The Live Oak High football team broke its postgame huddle by saying Jalen in unison, a reference to their teammate Jalen Rios, who was diagnosed with leukemia the day before last Friday’s game against Oak Grove High. The Acorns, who snapped a long losing streak to the Eagles in 2018, couldn’t make it two in a row against the perennial Blossom Valley League power.
Despite a 20-10 defeat, Live Oak still has an opportunity to not only finish strong in league but possibly win the championship. Junior Logan Wiemann, the team’s outstanding right guard and defensive tackle, said the loss will serve the team well as long as it approaches every practice with a purpose and mission.
“I think we need to work harder every second we’re on and off the field,” said Wiemann, who was the Mount Hamilton Division Offensive Lineman of the Year last season. “That means taking no plays off at practice, making sure our grades are right in school and making sure we have everything in check. There should be nothing that should hold this team back that we can control.
“Oak Grove is a good team, but we should’ve beat them 100 percent—100 percent. This gives us a reality check, knowing we can’t go less than 100 percent on the little things like conditioning in practice. We have to work harder to make sure this never happens again. We need to work harder for what we want. Nothing is going to be handed to us.”
Rios, a running back and linebacker who wasn’t a starter but saw plenty of snaps in the first three games of the year, will be on his teammates’ minds for the duration of the season and beyond.
“That was rough,” Wiemann said when he heard about Rios’ predicament. “That’s a horrible, horrible thing to happen, especially to him because he’s such a good soul person. There’s nothing bad you can say about him. He’s one of the best people I know and is probably the most optimistic person in the entire world, and on this team for sure. He’s got his hopes up and knows he’s going to push through it, and we all know he’s gong to push through it.”
The Acorns wanted nothing more than to earn a victory for Rios; however, Oak Grove had other ideas. The Eagles limited Live Oak to a season-low 233 yards of offense, approximately 190 yards below its season average. in wins over Burlingame, Christopher and Gilroy, the Acorns were unstoppable at times. Live Oak would probably make the case that the refereeing crew had a hand in limiting its offensive production, but the fact remains when a play needed to be made—on offense or defense—Oak Grove made plenty more and that was the difference in the game.
The Eagles led from start to finish, holding the Acorns to a scoreless first half. Caleb Ojeda kicked a 29-yard field goal to give the Acorns their first points of the game, making it 10-3 with 9 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Oak Grove answered with a touchdown drive and Live Oak wasn’t able to respond, going three-and-out on the ensuing series. Oak Grove extended its lead to 20-3 on the next possession, which was followed by the Acorns’ lone TD drive of the game.
Live Oak covered 80 yards on 14 plays, with Mosiah Saulala running it in the end zone from 4 yards out. Needing a stop, Oak Grove ran off 11 plays on the next series, taking a decent chunk of time off the clock before handing it over to its defense which kept Live Oak out of the end zone on the Acorns’ final possession. Ojeda, who put up some spectacular numbers in the first three games, was held in check by a tough Oak Grove defense.
The junior quarterback completed 8-of-21 passes for 104 yards while rushing for 63 yards. The Acorns could only muster 129 yards on the ground, a far cry from their previous games when they busted off huge chunks of yardage seemingly at will. Defensively, the game couldn’t have started any better for the Acorns, as sophomore cornerback Anthony Gracia stopped Oak Grove’s first two drives with interceptions.