The Mustangs' Elijah Williams rushes the Piedmont Hills quarterback in their Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa Foothill Division game on Oct. 20. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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The Gilroy High football team entered its Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa Foothill Division game against Piedmont Hills knowing it was a winnable one. 

That’s what made the Mustangs’ 20-7 loss in San Jose on Oct. 20 all the more disappointing. 

“I know what we’re capable of and we just didn’t play to that standard today,” said Tyler Hodges, Gilroy’s outstanding junior linebacker. “And that’s on everyone and that’s on me as a leader. I’m more than happy to say that’s on the leaders of the team. We have to make sure everyone is ready and I don’t think we were ready today.”

Hodges said the team got deflated after Piedmont Hills took the opening drive of the game and needed just five plays to score a touchdown. 

“It’s definitely something where if the other team scores first, I think we let that stuff get to us too much,” he said. “And that’s just leadership. We have to be able to talk to everyone and to get everyone to be in higher spirits even when those first-quarter touchdowns happen.”

The Mustangs (4-4 overall, 1-2 league), who will need to win their final two regular-season games and get some help to earn one of the two automatic Central Coast Section playoff berths from the Santa Teresa Foothill Division, trailed the Pirates 13-0 at halftime and totaled just 73 yards of offense in that span.

They picked things up in the final two quarters as they went to their max protect run formation to open the second half. Gilroy took 12 plays and went 60 yards for its only score of the game, a Jonathan Gongora 3-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third. 

On the second play of the series, Ray Waller rushed for a 25-yard gain, a tackle-busting run that was highlighted by the offensive linemen pushing Waller an extra 5-6 yards after several Piedmont Hills defenders had Waller corralled. 

It was by far the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Waller finished with a game-high 70 yards rushing on 11 carries, routinely gaining yards after contact. 

“Ray Waller and Jonathan Gongora, they’re amazing runners,” Hodges said. “Nate Avila, too. They ran hard and did what they’re supposed to do. We just hope Ray and G (Gongora) can stay healthy because we need them offensively and defensively.”

Every team has been hit with key injuries by this point of the season, and the Mustangs are no exception. They lost their best player in two-way standout Chimezie Elias the week prior in the Independence game. 

“Chiz suffered a broken ankle vs. Independence and it’s been a huge blow,” Hodges said. “We love him and he’s a great friend off the field, too. Not having him here is tough. He’s a wonderful player, the best player I’ve ever seen on a football field. He will be missed but it’s next man up so we just have to keep pushing to play for Chiz, play for our families, play for each other.”

GHS put together a solid drive late, chewing up a ton of clock by pounding the ball with runs. However, after reaching the Pirates’ 13-yard line, Gilroy’s offense stalled and turned the ball over on downs. Another highlight came when Hodges returned an interception 57 yards on the final play of the third quarter to set up the team’s lone TD. 

Hodges juked a couple of players and ran for what seemed like an eternity before finally getting tackled. Elijah Williams provided pressure on the Piedmont Hills quarterback and Waller made the initial tip before the ball landed in the arms of Hodges. 

“That’s the first interception of my career that’s counted,” Hodges said. “I really have to give it to Ray Waller. He had a wonderful tip and all the guys on defense hustled and made the blocks. But sometimes you just run out of steam and about the 40 (yard line), I was feeling it. The motor kind of ran out.”

A varsity player since his freshman year, Hodges said the current GHS coaching staff continually helps the players improve.

“It’s the best coaching staff I’ve ever been under,” he said. “It’s been great to play for them and to be able to represent Gilroy High School.”

Hodges has a vivid memory of seeing his current coach Tim Pierleoni on the Christopher sideline in his freshman season when GHS and CHS played each other during the spring Covid 2021 season.

“I remember I had to play against Coach P and was like, ‘Wow, I wonder what this guy can do,’” Hodges said. “Then he comes in to coach us my sophomore year. We have great coaches and they’ve taught me a lot of things and given me great opportunities to make plays on the ball.”

Frankie Delgado looks to make a play on defense in Gilroy’s 20-7 loss to Piedmont Hills. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Eduardo Lazaro added to his team-leading interception total with a pick against the Pirates. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

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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