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March 1, 2021

CCS Semis: Gilroy, Soledad set to collide in clash of running powers

Gilroy wasted little time against Gunderson to secure a spot in the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
The Mustangs punched their ticket out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 thanks to 40 points in the first half en route to a 40-20 win.
And so with the win, Gilroy now gets to travel to Soledad 7 p.m. Friday to take on the No. 2 seed in the bracket for the right to face off against the winner of No. 1 Westmont and No. 4 Homestead after Thanksgiving.
The exciting part for the Mustangs is the fact that they have not been this far in a long time.
The seniors on this squad were in third grade the last time Gilroy was at this point.
Gilroy’s primary weapon Joseph Barnes was in kindergarten.
And Jubenal Rodriguez said the goal this week is not to completely squelch the excitement for the success but to make sure the kids understand  how to put everything in perspective.
The coaches have been instilling in the kids since the summer that they can go far if they put in the work and now the players are seeing the fruits of that labor in the summer heat.
“We’re trying to keep them focused,” Rodriguez said. “It’s exciting, but at the same time, this is why do all weight lifting in offseason to make sure have fresh bodies at this point.”
Gilroy is coming off of a game where Barnes went for 108 yards and quarterback Jon Jon Castro went for 93 in just a half of football.
In front of Gilroy is a potent running attack from Soledad led by Emmanuel Ortega who has 1,443 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He has just shy of half of the team’s TDs for the year.
“He has great vision. He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but he’s solid and  knows how to read his blocks,” Rodriguez said. “It’s another challenge on the road.”
But Barnes has roughly the same number of yards this season, going for 1,453 through 10 games. And being backed up by Castro, Richard Perez and others, the Mustangs have a formidable offense to counter with.
Soledad boasts an 8-3 overall record, the exact same as Gilroy, and turned in a second place performance in the Mission Trail Athletic League, finishing just behind Carmel.
The Aztecs have outscored opponents more than 2-to-1 even with 33-6 and 32-7 losses on their record.
Much of that is the result of Ortega, but Soledad also has a strong passing threat from QB Robbie Santa Ana, who came into the role halfway through the season.
He’s thrown 749 yards and seven touchdowns, taking over for Andy Hernandez who exited from the role with 791 yards and six TDs.
Rodriguez said Santa Ana is poised in the pocket  and has the ability to scramble when he needs.
Soledad is going to be the farthest road trip since traveling to Seaside on Oct. 7.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t believe the road trip will make much of a difference.
“It has been a while since we’ve had to travel, but I don’t think it will affect the boys. They’re ready play football.”
Regardless, Rodriguez said this game should be a fun one to watch and will come down to which ever team gets after it the most.
“Who ever shows up and is the most physical is going to win,” Rodriguez said. “These are two hard running teams that are going at it. It will be a  fun game to watch.”
Cheeto Barrera
Cheeto Barrera is the sports editor for the Morgan Hill Times and Gilroy Dispatch.

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