For two-and-a-half quarters, the Wilcox Football team (5-5, 4-2) traded scores with the Los Gatos Wildcats (6-3, 5-0). Neither team punted, nor turned the ball over (in any fashion) on the first eight drives combined. That is until a controversial ball spot ended Wilcox’s fifth drive.
Down 29-22 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Chargers faced a crucial fourth and one from just inside the Wildcats’ 30-yard line. On the fourth down run, it appeared from the elevated press-box view that junior quarterback David Hernandez reached the ball over the line to gain as he went out of bounds by the Wilcox sideline. The referees saw things differently though and marked Hernandez clearly short with the ball being turned over to Los Gatos. The Chargers sideline was visibly outraged, and the team ended up being assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“We just missed that fourth and one,” recalled Chargers Head Coach Paul Rosa after the game. “That really hurt us, it was the only time we got stopped. And I actually thought… it was very close.”
The head coach stopped short of criticizing the officials. Given the circumstances of the game, it is hard to blame Rosa and the Chargers for being upset. That turnover on downs basically decided the outcome.
On the ensuing drive, Los Gatos marched down the field for yet another touchdown to go up 36-22. That put the game away for all intents and purposes. Wilcox simply had no answer for the Los Gatos offense. In particular, they could not stop 6’5″ senior receiver Jake Tongus, who accounted for three touchdowns on the night in the Wildcats’ 50-36 victory.
Offensively speaking, Wilcox executed their game plan for most of the game. The three-headed monster of Hernandez, along with senior tailbacks Richard Herrera and Isaiah Chavez moved the ball all night long. For long stretches, it felt as if the Wilcox rushing attack could run at will against the Los Gatos defense. Chavez in particular showed an impressive ability to bounce off tackles and stay on his feet.
“I just listen to my runningbacks coach [John Angerville], he’s always telling me to stay low, keep my feet pumping” responded Chavez about his nimble feet. “Just kept my legs going, bouncing off tackles for extra yards.”
Chavez was also quick to praise his offensive linemen for opening the holes all season long. The Chargers averaged over 360 yards on the ground this season. No team can do that without a strong group of linemen up front.
“Our O-line has been great all season, we got Jonathan Tomaka, Alex Flores, Gilbert Gaeta, Miguel Maes and Manny Sandoval. “Throughout the season they have done a great job blocking,” said Chavez. “They kept grinding it out, even though a couple of them were hurt, they kept playing. That kept me motivated, if they are going to keep going, [then] I’m going to keep going.”
Late in the first half the Chargers were forced to settle for a long, 47-yard field goal attempt. Freshman Paul M. Rosa’s kick sailed through the uprights giving the Chargers a 22-21 lead as the half expired. The problem though was Wilcox needed all the points they could get in this game. It hurt the Chargers that they were without the services of 6’5″ receiver Zach Hill, who missed the game with a broken ankle. Wilcox desperately missed Hill’s ability in the passing game on this particular drive. There wasn’t enough time left in the half to score a touchdown with just the ground game.
Defensively, the Chargers had their chances to get off the field. They forced the Wildcats into a 4th-and-14 scenario on their first drive from 25-yards out. However, poor coverage down the sideline allowed a long touchdown pass just inside the back end of the endzone. In the second half, they had the Wildcats in a 4th-and-8 position after a false start. However, Los Gatos quarterback Kyle Reid was able to avoid the pressure up the middle and scramble for the first down.
“I talked about it half, the 4th-and-14 play, you know we’re in a deep-third coverage and the guy is not supposed to get behind you [and yet] he does somehow” commented coach Rosa. “[As for] the scramble, their quarterback is a good athlete. He doesn’t really get a lot of credit for that, but he deserves it. He made some big plays with his feet.”
After the controversial ball spot and turnover on downs, Wilcox was twice able to cut the 14-point deficit back down to seven points. A touchdown drive capped off by a short run by Herrera made the score 36-29, but the defense simply could not come up with a stop in this game. Rosa kept having his special teams attempt onside kicks knowing his defense wouldn’t be able to stop the Wildcat attack, especially without the services of middle linebacker Hesekaia Tali Finefeuiaki. Rosa referred to the senior two-way player as “by far our best player.” (Tali missed the game with a shoulder injury.)
With the Wildcats up 43-29, Wilcox managed to pull back within seven one more time. Rosa (Coach Rosa’s son), added a long touchdown reception with just under four minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the following onside-kick attempt would once again be unsuccessful. Los Gatos took advantage of the short field by sealing the game with their seventh touchdown with just 1:21 left to play.
Wilcox is off next week as they await the CCS playoff schedule.