Jon Scarcella cuts upfield against Sobrato during Christopher's 38-0 win Friday night in the Cougars' home opener.

Christopher set a tone early against Sobrato and didn’t let up in a 38-0 season opening victory Friday night.
It was the Cougars’ first win since the opener of the 2016 season against Gilroy, snapping a nine-game losing streak. Sobrato, however, lost its seventh straight game dating back to last season and were left with a bunch of questions going forward.
“We learned a lot tonight. We learned about ourselves. We learned a lot about our competitive spirit. And we learned a lot about our ability to stay competitive when we’re down,” said Sobrato coach Tony Holmes. “It was one of the things that plagued us last year was our ability to stay focused for four quarters. It’s still a work in progress.
“I’m not walking away from this upset, I’m walking away knowing we have work to do.”
The night was dominated by the Christopher front line on both sides of the ball.
The Cougars amassed 209 yards and two touchdowns rushing, led by Tyler Davis who had 96 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Joey Bassian followed with 61 yards on 10 carries and a score.
The Christopher runners ran with purpose the whole night, trying to set a good tone for the season and avoid an early let down.
“I was angry, so I was just moving my legs. I was just trying to be productive and it worked,” Bassian said.
Christopher’s passing game came through just enough to provide a balance for the run game. Ben Sanford threw for 87 yards and three touchdowns in his debut as the Cougars’ starter.
“I’m sure he had a little bit of nerves, but he didn’t really show it. He did an excellent job: He made the passes that we needed; he controlled the offense and the tempo. That’s what you want in a first time,” said coach Tim Pierleoni. “As time goes on we’re going to unleash him a little bit more and let him do a few more things, but I think it was a perfect opening night for him in that way.”
Tight end Cooper Ahola caught three passes, two going for touchdowns.
Pierleoni said the focus was on taking what the defense was giving them and he said the run was there and it took pressure off of his junior quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Bulldog run game—which coach Tony Holmes was hoping to use to beat up the Cougar players who were going both ways—was completely held in check.
Christopher came into the game well prepared for what the Bulldogs were going to throw at them, Pierleoni said. And he gave all the credit to his defensive coordinator for getting the team ready.
“When you have time to prepare like that and we fell like we prepared pretty good, especially for a nonleague, first game I feel like we were a little bit advanced in that situation,” Pierleoni said. “I expected us to do well defensively because we have so many defensive returners. I’m very happy with our coaching staff. I feel they did an excellent job. I can’t say more than that. They did a very good job.”
The result was the defensive line and the linebackers could read the plays before they developed and come blitzing in to shut down the play before it started.
“They stepped it up. I was impressed. They really showed how hard they’ve worked this summer,” Bassian said.
Sobrato had 37 total yards on the ground and 72 total yards of offense, including converting three first downs for the entire game.
The Bulldogs didn’t move the chains for the first time until John Bell ran for 10 yards on second and 4 to his own 40.
Sobrato’s best drive came on its next series when the Bulldogs converted two first downs, including a third and 7 that crossed midfield and Bell hit Jarod Jones for a 12-yard pass play.
But it ended on the next play when Ethan Crawford snagged an interception on the CHS 35. It was the only turnover of the game.
Christopher’s defense made up for the lack of take aways by holding on fourth down five times including holding on fourth and 1 three times.
Holmes said his team had chances to move the ball against Christopher, but didn’t take advantage of them and it hurt the offensive momentum.
“There were a couple opportunities we had to move the ball, they were just missed opportunities,” Holmes said. “We made some adjustments in the second half and I thought we did a little bit better, but we kept getting beat by the same play. It was heart wrenching. It really was.”
Holmes said it will now be up to the coaches to go back and review and see where they can do better and put the players in better positions.
“I don’t blame the kids. As coaches we’re going to have to go back to the house tonight and get together and review the film and break the film down and get ready for Sacred Hart Prep,” Holmes said.
The defense getting off the field quickly allowed Christopher time to keep its offense rolling.
The Cougars struck quickly, driving 58 yards on 11 plays capped with Sanford hitting Ahola for a two-yard strike on the goal line for a quick 7-0 lead at the 8:55 mark.
After forcing Sobrato into a three-and-out, Christopher marched 52 yards on nine plays set up by the one-two punch of Davis and Jon Scarcella on the ground.
That set up Sanford to complete the drive with a 17-yard strike to Jason Scirigioni who went diving into the endzone for a 14-0 lead.
Just after the start of the second quarter, Christopher led 21-0 when Bassian punched the ball in from two yards out.
He said he was running with anger to start the game, but that anger went away when he found the endzone.
“My confidence just grew,” Bassian said. “It skyrocketed.”
It was all Christopher needed as the defense proved unrelenting.
Having already held on one fourth and short, Christopher’s defense answered the bell following the offense’s first punt of the night by holding again on fourth and one.
After a six-yard gain on third down, Sobrato went for it on its own 35, but ended up losing four yards when the Christopher defensive line blew up the play.
Christopher responded with a 33-yard field goal off the foot of Alex Andrade for a 24-0 lead that stood at the half.
In the second half, Christopher struck for two third quarter touchdowns to put the game away.
Sanford hit Ahola for a 15-yard strike to go up 31-0 and Davis finished a two-play, 26-yard drive with a seven-yard scamper for the final score of the night.
Now the focus shifts on two road games for both teams.
For Christopher, Live Oak looms next in Morgan Hill. For Sobrato, next is a date with a tough Sacred Heart Prep opponent in Menlo Atherton.
“We cannot dwell on this game,” Holmes said. “It’s done. It’s washed. We came out, the butterflies are away now. We have to get tough a little bit. This week will really be built on fundamentals.”
Kickoff for Christopher is slated for 7 p.m. in Morgan Hill. Sobrato is scheduled to kick off 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Prep.
NOTE: Before the game, the family of Tyler Fhurong was honored by the football team in memory of the 2014 Christopher graduate. Fhurong died this past July in an auto accident in Sacramento. Fhurong was a football and baseball player for Christopher. His family received a game ball, was honored with a moment of silence and sent off to the raised helmets of the football team.

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Cheeto Barrera is the sports editor for the Morgan Hill Times and Gilroy Dispatch.


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