Live Oak High senior Christian Hauge and his teammates went into last week’s season opener with their heads held high, and mighty confident, after coming off a 2022 postseason run cut short in heartbreaking fashion.
The standout utility player watched his junior year come to an end following a loss to Menlo School in the Central Coast Section Division III playoff semifinals.
“That hurt us all, so we’re doing it this year for our seniors from last year and definitely for ourselves,” Hauge said. “We need a ring this year and we’re gonna go get it.”
The Acorns got off to an excellent start following a 53-0 crushing non-league win over longtime rival Gilroy High in the teams’ 2023 season opener Aug. 24.
Hauge finished with 67 yards rushing on five carries and a pair of touchdowns, while teammate Josh Gagni had a team-best 118 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
“This game means a lot to us and all our coaches,” Hauge said. “We come out to this game and give it our 110% effort, the whole game from the start. That’s what we did today and it turned out for the better.”
Live Oak came into the 2023 campaign as the defending Blossom Valley Athletic League Mt. Hamilton Division tri-champion alongside Lincoln and Christopher high schools.
Hauge said the younger players are stepping up and they’ll have to—especially after losing a talented group of seniors that played a huge role winning the league title.
Live Oak will miss the services of graduate Landon Stump, who completed 61% (92-of-148) of his pass attempts for 1,267 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
They also lost receivers Diego Castellanos and Xavier Catano along with running back Jordan Fuentes.
Fuentes had 1,459 yards rushing on 203 carries and 11 touchdowns, and 19 receptions for 299 yards and six touchdowns for Live Oak in 2022.
Castellanos finished with a team-best 26 receptions for 368 yards receiving and five touchdowns, while Catano racked up 347 yards receiving on 19 receptions and six touchdowns for the Acorns.
Hauge—the CCS Track and Field 100-meter champion in 2022—will utilize his speed to zip past defenders in hopes of keeping their offensive firepower going.
“Christian [Hauge] is a project for us,” said Live Oak head coach Mike Gemo. “Yeah, he’s the fastest guy around but there’s little things that we need to fix on him so he can take advantage of that speed. He runs the ball in space, ‘Keep up with me if you can.’ We like where he’s going.”
Gemo said they don’t expect to have an offense that can break away for a 90-yard run, yet they still have other dynamic playmakers from last year who he’ll rely on to make plays during crunch time.
“We’re gonna grind it out and have to play good offense and we got to get more solid making good tackles on defense,” he said.
Keaton Dietz is one of those defensive players who is already making an impact all over the field either putting pressure on the quarterback or dropping him into pass coverage.
There’s a reason he’s a three-year starter on varsity and a two-year team captain.
Dietz had a pick-six in the first quarter against Gilroy that was called back due to a penalty during the interception return. He redeemed himself just two plays later when senior quarterback Luke Newell hit Dietz on a screen pass that turned into a 52-yard touchdown.
“The kid can make plays,” said Gemo about Dietz. “He’s the hardest worker on the team. He earns everything he does.”
Live Oak will attempt to defend its league crown only this time Dietz doesn’t want to share a piece of the pie.
“We got a chip on our shoulder,” he said. “We got a lot to prove”
Dietz said they proved last week the Acorns are well and alive but there’s a long way to go.
“We still got a lot of games to go and it only gets harder from here,” he said.
Gemo said this year’s group has done a great job of showing up, being ready to go and even hanging out off the field.
“They’re doing a good job with that stuff. I just need a little more effort out of them everyday,” he said.
The Acorns will battle against Lincoln and Christopher yet again for the BVAL Mt. Hamilton Division title. But let’s not forget about Leland, Santa Teresa and Oak Grove, which will also provide some competition in what is considered the “A” tier of the four divisions within the league.
Prior to league play, Live Oak will play at Mountain View (1-0) in non-league action Sept. 1 at 7pm, followed by a meeting at home against perennial powerhouse Los Gatos on Sept. 8 at 7:15pm.
“That’s our measuring stick, we got to get there,” Gemo said. “Our kids got to work.”