For half of a championship game, everyone around the Monterey Trail football team was feeling really good. The Mustangs had a 22-13 lead over the Division II seed of the Sac-Joaquin section, central Catholic, at halftime. It was as if the Metro Conference champions could smell a section title in football, something that has eluded this school since its inception 15 years ago.
But football is played in two halves. Mustang trainer TJ Ewing knows this so well; especially after what happened on Saturday night at Hughes Stadium to his team. The Raiders came back from the locker room with a different team all together. Defensively, they limited the Mustangs to just three first downs and 79 total yards for the remainder of the game and came away with a 43-22 win, his 20e Section Championship.
âThere are times when things get bad and you can’t point the finger,â Ewing said. âYou have to say, ‘I have to do this. âIn the second half, we forgot about the team game. In the second half, we just fell apart in that regard.
Central Catholic held the ball 16 and a half of 24 minutes played in the last two quarters, used a clean block to eliminate running backs Julian Lopez and Aiden Taylor. The pair combined for 251 rushing yards (Lopez 150, Taylor 101) for the game. Ewing said the Raiders’ blocking plans forced defensive backs to tackle a much taller running back.
âThey were running around our corners,â he explained. âThey had two tight ends and made the turns difficult, which made them tackle. They imposed their will on us inside. We’ve done really well the last three weeks on this, but in the second half tonight we were completely flat. “
Central Catholic opened the third quarter with the ball and converted a nine-play, 67-yard drive into a Taylor TD that reduced Monterey Trail’s lead to 22-20. After forcing the Mustangs to punt, the Raiders covered 70 yards in eight games and took the lead in earnest at 28-22 thanks to a 21-yard Lopez run and two-point conversion. by Taylor.
Salt was poured into the wound by Central Catholic when Brooklyn Cheek intercepted a Frank Arcuri pass at Monterey Trail 30 and returned the ball to Mustang’s 10-yard line. Taylor scored three games later and it was 36-22, Central Catholic.
The Mustangs were forced into four-down situations over the remainder of the game and because of that they returned the ball on their own 28 with nine minutes remaining. Taylor scored three plays later on the six-yard line to extend the lead to 43-22.
In total, the Raiders scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to win the game and the sectional championship banner.
There have been times to cheer on Monterey Trail fans. Daelin Ellis scored in the game’s first scrimmage game when he sprinted 80 yards to score. Central Catholic responded with his own 11-game, 70-yard practice to tie him at seven.
On the Raiders’ next possession, Monterey Trail’s Fatafehi ââPuloka forced the ball out of Taylor’s hands and it was picked up by Malikai Red at Central Catholic 19. Arcuri scored from an eight-yard goalie three games later. Extra points holder Arcuri mishandled the center snap and passed the ball to his brother Vince for a two-point conversion and a 15-7 lead.
At the end of the first half after Central Catholic reduced the lead to 15-13, Ronnie Brutus returned a 45-yard kickoff to Raider 47. Although there were only 43 seconds into the half, the Mustangs entered the end zone 27 seconds later when Ali Collier scored from three yards.
Monterey Trail is now 0-5 in Section Championship matches. They have now appeared in the last three sectional league games, the last two being in Division I.
Sac-Joaquin Section Championship Games
Folsom 20, Rocklin 3
Catholic Center 43, Monterey Trail 22
Manteca 35, Oakdale 28
Vanden 49, Merced 21
Escalon 20, Hilmar 13
Argonaute 31, Rosemont 20
LeGrand 35, Woodland Chr. 12