various injuries in the first half.
Arroyo suffered a chest injury late in the second quarter, which needed medical attention. He was taken off the field in an ambulance, but Pierleoni said after the game that all x-rays were negative. He said the same for Moen, who left the field favoring his right shoulder and collarbone.
“I think all three will be OK,” Pierleoni said. “We figure all will be able to play in two weeks.”
• Montgomery finished 18-of-40 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT.
• Mills collected eight catches for 65 yards and the one TD.
• Raul Tovar caught a pair for 54 yards.
• Around the MBL: Gilroy 21, Alvarez 7 (Thursday); Monterey 28, San Benito 7; Palma at North Monterey County (non-league, Saturday.)