Gilroy battles late, but falls to Live Oak, 53-27

Go mustangs!

For the second year in a row, Live Oak has run the table against the three South County teams after defeating Gilroy 53-27 Friday.
Live Oak improves to 3-0 as it gears up for the start of Mt. Hamilton Division play next week. Gilroy, meanwhile, falls to 2-2 overall as the Mustangs prepare for the start of the Pacific Division season.
Sophomore quarterback Jonathan Singleton threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns on 14 of 26 passing and rushed for a third TD.
Jacob Ryder went for 136 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. He also had a receiving touchdown for 15 yards.
Garrett Cardona led the Acorns in receiving with 83 yards with Zach Heffernan going for 64 yards on four catches and a touchdown.
“The passing game was there and Garrett Cardona stepped it up tonight. On his birthday too,” Ryder said.
Coach Mike Gemo said he was happy with how his team got the job done, but wished there was a greater sense of urgency to start the game.
“I think we did a really good job executing tonight. I don’t think the fire was there, but we did what we had to do to get the victory,” Gemo said.
For Gilroy, Joseph Barnes had a standout night going for 172 on 21 carries and three touchdowns after being held to 44 yards on the first half.
“Joseph is definitely a special player. Those don’t come around very often,” said Gilroy coach Jubenal Rodriguez.
Rodriguez gave credit to Live Oak for utilizing its speed and noting that is something that is hard to properly prepare for.
“It’s tough to simulate that type of speed in practice,” Rodriguez said. “Our scout team does the best job they can do, but at the end of the day, trying to simulate A-league speed at practice is tough. We’re going to continue to trying our best and move forward.”
But the night was stolen by Christian Guary who had two explosive touchdowns at the end of the game, including a 99-yard kickoff return as time expired.
Gilroy had scored with 4 seconds left on a Jon Jon Castro pass to Max Pierce to cut Live Oak’s lead down to 47-27. The Mustangs attempted to kick the ball deep, but Guary made sure he kept the ball and himself out of the endzone as he made an unbalanced catch and turned up field.
He got a few blocks and was gone for the final margin of victory.
Guary previously had a 66-yard run for a touchdown in what looked like it might be Live Oak’s final score of the night.
“(Connor) Dietz, I know that he blocked a guy pretty hard. Once he hit him, I went off his butt and was off,” Guary said.
He said afterward he wanted to atone for a mistake he made on a punt to start the third quarter.
Guary had the ball slip through his hands, giving the ball back to Gilroy after Live Oak had just forced a three-and-out.
“I was really down about that and I wanted to do something to help my team out because I know I didn’t help them on that little mess up I had,” Guary said. “I just wanted to avenge that.”
But there was no harm done as the Acorn defense again forced Gilroy to punt after three plays. On that play, the snap to the punter was low and his knee hit the ground giving the ball over to Live Oak on the Mustang 39.
Ryder punched the ball in five plays later on a three-yard run for a 33-7 lead.
Guary’s first touchdown came after Gilroy had just scored on a 62-yard run from Barnes to pull the Mustangs to within 20 with 2:25 to play.
Gilroy scored three times in the fourth quarter, with Barnes punching it in on a two-yard and 62-yard carry.
“I’m real proud of the guys because they kept going,” Rodriguez said. “I keep telling the guys before the game every game this season don’t look at the score board. Every play has got to count. If you make a mistake, brush it off and keep going. I’m proud they kept fighting and were in the game.”
The quarter stood in contrast to the rest of the game in general and the start of the game specifically.
Gilroy recorded 244 yards of total offense, 77 percent of which came from Barnes.
Rodriguez said Live Oak did a good job at eliminating its halfback from the game, but said there was a bigger picture to consider thanks to going up against Live Oak’s defense.
“I’m glad our O-line got to go up against an A-league front. Hopefully that will make us better going into league,” Rodriguez said.
Gemo said going up gainst those two backs was a real challenge.
“They’re good running backs and we had our hands full trying to tackle those two kids,” Gemo said. “I told them after the game they’re good football players.”
Live Oak led 3-0 after the first quarter when Morgan Salzwedel kicked a 35-yard field goal after the Acorns’ opening drive stalled in the Red Zone.
“We held them to a field goal, so our defense was doing well, we just couldn’t sustain a drive,” Rodriguez said. “Defense was back out on the field and we had them on third down multiple times and they did a good job at converting.”
The Acorns did get going at the end of the first quarter, going 78 yards on 13-yard drive with Singleton hitting Ryder with a 15-yard pass for a 10-0 lead.
Gilroy’s ensuing possession went backward on three successive plays on a holding penalty and two fumbles that led to a safety.
Live Oak then went up 19-0 when Singleton hit Heffernan with a 12-yard pass after Cole Davis converted a 19-yard fake punt.
Live Oak made it 26-0 after Ryder went 43 yards to cap a six-play, 87-yard drive.
Gilroy finally got onto the board to close out the first half, taking the ball 61 yards with Barnes punching it in from nine yards out with 14 seconds left.
In the third quarter, after Ryder made the game 33-7, Singleton rushed for a touchdown from two yards out to finish off a 41-yard drive.
The 40-7 lead is where things ended after three quarters, setting up a wild fourth that featured five touchdowns all coming within the final 5 minutes of the game.
Barnes scored off a bad Live Oak punt from two yards out and later scored on a 62-yard run to cut the deficit down to 40-20.
After Guary’s 66-yard answer, Gilroy went 65 yards on nine plays with Castro hitting Pierce on a six-yard strike.
Gilroy will now get ready to hit the road against Alisal on Sept. 23. Alisal is 0-4 after losing 23-0 to Soledad Friday.
Live Oak will also hit the road, traveling to San Jose to face Piedmont Hills. The Pirates are 2-1 after a 41-0 romp of Mt. Pleasant Friday. The Acorns know they have to get after it in league play as they hope to get back into the playoffs.
“Where we finish in league is going to determine what we do in the playoffs,” Gemo said. “It starts one week at a time starting with Piedmont Hills.”
Gilroy kicks off at 7:30 p.m. while Live Oak will start at 7 p.m.

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