For most of the game, the Live Oak High football team felt the frustration of not being able to finish drives on offense.
But when plays had to be made from both the offense and defense, the Acorns got it done. Bo Rizzi’s pass breakup in the back of the end zone in overtime capped Live Oak’s 14-7 win over host Santa Teresa High in a Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division contest on Oct. 14.
“Bo Rizzi was making plays all night,” Acorns senior Jordan Fuentes said. “He came out and balled and showed he could be an amazing cornerback.”
As the ball plopped on the turf, Live Oak players and coaches celebrated the hard-fought victory. Only moments earlier, the Acorns (6-1 overall, 2-0 league) had scored on fourth down on their first overtime possession, as Landon Stump rolled to his left before lofting a short pass to Keaton Dietz in the left flat from 3 yards out.
Santa Teresa then got the ball and had four downs to score from the 10-yard line to extend the game, but a run of two yards was followed by three straight incompletions. Just before Rizzi’s pass breakup, Zurik Peery applied pressure on the Santa Teresa quarterback to help force an incompletion.
It was another tremendous performance from the Live Oak defense, which received two interceptions from Jacob Wallace and 11 tackles from Zach Rocha. A junior linebacker, Rocha also caused a fumble that Fuentes recovered early in the first quarter that gave Live Oak the ball at the Santa Teresa 28-yard line.
However, as would be the case for most of the game, the Acorns came up empty. They moved the ball down and had a first-and-goal from the 5, only to be undone by back-to-back penalties. Two straight incompletions led to a missed 28-yard field goal attempt.
Alas, it wouldn’t be the last time Live Oak came up empty after getting inside the red zone. In fact, it happened on its last two possessions in regulation, including the last series when the Acorns—starting from their own 35 with 4 minutes, 58 seconds left in the fourth—methodically marched down the field, handing the ball off to Fuentes 10—that’s right, 10—consecutive times. That got the ball to the 10 and set up a 27-yard game-winning field goal.
However, the normally reliable Diego Castellanos—who was tremendous receiving-wise with eight catches for 74 yards—saw his kick sail wide left as time ran out to force overtime. At that point, it was gut-check time for Live Oak.
“We talked about adversity and how we had to get through this and finish the game,” Fuentes said. “Even when we were low or upset at that moment, we dug deep and still won the game.”
Acorns coach Mike Gemo was a happy camper afterward, and proud of the players for persevering the entire way.
“I’m glad our kids battled through adversity and were still able to get the reward in the end,” he said. “They were making mistakes, but they never gave up on each other, and it showed in the end because we were able to make a fourth down touchdown which was nice.”
Fuentes finished with 116 yards rushing on 16 carries, and Stump had perhaps the best game of his career football-wise, completing 15-of-23 passes for 118 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. He and Castellanos—the two are also baseball standouts—connected for a 24-yard score with 3:16 remaining until halftime to make it 7-0.
Live Oak’s entire defense was flying the ball, including Peery, Luke Richey and Josh Gagni, who made tackles in key moments to stall some of the Saints’ drives. Mark Galvez was one of a handful of defensive linemen who shined as well.
On the final play of the game, it looked as if the Santa Teresa receiver was going to possess the ball until Rizzi broke it up.
“I thought the kid caught it and Bo did a great job of ripping it out of his hands,” Gemo said.
Live Oak plays at Lincoln on Oct. 20 in a matchup between the two teams atop the Mount Hamilton standings with 2-0 records. Whatever happens the rest of the way, Fuentes and his teammates will have an indelible memory of the OT win over Santa Teresa.
“It’s an amazing feeling and I can’t even describe it,” Fuentes said. “It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had on the football field, and I’m just thankful for all my teammates and the work and heart they put in everything. I appreciate all of them.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]