A win on their home turf on Homecoming Night would have all but clinched the Santa Clara Bruins an El Camino League Championship. Unfortunately for Santa Clara supporters, the Bruins dropped a hotly-contested battle against the Mountain View Spartans by a 17-10 final on Friday. The loss opens the door for a potential three-way tie between Mountain View, Santa Clara and Saratoga.
The Bruins had a tough time stopping Mountain View’s shifty tailbacks for the majority of the game. Spartans senior Jacob Cortinas and sophomore Julien Daniels at times looked like NFL legend Barry Sanders.
Despite facing the Spartans’ strong rushing attack, the Bruins’ defense hung tough. Late in the first half, Bruins’ two-way junior star Joseph Hernandez made what was easily the play of the game — arguably the play of the season. With the score tied at seven and just over a minute remaining, Cortinas broke loose for what looked to be a 50-yard touchdown run. He had nothing but green grass in front of him. Somehow Hernandez caught the speedy tailback from behind and punched the ball out at the five-yard line. The ball rolled into and out of the endzone for a touchback.
Speaking of NFL legends, Hernandez’s highlight-reel play is the type of defensive gem that football fans would witness regularly from 49ers great Patrick Willis.
“That strip was so huge, I mean he chased that guy down from I don’t know, about 30 yards and that guy is not slow, you saw him,” praised an amazed Bruins Head Coach Burt Codera. “He came and stripped him from behind and caused a turnover. Went from a touchdown for them to a touchback for us. That was huge, kept us in the game.”
“I always expect him to have a good game, but he stepped up big time tonight,” said fellow Bruins wide receiver Richard Corona on Hernandez. “He knew what was at stake in this game, and he stepped up and made big plays.”
While Santa Clara quarterback Nick Garcia hooked up nicely with Corona and Hernandez in the passing game, the Bruins simply did not have the running game to match the Spartans. A second-half interception and a handful of undisciplined penalties eventually did the Bruins in.
“At the end of the day, it was the penalties that killed us,” noted coach Codera. “Penalties in crucial moments, the one turnover and we just got out played. You got to tip your cap to those guys, they were running around, making plays, hitting, tackling, they were well coached and well prepared. We came out a little bit flat, and then a couple a crucial mistakes in big moments. In close games that is the difference right there.”
After going down 17-7 in the fourth quarter, the Bruins were gifted an interception, giving them a chance at comeback. The Spartans were running the ball with ease, but inexplicably dropped back to pass. Bruins’ corner Bailey Mungaray intercepted the deep pass with just under eight minutes remaining.
On the following Bruins’ drive, a big completion to Corona set up an eventual 42-yard field goal by Garcia. That cut the lead to 17-10 with still 6:26 to play. Yet the Bruins would never get another chance with the ball. The Spartans methodically marched down field on their next drive, this time keeping the ball on the ground. They eventually kneeled down the final seconds deep in Bruins territory.
Santa Clara has two more games remaining on the season. First up is a game at Monta Vista on Oct. 26 and then the Bruins wrap up their schedule with a home game against Gunn.