Brandon Hooks admitted the Live Oak High football team has a tendency to play down to their competition at times. But when the Acorns are focused and zoned in as they were against Santa Teresa High on Oct. 30, this is what happens.
Live Oak 35, Santa Teresa 7.
“We were determined to take the dub tonight,” said Hooks, the senior receiver who had touchdown receptions of 42 and 22 yards. “We came out ready to ball tonight.”
Of that, there is no doubt. The Acorns (6-2 overall, 4-1 league) play their regular-season finale at Piedmont Hills on Friday. If they win and Lincoln (4-1) beats Leland (5-1), Live Oak and Lincoln will share the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division championship.
If the Acorns win and Leland is victorious, Live Oak will finish in second place to Leland despite both teams having one loss by virtue of win percentage. Live Oak will finish with one fewer game than Leland because the Acorns’ matchup with Lincoln was ruled a no-contest due to Covid protocols.
Scenarios aside, the Acorns plan on finishing strong before the start of the Central Coast Section playoffs. They were firing on all cylinders against a Santa Teresa team that like them entered the contest with an identical 3-1 league mark. However, Live Oak showed it was the vastly superior team from the get-go, scoring on all four of their first-half possessions to go into halftime with a commanding 28-0 lead.
The final outcome was apparent to everyone as a running clock was implemented in the third quarter. The dominant victory was all the more rewarding because the Acorns’ previously scheduled game with Lincoln was canceled due to Covid protocols.
“It was disappointing not being able to play,” Hooks said. “A lot of kids were upset at school and some of the kids were crying. But maybe it was God’s plans, maybe a gift from the skies. You never know.”
Live Oak’s X factor—quarterback Xavier Catano—returned after missing the last contest against Overfelt. He was sensational as usual, running for 45 yards and a TD on 10 carries and throwing two long TD passes to Hooks in just one half of action. Catano also threw a third TD pass to Trent Cousens as time expired in the second quarter. He finished 5-of-6 passing for 91 yards.
On the play, Catano dropped back before avoiding the Santa Teresa pass rush with an array of jukes before he ran to the right sideline and threw a pass that hit Cousens in the back of the end zone. It was a tremendous play from both players as Catano bought extra time and Cousens kept on moving before finding an open spot in the Santa Teresa defense.
That play came on a fourth-and-goal from the 12, so had the Acorns not scored on the play, they would’ve gone into halftime up 21-0 instead of 28-0. After a longer than usual halftime session that included an impressive fireworks show, Nathan Williams provided some explosiveness on the field, returning the second half kickoff 80 yards for a TD to make it 35-0.
With the special teams unit providing great blocking, Williams ran straight up the field through a sizable wedge.
“That was a great way to start the second half,” Hooks said. “Usually we either start the first half strong and come out not as strong for the second half, or we start the first half weak and come out strong for the second half. But this game we came out strong for both halves and it was a good thing to see knowing we could do that.”
Jordan Fuentes was having another standout game on both sides of the ball before he suffered an injury after a rush attempt on the final play of the first quarter. Fuentes had 38 yards on six carries and also had a nice sequence of back-to-back tackles on the Saints’ first drive from his linebacker position.
Live Oak dominated both lines of scrimmage. The offensive line of Conrad Wood, Aaron Parra, Zack Enderle, Jose Rivera and Grayson Dietz put together another fine performance, and stalwarts Justin Kester-Johnson, Alexis Yerena and Parra were equally stout on the defensive line.
After missing most of the spring Covid season due to injury, Hooks’ tough circumstances surfaced yet again as he suffered an ankle sprain in a scrimmage before the start of this fall season. He’s missed roughly half of the team’s games this season, though his latest outing was proof that he’s a difference-maker.
With all the time he’s missed, Hooks felt a lot of emotion during and after the game.
“I am thanking God I’m healthy right now and able to walk and play,” he said. “I was almost expecting to get injured again in this game. I just wanted to come out and show what I was made of, and it felt great scoring because I hadn’t done it on our home field in over a year. I was almost in tears just how happy I was knowing I lived up to my potential.”
The game was actually called with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining after a Santa Teresa player had to be carted off the field.