Expectations were high for the Los Gatos High football team’s non-league matchup against Peninsula powerhouse Sacred Heart Prep on Sept. 23.
However, a game meant to be defined by exemplary playmaking turned out to be an uncharacteristic showing for both sides, with Los Gatos taking a 10-7 loss in the final seconds of the game.
Los Gatos quarterback Jake Boyd was passionate on the sideline, at one point calling this game the craziest game he’s been a part of.
Los Gatos’ offense, which accumulated over 30 points in each of its past two games, struggled to find stable footing throughout as they were plagued by muffed snaps and offensive line miscues.
“We knew they were a good team, and we were just not good on offense at all,” Wildcats coach Mark Krail said. “We essentially had one long play for a touchdown, and other than that, it was tough sledding.”
The long TD Krail was referring to was nothing short of stellar. On the play, Boyd — who threw for 11 completions on 19 pass attempts and 147 yards — lofted a pass over two Gators, finding senior Wil Brennan in stride for a late second-quarter score.
This would be Brennan’s final catch of the game; his performance up until that point, however, would put him at 104 receiving yards on just three receptions. Senior running back Emiliano Meija, who has been a rock for the better part of two seasons, stayed true to the course, averaging 5.4 yards on 16 rushing attempts.
As usual, Meija bulldozed his way for yardage and carved out four runs over 10 yards, the most of any player in the game. After a rough first drive on the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats locked in and returned to their tried and true method of hard work and even harder hits.
Los Gatos pounced on any stray pass, disabling any opportunity for yards after the catch. This would limit SHP to a season-low 45 receiving yards.
“I think in the first half, we took a little bit to adjust to their offense. But after we started getting it, we could stop them basically on every drive,” senior linebacker Luchi Casale said. “I think our aggression really showed and how fast we play and how physical we are on defense, and that’s what I love.”
Casale had a pivotal sack on the Gators’ final drive, as well as a tackle for a loss in the second quarter. Senior Nicolas Ramos epitomized the team’s aggressiveness, most visibly seen when he recorded three consecutive tackles that halted the Gators’ last drive of the first half to keep the score even at 7-7.
Sometimes not being noticed is the greatest testament to a group’s performance. This was undoubtedly the case for the Los Gatos secondary that was matched up against the likes of senior wide receiver Carter Shaw, who has offers from San José State and Yale.
Los Gatos held Shaw to one short catch, and forced four incompletions on 10 pass attempts. This would prompt SHP to turn to its ground game, where they had some success, finishing with 191 yards on 48 carries.
In the second half, the Los Gatos defense doubled down on the pressure. The Wildcats forced three fumbles, including a goal line mistake by senior Mitchell Taylor during a quarterback sneak. They would also block a field goal with less than three minutes left in the game.
“Our defense played outstanding all night. We kept giving them short fields and our defense kept rising,” Krail said.
Unfortunately, the football Gods seemingly were not on Los Gatos’ side. On a 3rd-and-16 during the Gators’ final drive, Taylor would run to the right sideline in search of an open receiver; unable to find one, he would opt to kneel behind the line of scrimmage.
Los Gatos’ defense knocked Taylor down to confirm the end of the play. This would result in a roughing the passer penalty that would provide SHP with fresh downs and put it 15 yards closer to the end zone and the game-winning field goal.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the stat sheet was as close as the scoreline. Though the teams excelled in different areas — Los Gatos relying on the passing game and Sacred Heart on the running game — the Gators’ 236 total yards of offense barely surpassed the Wildcats’ 218.
Now 2-2, Los Gatos is looking towards its next game against 1-3 Milpitas.
“We go back to the drawing board…and look at film and see how we can get better, right?” Krail said. “I mean, it’s a game, it’s a loss. It’s not the end of our championship run. It’s not the end of our season. It’s nothing like that. It’s one step out of 10, or 11, or 12.”