Cougars senior Payton Wheeler carries the ball in a 41-6 season-opening win over Sobrato on Aug. 28. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Usually when a team out-gains its opponent by just 26 yards in total offense, the outcome is razor close. That wasn’t the case in Christopher High’s season-opener against Sobrato on Aug. 28. After a somewhat slow start, the Cougars turned it on en route to a 41-6 victory.

They were able to win easily because of having prime field position. Of their 12 possessions, nine started inside Sobrato territory, including five drives that started inside the 40. The Cougars’ ball-hawking secondary had four interceptions, including one that Jaterius Lee returned 94 yards for a touchdown that accounted for the final score with 6 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. 

Darren Yafai, who was roaming the sidelines as a varsity head coach for the first time in 14 years, praised Lee for his playmaking and leadership abilities. 

“Jaterius is a special football player and a great guy,” Yafai said. “He’s a team leader and I’m happy for him because he’s put so much into Cougar football. He’s one of our hardest working guys, makes plays all over the field and this is his time to shine.”

Moments after Lee produced the pick-6, he came up with the tackle on the ensuing kickoff. Talk about cleaning up in every phase of the game. Also a standout on defense, Lee delivered the hit of the contest in the second half only to be called for a personal foul penalty. 

“I thought it was a great, textbook, crunching football hit,” Yafai said. “A great tackle.”

Nick Pham, Mason Pena and Jermaine Thomas also came up with interceptions for Christopher, which faces Live Oak on Friday. Yafai credited the defense for holding firm as the offense took a while to get into rhythm. Vincenzo Mesa, who didn’t play in the spring season, was one of several CHS players who helped anchor the defensive line, Yafai said.

The Cougars had some success running the ball, with Eric Argumnedo leading the way with 49 yards on 10 carries. He scored the team’s first touchdown on a 7-yard run, and fullbacks Rossi Oteri and Payton Wheeler reached the end zone as well. 

Wheeler had a 8-yard TD run and Oteri scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards. Oteri started at linebacker as a sophomore and added offensive tackle duties in the spring season. Now he’s earned some carries at fullback in his senior season.

“In the spring, he watched everyone else run the football,” Yafai said. “Now he’s one of the rotating fullbacks and deserves to do what he loves and get some running back glory if you will.”

Despite starting its first four series on the Sobrato 29-, 48-, 40- and 41-yard line, the Christopher offense scored on just one of those possessions. Quarterback Spencer Gorgulho completed 9-of-22 passes for 104 yards. 

“We were all a little nervous at the start,” Yafai said. “The offensive line was hit and miss early on with some good blocks followed by breakdowns. Spencer, who is usually pretty calm and money, in the first half seemed a little jittery. But he settled down and started making great throws in the second half like we know he can. The coaching staff made some adjustments at halftime and the offense started settling down.”

The Cougars were able to turn interceptions by Thomas and Pena on back-to-back Sobrato possessions in the second quarter into 14 points. CHS needed to go only 11 yards to score a TD after Thomas’ interception and 14 yards after Pena’s pick. 

CHS led 20-6 at halftime and extended its lead on the opening possession of the second half. Starting on their own 48-yard line, the Cougars covered 52 yards on eight plays, capped by Wheeler’s 8-yard TD run with 9:02 left in the third quarter. The longest gain of the drive came when Gorgulho connected with Lee for 18 yards. 

Live Oak 41, Gilroy 26

The Mustangs couldn’t keep up with the Acorns in their season-opener on Aug. 27. Gilroy quarterback Jadon Perkins completed 20 of 38 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Chimezie Elias was the recipient of two of those TDs, for 63 and 25 yards. 

Elias finished with a career-high 13 receptions for 176 yards and added an interception on defense. Perkins’ other TD pass went to Marcques Anthony, a 4-yarder that tied the game at 13 early in the second quarter. However, Live Oak proceeded to score the next 28 points unanswered to win going away. 

The Acorns totaled 301 yards rushing while limiting the Mustangs to 46 on the ground. Despite the loss, Gilroy showed some good things going against a Live Oak squad that is expected to compete for the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division title. 

Jaterius Lee delivered a thundering hit, but was called for a personal foul. Cougars coach Darren Yafai felt it was a great football tackle. Lee returned an interception 94 yards for a TD in a 41-6 victory. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mason Pena had one of the Cougars’ four interceptions in the season-opener. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Rossi Oteri had TD runs of 1 and 7 yards while also playing linebacker and offensive tackle. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Sports Editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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