After four consecutive losses, the Sobrato High football team needed a win to boost its morale and keep its Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa Valley Division title hopes alive.
And that’s just what the Bulldogs accomplished after a thrilling 35-28 win over Gunderson High on Oct. 15. Sobrato (2-5 overall, 1-1 league) and Gunderson never were separated by more than seven points in this white-knuckle affair.
“The boys were really excited to see their hard work pay off,” Bulldogs coach Joel Rueda said. “For any athlete at any level, it’s a great feeling to win and they were pretty pumped up afterward.”
However, Rueda had a message for his team to stay on mission.
“The win was nice, but at the same time we have to understand there are a few games ahead of us and we have to take care of business to get to where we want to be,” he said, referring to games against Prospect, Leigh and Overfelt to close out the regular-season.
Sobrato prevailed over Gunderson in a riveting back-and-forth contest filled with more twists and turns than a Stephen King novel. However, things didn’t look good for Sobrato when it committed a turnover on a fumble with the score 28-28 with approximately four minutes remaining, Rueda said.
Just two plays later, Sobrato’s outstanding two-way linemen, Jorge Mendoza, forced a Gunderson fumble that the Bulldogs recovered, turning the tide once again.
“Jorge Mendoza came off the edge and wasn’t able to make the tackle on the running back, so he swiped at the ball and really tomahawked down on the ball,” Rueda said. “And everyone heard the punch—boom! —ball is on the ground. And of course, who recovered it but Noah (Taylor).”
Sobrato then marched 35 yards down the field, capped by Taylor’s 4-yard run to account for the winning score with 40 seconds to go.
“We were trying to milk the clock as much as we could so they didn’t have any time to come back,” Rueda said.
Taylor had a spectacular performance, finishing with 184 yards on 17 carries with TD runs of 4, 14, 30 and a 65-yarder on the team’s opening play from scrimmage. The junior standout also plays a prominent role on defense at linebacker.
Quarterback Seth Hernstedt rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries, including a crucial two-point conversion that gave the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead. He also had five completions for 125 yards, including a 47-yard TD pass to Daniel Gutierrez and another TD pass to tight end Alex Kushchanka.
Rueda gave credit to the offensive line for continually giving the skill players the time and room necessary to make plays. Mendoza, sophomore center Mason Miller, Ryan McGlashan, Talyn Castellanos, Gustavo Ureta and Kayden Ruiz worked together well to continually get a big push up front.
That helped offset Gunderson’s offense, which rolled up 273 yards passing and 183 more rushing.
“Our offensive line was just clicking on all cylinders,” Rueda said. “I don’t think we had one play for negative yards. We were getting a huge push every single play, and they made calling the game easy.”
Rueda commended the efforts of McGlashan and company.
“Ryan played both ways and we needed him late in the fourth quarter,” Rueda said. “He didn’t come off the field, although he was gassed. It was one of those things where your body doesn’t feel as bad in the moment because of the win.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]