From the moment Xavier Catano put on a Live Oak High uniform, he’s been a difference-maker. In the season-opener against visiting Gilroy High on Aug. 27, the junior standout had a career-best performance in the Acorns’ 41-26 win.
Catano scored three touchdowns—including a 70-yard TD run and 85-yard kickoff return for a TD—displaying his speed and explosive playmaking ability.
“I want to shine and help my team win,” he said.
Catano and his teammates might have had a little extra pep in their step as the stands were filled and the stadium was buzzing with activity.
“It felt so good to have our fans back,” Catano said. “Last year when we played, it was quiet. But now that people are allowed back, it was amazing. We love having the fans back and hearing the crowd scream.”
Especially after a touchdown. Catano accounted for three scores, while Jordan Fuentes, Trent Cousens and Nathan Williams reached the end zone as well. Catano played quarterback, receiver, safety and returned kicks, meaning he rarely got off the field.
Given the warm conditions and combined with the fact it was the first game of the season, Catano was exhausted at times.
“I was gassed but I pushed through it and knew I had to finish strong,” he said. “I caught my air when I could. It’s fun being out there all the time and I enjoy it.”
The game had special meaning for Catano, who transferred into Live Oak last year after spending his freshman and part of his sophomore year at Gilroy.
“I got to play against some old friends and show them what I could do and how much better I got,” he said.
Catano said the Live Oak coaching staff made some great play calls and the blocking was superb on all of his TDs. Catano said he was supposed to pitch the ball to Williams on his 70-yard TD run. However, he saw a huge hole and knew he could bust off a huge run if he kept it.
“I saw an opening and knew I had to take it,” he said.
Catano was on the right side before cutting across the grain en route to the end zone. Catano’s second-half kickoff return for a TD stood out because he promised the Live Oak special teams coach he would score on a punt or kickoff return.
“I promised I was going to get him one and made it happen,” Catano said. “I had some great blocks and those guys deserve a lot of credit.”
Catano praised Zack Enderle and Grayson Dietz for leading the offensive line, which helped the Acorns rush for 294 yards on 41 carries. Catano finished with 90 yards on four carries, and Fuentes was the workhorse with 18 carries for 97 yards. Keaton Dietz had a reception for 48 yards.
Defensively, Aaron Parra had a team-high seven tackles, while Everett Wallace, Anthony Gracia and Williams had six tackles each. Wallace, Williams, Justin Kester-Johnson and Kade Darman combined for four sacks, and Keelan Echauri had an interception. Catano said he likes what the team has done so far in terms of playing for each other and making sacrifices.
“Everyone is doing their job, especially our linemen,” he said. “Everyone is being a team leader and helping each other. Our team is looking stacked and I think we’re going to have a great season.”
Sobrato drubbed in opener
The Bulldogs will have to go back to the proverbial drawing board after a 41-6 loss to Christopher on Aug. 28. The game, which was originally scheduled to be played in the afternoon at Sobrato, was moved to a 7pm start at Live Oak High due to the heat and poor air quality.
Nathan Ortiz led Sobrato with 60 yards on 16 carries, including a 2-yard run that accounted for the team’s lone score with 1 minute, 37 seconds left until halftime. Ortiz shed a Christopher defender in the backfield before being met at the goal line, where once again he warded off a defender before his outstretched arms barely got the ball over the goal line for the score.
Seth Hernstedt was 12-of-26 for 112 yards and four interceptions. The Cougars held a slim 228-202 advantage in total yards from scrimmage. However, they won the turnover and field position battle. CHS converted two of Sobrato’s four turnovers into 14 points, and didn’t have to go far on its offensive drives as it started on the Sobrato 29, 48, 40, 41, 11, 14, 39, and 44-yard line on its first eight possessions.
Mark Collins had four tackles for losses to lead Sobrato’s defense.