The Wilcox Chargers entered Friday’s Week 8 matchup against rival Los Gatos with a perfect 7-0 record, (3-0 in league). The Wildcats meanwhile entered 6-2, but also undefeated in league at 3-0.
On paper, it was the marquee showdown of the season in the De Anza Division. In actuality, the underdog Wildcats turned this game into a rout.
Los Gatos left the Chargers figuratively and literally in the dust, with two long touchdown plays in the second half, en route to a shocking 28-7 victory.
While the Chargers trailed by just seven points at halftime, they were playing behind for the majority of the game. As a typically dominant run-based offense, having to come from behind is not something Wilcox has had much experience with in the past. The Chargers were forced to throw far more often than normal, not only because of the score but because their ground attack was struggling to move the chains.
“I would honestly put that on me,” remarked Chargers tailback Andrew Palacios on the running game not being as effective as usual. “My lineman got me as many yards as they can, after contact I have to fall forward for a couple more yards and in that game, I don’t think I did.”
Without their usual ground success, Chargers quarterback Armand Johnson went to the air and made a number of big throws. With the game still within one score in the second quarter, Johnson hit receiver Maulidi Saleh for an absolutely critical 3rd and 18 conversion deep in their own territory.
Johnson also found his leading receiver in this game, Will Ruff, for four receptions, totaling 50 yards. In the second half though, Johnson would be intercepted twice and the special teams missed an early field goal. Neither one of the three phases of the game looked like the typically strong Wilcox football.
“I was wondering how this team would respond if we ever got down. We hadn’t been down all year. We got down and we didn’t respond well,” acknowledged Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa. “We need to learn from it and do something different.”
Something different would certainly be avoiding giving up the big plays on defense. Los Gatos didn’t march for long drives but rather scored two 50-plus yard touchdowns among a handful of other long plays in the passing game.
“That was kind of the story of the game when you look at it,” added Rosa. “It’s not like they methodically drove the ball on us. They had three really big plays that all turned into either touchdowns or down at the one-yard line. So, we got to avoid the big play.”
As far as positive big plays, along with Ruff, perhaps the biggest positive standout for the Chargers in this game was two-way star Jeramiah Lewis. The junior had a crucial catch over the middle for 25 yards that helped set up the lone touchdown. On the other side of the ball Lewis had a sack for a big loss of yards just one play after a Wilcox turnover.
“As things got worse for us, he got better,” praised Rosa on Lewis. “That’s the sign of a good player. I think he really took a leap forward tonight. He was really good.”
Wilcox will look to bounce back this Friday, Oct. 28 when they host Homestead.