Big ‘D’, No ‘O’

Big 'D', No 'O'

– Gilroy junior quarterback Ben Hemeon found tight end Roger
Ortiz all alone in the middle of the field. Ortiz made the catch
and scampered untouched into the end zone from 26 yards out to give
the Mustangs the early lead in Saturday’s road clash against
unbeaten Alvarez.
SALINAS – Gilroy junior quarterback Ben Hemeon found tight end Roger Ortiz all alone in the middle of the field. Ortiz made the catch and scampered untouched into the end zone from 26 yards out to give the Mustangs the early lead in Saturday’s road clash against unbeaten Alvarez.

Once again, Gilroy would watch as its apparent touchdown drive was erased by a holding penalty. Three plays later, senior place-kicker Scott Martin’s field goal attempt sailed wide right – leaving the Mustangs without any kind of lead and allowing Alvarez to breath a sigh of relief.

That’s just the type of season the Gilroy High football team is having as the offense never touched the end zone again – dropping a 24-0 decision to the Eagles at Everett Alvarez High School.

“Once again our tight end walks into the end zone – holding penalty. Another kick-off return wide open we fall down… We miss a field goal,” said head coach Darren Yafai, detailing the latest list of Mustang mistakes that led to another disappointing weekend. “Fumbling the ball. Missed exchanges. We work on that all the time. How do we get into the game and bumble a quarterback-center exchange.”

Two fumbled exchanges between Hemeon and senior center Jeremy Singleton – one at the Alvarez 38-yard line with the score at 10-0 in the third quarter and the second at the Alvarez 11 yard-line with the same score and 9:33 left in the fourth quarter – plagued the Mustang offense that was shut out for the first time in three years.

But through all the turnovers and follies on offense, the Gilroy defensive unit never let down and kept the Mustangs within striking distance until two late Alvarez touchdowns in the final 3:01 of action.

“We changed it up a little bit. We did a lot more stunts. We tried to get in the backfield a lot more. We tried a lot of new stuff. Coach (Greg) Garcia is a real blessing to this team,” senior Ryan Reynaud said. “(Alvarez) was pretty good. Our defense is really good. It’s just we can’t get anything off on offense and it’s really upsetting me and a lot of the defensive players. We’ve got no push.”

Saturday’s impressive showing was a push in the right direction for the Mustang defense – which is under the direction of tri-coordinators in Yafai, Garcia and Eric Lopez.

“We’re steadily improving on defense. Coach Lopez called a good game defensively,” Yafai said. “We all game-plan together and then all three of us call the game together.”

When the offense stumbled, the defense was right there to clean up the mess – led by Reynaud and the entire Mustang defensive unit that forced seven Alvarez punts, one loss of downs on a great solo tackle from junior Korey Gray, and one interception by senior Brian Collom.

“There were times that our defensive was overmatched. They had very good running backs. That No. 5 (Ricky) Gebin was All-League last year. He’s All-League again this year. He’s a D-I prospect,” Yafai said. “Their offensive tackle – (Chris) Saguil – is an All-League lineman of the year going D-I. So I was really proud of our defenses. We bent at times. We bend, we bend, we bend, but our defense continues to battle the whole time.”

With Alvarez maintaining a 3-0 second-quarter lead, the Gilroy defense made its only mental mistake – which cost them a touchdown. The Eagles were facing a third-and-two from the Gilroy 32-yard line with a little over two minutes left in the half. The Mustangs were holding strong – but when they were flagged with too many men on the field it kept the drive alive. Alvarez eventually punched it in before halftime to take a 10-0 lead.

But when the Gilroy offense fumbled the ball back over to Alvarez with 1:14 still left in the half, the defense got out of the jam on Collum’s interception deep in Mustang territory.

In the second half, Gray’s solo tackle ended another Alvarez threat – but the first of two fumbled snaps gave the ball right back to the Eagles. The defense bailed them out again by forcing a quick three-and-out. The offense matched the effort with a quick three-and-out of its own. Gilroy’s ‘D’ again stopped Alvarez on three plays – but a Hemeon interception turned the ball over to the Eagles once again.

And once again, the defense held strong – forcing a punt and keeping the score at 10-0 in the fourth quarter.

“Ryan Reynaud is an extremely good defensive end and he kind of anchors our defensive line,” said Yafai, who got solid efforts from Gray, junior Danny Melendez, junior Nick Fortino, and junior Jonathon Vasquez. “We’re playing a bunch of juniors on the D-line.”

Just when it looked like the Gilroy offense got its groove back – marching down to the Alvarez 11-yard line – the second fumbled snap halted the final Mustang threat. And even though the clock was working against the, the defense forced another punt – only to have the offense punt it away after three plays in 30 seconds.

Alvarez finally wore down the determined Mustang defense late in the fourth – scoring on a nine-yard TD run to cap a 92-yard drive and, following a final Gilroy turnover, scoring on a six-yard TD run.

“We’re going to be really pissed off. We’re going to come back and we’re going to win,” said Reynaud, looking ahead to Friday night’s homecoming game against defending CCS Champ Salinas in Mustang Stadium at 7:30 p.m. “We’re going to win. We’re tired of losing.”

LOSING TOGETHER, PLAYING APART: Coach Yafai feels that one of the Mustangs’ main problems this year is a lack of team unity – directly resulting in their sluggish 1-4 start.

“A lot of times our seniors and juniors have their own cliques. We preach it all year long and we still haven’t found that unity because our juniors and seniors have still not come together. We’ve got cliques in amongst our team,” Yafai said. “That’s something we tell them as a staff that we’re going to preach and preach and preach, and battle it all season long until this group comes together as one unit. That hurts us, too.

“We’ve got kids on our team coming up to us saying, ‘Coach, everybody is playing for themselves,’ and ‘Coach our seniors hate our juniors,'” the head coach added. “It hurts to hear that but still as a coach I’m going to preach every day and battle and push every day until this group comes together. Maybe it will happen next week or maybe it will happen against Live Oak on the final week of the season.”

Hopefully, it happens sooner than later.

GAME NOTES: Senior tailback J.L. Mangono rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries… Senior fullback Tony Beal made a 22-yard reception and rushed for five yards on three carries… Hemeon completed 5-of-14 pass attempts for 57 yards… Senior receiver Greg Lucio made two catches, including a sweet, diving snag on the sidelines… Junior defensive end Nick Mason made a great tackle to stop Alvarez’s Gebin short on a third-and-two play… Collom’s interception was his second in the last two games. The senior back-up quarterback also got to run the offense on three drives.

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