Mustangs stun Balers in Prune Bowl, retain VFW Memorial Trophy

Gilroy's Nico Sandoval runs the ball after a Jordan Holler

HOLLISTER – Chants of 3-peat bellowed from the mass of ecstatic
players of the Gilroy High football team as head coach Greg Garcia
hoisted the VFW Memorial Trophy moments after the Mustangs shocked
the capacity crowd at Andy Hardin Stadium, beating rival San Benito
35-30 in a heart-pounding 53rd annual Prune Bowl.
HOLLISTER – Chants of 3-peat bellowed from the mass of ecstatic players of the Gilroy High football team as head coach Greg Garcia hoisted the VFW Memorial Trophy moments after the Mustangs shocked the capacity crowd at Andy Hardin Stadium, beating rival San Benito 35-30 in a heart-pounding 53rd annual Prune Bowl.

The Mustangs who took the field Friday night were a far cry from the squad that left the field heads down two weeks ago after a 35-7 blowout loss to Palma – so many questions and so little answers.

But after a convincing 53-27 win over North Salinas last week, there was an aura surrounding the Mustangs signifying something special was in the making. And in a season that has had more downs than ups, they were about to ascend to the highest of highs.

“You preach it, you preach it and you practice it and they start believing,” Garcia said. “It’s better late than never. The kids started answering and taking practice seriously and understanding the importance of where we are at.”

With the ball, down 30-27 and less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Mustangs offense took over with 80-yards of green and 11 determined Baler defenders standing in its way.

The drive got off to a promising start as Marra found Jordan Mitchell for a 15-yard gain. However, after two incomplete passes and an insignificant 2-yard run by Marra, Garcia was faced with a season-defining decision on a fourth-and-eight play.

“There were so many scenarios running through my head,” Garcia said. “I talked to my special teams coordinator and said we are going for a fake.”

With Nico Sandoval lined up as the upback in punt formation, he took the direct snap and out-ran a Balers cover man to the sticks gaining a crucial 12 yards and earning the Mustangs a fresh set of downs.

Two plays later Marra executed a picture-perfect play-action fake and found a wide-open Thomas Harrington for the eventual game-winning score.

The defense, which has faced criticism all year, rose to the occasion, holding the Haybalers (8-2, 4-2) on four straight downs to preserve the stunning triumph.

Two victory-kneels by Marra to run out the remaining minute of play set off a celebration, which included a dousing of coach Garcia with the Gatorade bucket.

“I couldn’t be more happy for this team. We all came together and I think this showed how tough we really are,” Marra said. “We are clicking at the right time. There are no boundaries for this team right now. Hopefully we get another chance next weekend.”

There was no love lost between the two teams – many times the pushing and shoving extended beyond the whistle.

The Balers, who are known for their option-style offense caught the Mustangs off guard on the first play from scrimmage as quarterback Trevor Fabing connected with wide out Andre Cornell for a 63-yard reception to the Mustangs’ 10-yard line a mere 22 seconds into the game.

Two plays later, Fabing bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out to put the Balers up 7-0.

Gilroy responded later in an electrifying opening quarter, embarking on a 13-play, 53-yard drive culminating with a Marra-to-Jordan Holler 37-yard touchdown to tie things up.

But the Balers only needed three plays on their next possession to cover 54 yards as the team’s leading rusher, Nick Acosta scooted his way on an 11-yard jaunt to put San Benito back up by seven.

Not to be outdone, Holler took the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for the score, dashing up the middle of the field before cutting outside down the left sideline.

A field goal midway through the second quarter put the Balers ahead 17-14 where it looked like it would stay going into halftime, but a Holler interception of Fabing with 40 seconds left before the break proved to be a momentum stealer.

One play after the turnover running back Tommy Silvas took a harmless swing pass from Marra and turned it into a 63-yard touchdown to give the Mustangs a 21-17 lead at the half.

The Mustangs carried that momentum right out the break as Holler brought the GHS crowd to its feet, returning the second half kickoff 85 yards for the score. The point-after attempt was no good, leaving the Mustangs with a 27-17 lead 10 seconds into the third.

“The holes were there all night,” Holler said. “This makes the season right here. Everything is good right now.”

In a flash that lead was cut to four as Fabing and running back Bryan Gutierrez combined to chew up 52 yards in three plays with Gutierrez churning out a 23-yard score to bring the Balers within four at 27-23 after the point-after was blocked.

With the Mustangs unable to counter on their next series, the Balers stayed hot and Fabing delivered what appeared to be the knockout blow with six minutes left in the third quarter. Fabing busted loose on an option keeper, racing 60 yards down the sideline for the touchdown and a 30-27 Balers’ advantage.

“At that point they completely had the momentum and our kids could have folded,” defensive coordinator Chris Vasseur said. “These kids fought and they kept fighting and fighting even when it didn’t look good. It was a total team effort.”

The win ensures the Mustangs a Central Coast Section playoff berth in the Large School Division, Garcia said late Friday night.

Final seedings won’t be available until Sunday, but Garcia expects the Mustangs will end up in either the fifth of sixth spot.

TEAM 1 2 3 4 F

GILR 14 7 6 8 35

SANB 14 3 13 0 30


First Quarter

RUSH (10:25) — SANB, Trevor Fabing, 4-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 7-0, SANB.

PASS (1:12) — GILR, Nick Marra to Jordan Holler, 37-yard touchdown, PAT (Ben Vega) is good; 7-7.

RUSH (:30) — SANB, Nick Acosta, 16-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 14-7, SANB.

KICK RETURN (:18) — GILR, Jordan Holler, 90-yard touchdown, PAT (Ben Vega) is good; 14-14.

Second Quarter

FIELD GOAL (7:39) — SANB, Tino Granados, 30-yard field goal; 17-14, SANB.

PASS (:34) — GILR, Nick Marra to Tommy Silvas, 63-yard touchdown, PAT (Ben Vega) is good; 21-17, GILR.

Third Quarter

KICK RETURN (11:50) — GILR, Jordan Holler, 85-yard touchdown, PAT (Ben Vega) is no good; 27-17, GILR.

RUSH (10:55) — SANB, Bryan Gutierrez, 23-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is blocked; 27-23, GILR.

RUSH (6:09) — SANB, Trevor Fabing, 60-yard touchdown, PAT (Tino Granados) is good; 30-27, SANB.

Fourth Quarter

PASS (2:33) — GILR, Nick Marra to Thomas Harrington, 15-yard touchdown, two-point conversion (Nico Sandoval) is good; 35-30, GILR.


Passing: Nick Marra — 16 of 29, 204 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Rushing: Nick Marra — 14 carries, -6 yards; Tommy Silvas — 11 carries, 25 yards; Julius Travis — 3 carries, 5 yards; Nico Sandoval — 3 carries, 22 yards; Jordan Holler — 2 carries, 5 yards. Receiving: Tommy Silvas — 4 receptions, 65 yards, 1 touchown; Jordan Holler — 5 receptions, 75 yards, 1 touchdown; Julius Travis — 3 receptions, 8 yards; Jordan Mitchell — 2 receptions, 23 yards; Nico Sandoval — 1 reception, 18 yards; Thomas Harrington — 1 reception, 15 yards, 1 touchdown.


Passing: Trevor Fabing — 4 of 10, 104 yards, 2 interceptions. Rushing: Trevor Fabing — 10 carries, 117 yards, 2 touchdowns; Nick Acosta — 11 carries, 66 yards, 1 touchdown; Junior Davila — 5 carries, 19 yards; Bryan Gutierrez — 5 carries, 46 yards, 1 touchdown; Cody Hendricks — 6 carries, 21 yards; Tyler Decker — 4 carries, -4 yards; Jordan Ashford — 1 carry, 2 yards. Receiving: Andre Cornell — 3 receptions, 90 yards; Jordan Ashford — 1 reception, 14 yards.


Gilroy — 255 yards (204 pass, 51 rush)

San Benito — 371 yards (104 pass, 267 rush)


Gilroy — 2

San Benito — 3


Gilroy — 0

San Benito — 6 (Taylor Coustette 2, Michael Murphy, Ryan Di Salvo 2, Adrian Enriquez) for -37 yards.