Even though their offense put up an extremely impressive 61 points, Wilcox Chargers Head Coach Paul Rosa wasn’t particularly enthusiastic after the game, considering his defense gave up 41. If not for an especially strong special teams performance, the outcome could have easily been much different.
With the Chargers up just seven at 21-14, the offense drove the length of the field late in the second quarter. A 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback David Hernandez increased the lead to 27-14 with less than two minutes remaining in the half. That’s where the Chargers’ special teams unit caught fire. They forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, setting up the offense at Homestead’s 20-yard line. Tailback Gabe Herrera would score on a 6-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 34-14. The kickoff unit would once again force a fumble with a big hit on the following play. While the Chargers’ offense would be unable to score again before the half ended, the two forced fumbles were a big confidence-builder going into the half.
“They were awesome, special teams made the difference,” acknowledged coach Rosa after the game. “We were only up one score with a minute left in the half and then all of a sudden we’re up 20 and obviously that’s a big swing. I was a little bit disappointed on some other stuff in this game, but the special teams were great.”
With their running dominant offense, the Chargers often utilize late second-quarter drives to milk the clock down. They can sometimes score a touchdown and then get the ball back to start the second half without having to play much, or any, defense between offensive series. Like many NFL teams, the Chargers prefer to receive the second half kickoff.
“If we’re in a ‘grind it out’ type game, our offense really can control the ball and shorten games,” remarked coach Rosa. “Obviously we didn’t shorten the game tonight, but normally we can end the game a bit earlier.”
When the Chargers do utilize the passing game and try to catch opposing defenses off guard, their go-to receiving target is Ryan Cooper Jr. The junior receiver almost had a diving touchdown catch on a deep throw to the end zone. It would have been his second touchdown of the game. Earlier in the game Cooper caught a simple hitch before racing down the sideline and scoring a 60-yard touchdown.
“I saw my man playing inside and there was no safety,” recalled Cooper on his long touchdown. “I knew I could get to the outside and from there just trust my speed.”
“He did that last week too, took a hitch 50-yards to the house,” chuckled coach Rosa on his star wideout. “He’s an explosive player. I know we are going to need him in certain passing stuff when games are a little bit tighter. To his credit, he’s also one of the better blockers we have on the edge. He takes pride in that. One of the games against Milpitas I think he had seven catches, but we lost. Pretty certain he’d rather block a few more times and win.”
Wilcox will look to close out their season with a win over rival Santa Clara next week and can cement their case for CCS seeding with a win in their league finale against Palo Alto on Nov. 9.