Wildcats quarterback AJ Minyard celebrates after throwing one of his two touchdown passes in a 37-27 loss to Pittsburg High on Sept. 29. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

In the aftermath of a 37-27 loss to Pittsburg High on Sept. 29, Los Gatos High football coach Mark Krail’s message to his team was clear: full steam ahead. 

Sure, the Wildcats (3-2) didn’t get the result they wanted, but competing with a perennial Bay Area heavyweight in the Pirates (5-0) will likely prove beneficial in the long run. 

“We’re going to be better because of the game tonight,” Krail said. “There’s no doubt about it. We’re going into league and I told the guys at the end every single goal we set for the season is still right there in front of us, and we’re going to go get it.”

Indeed, suffering a loss to a team from out of the section isn’t nearly as damaging as, say, incurring a defeat to a league opponent like Sacred Heart Prep. Incidentally, that happens to be the Wildcats’ next opponent, and it’s all but certain the coaching staff and returning players haven’t forgotten what happened last year when the Gators edged Los Gatos, 10-7. 

Wilcox and Sacred Heart Prep—most likely in that order—will prove to be the biggest obstacles in Los Gatos winning the newly formed Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division championship. Since the PAL and SCVAL decided to merge for football only three years ago—SCVAL schools compete in one of the five PAL divisions based on competitive strength—this is the first time in which the best teams from the PAL Bay Division and the top squads from the SCVAL have been placed in the same division. 

That means Los Gatos is in a division with Wilcox, Sacred Heart Prep, Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton and Mountain View. The Wildcats should be considered the favorites since they’ve gotten the better of Wilcox the last several years. 

In the loss to Pittsburg, AJ Minyard  completed 16-of-31 passes for 262 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and added four receptions for 62 yards. 

Owen Panu proved to be a big-play threat, with his three receptions going for 33, 22 and 21 yards, respectively. Scott Garwood also was an offensive threat, totaling four catches for 65 yards. 

Senior Nate Goldsbury recorded a team-best three tackles for loss, and two-way lineman Lyndon Bailey added two tackles for loss. Goldsbury also led the team with eight quarterback hurries, displaying tremendous ability in getting into the Pittsburg backfield. The Pirates have exceptional athleticism and speed as their ball-hawking secondary finished with three interceptions. 

Wildcats’ standout receiver Jaylen Thomas was limited to three catches for 35 yards but did make a spectacular leaping TD grab near the left pylon with 1.7 seconds left until halftime, infusing much needed juice into the team as it went into halftime trailing, 16-14. 

The Wildcats were down 16-0 before scoring on their final two first-half drives, and Krail was proud in how the team responded from the early deficit. 

“Oh awesome,” he said, when asked to assess the team’s play. “Obviously, we made some mistakes and the score reflected that in the end, but God, I am so proud of the effort of these guys.”

Krail noted the team gains more from losing to a team of Pittsburg’s caliber than winning big against an inferior opponent. Los Gatos rolled Palo Alto 42-0 the previous week, a game that was over by the second quarter. 

“That’s why we do this [play teams like Pittsburg],” Krail said. “There’s 50 teams in our section we could’ve played and beaten handily and gotten nothing out of it. We’re going to get stuff out of tonight and we’re going to be better because of it.”

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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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