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January 30, 2023

Behind second-half surge, Live Oak runs over Gilroy

The Live Oak and Gilroy football teams were involved in a close contest at halftime when the Acorns went to a familiar script: ground and pound. 

Known for its potent run game last season, Live Oak literally ran away from the host Mustangs in a 35-14 win in the season-opener for both teams on Aug. 27. The Acorns had a run-pass ratio of 22-5 in the second half after being nearly 50-50 on its play calls in the first two quarters (18 runs, 15 passes). 

Live Oak’s offensive line started opening up holes and tailback Jordan Fuentes did the rest, gashing the Gilroy defense for 143 of his 190 yards in the second half. Acorns coach Mike Gemo said the Mustangs made some adjustments which lent itself to his team going to the run in the third and fourth quarter.  

“We saw what their adjustment was and said, ‘eh, we’re going to run the ball,’” Gemo said. “And Jordan was in a groove and just ran with it.”

Did he ever. Fuentes had a 50-yard touchdown reception just before halftime and added TD runs of 5 and 57 yards in the second half. The senior also plays linebacker and was second on the team with six tackles. Fuentes credited his offensive line for creating space for him to run wild in the second half.

“I love those guys and without them I wouldn’t be getting most of my yards,” he said. “In the second half, I just knew I had to make a play because it was a close game. I knew we had it within us and we just had to come together as a team and we did.”

Though this didn’t count as a league game because Live Oak plays in the upper Mount Hamilton Division and Gilroy in the BVAL’s middle-tier Santa Teresa, the two programs were playing as members of the same league for the first time since the 2005 season, when both were competing in the Tri-County League. 

That’s because GHS switched leagues to the BVAL starting this school year. Live Oak had 410 yards of total offense to Gilroy’s 142. With Fuentes and Everett Wallace at linebacker and a defensive line led by Tim Quan, Zack Enderle and Zurik Peery, the Acorns held the GHS offense in check throughout. 

Mustangs coach Tim Pierleoni said they didn’t help their cause by dropping two potential gimme interceptions, or when they failed to possess the second-half kickoff. The Acorns’ Josh Valdivia recovered the squib kick at the GHS 30-yard line, and five plays later Xavier Catano scored on a 2-yard run to make it 21-7 with 9 minutes, 39 seconds left in the third quarter. 

The key play of the drive came on a 4th-and-12 from the 32, with Landon Stump connecting with Colby Allen for a huge 31-yard gain. Catano’s second rushing TD was part of the Acorns’ 28 unanswered points to blow things open.  

Live Oak finished with 224 yards rushing. Pierleoni gave a lot of credit to Live Oak but also pointed to his team’s mistakes as key to the loss. 

“They weren’t really able to run the ball until the end and we had to make them throw the ball and they did a good job of catching balls off of our hands—twice,” Pierleoni said. “We gave them 21 unearned points—two balls right through our hands that they caught and should’ve never been caught, and a ball that we didn’t jump on that wasn’t even an onside kick. We gave them 21 points.”

Gilroy took advantage of great field position to score its first TD. Chimezie Elias ran for 27 yards to set up his own 2-yard scoring run which made it 7-7 with 3:57 to go in the opening quarter. The Mustangs’ only other score came on a nice 24-yard catch and run play from Trevor Perez. 

Eduardo Lazaro added an interception for the Mustangs and linebacker Ray Waller delivered a couple of thunderous hits. Despite the defeat, Pierleoni said he was satisfied with the players’ effort but also expects improvement. 

“We have to get better and I still think running the ball is going to be where we’re at and something we can do well,” he said. “We’ve got some bright spots; we just have to coach better and play better.”

Gemo was happy with the win, but said the team needs to clean up certain phases of the game. 

“I’m not happy with some of the mistakes we made offensively and on the sideline, and I think we have to do better than that,” he said. “We were screwing around too much on the sideline; we weren’t getting on the field when we were supposed to. We have to tighten things up and pay more attention during the game. We’ve got a little bit of a young team that needs to grow up a little bit.”

Live Oak hit a couple of big plays through the air, but more often than not it missed. Gemo expects that to improve going forward. 

“Landon hasn’t played since freshman year, and he made some throws that were really nice and he made some throws that were not so nice,” Gemo said. “But we’ll fix them and we’ll do better next week.”

Jordan Fuentes rushed for 190 yards on 24 carries and totaled three touchdowns. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Acorns QB Landon Stump threw for 186 yards and a TD in the victory. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Xavier Catano (2) had two short TD runs and also had 2 catches for 78 yards in the win. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

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