HS Football Preview, Week 7: WHS hosts Gilroy in pivotal league game

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In order for the Watsonville High Wildcatz to thrust themselves back into the Monterey Bay League Pacific division title chase, they will have to do something they haven’t done since the late ‘90s: beat Gilroy High.

The Mustangs (6-0, 2-0) have thwarted the Wildcatz (4-2, 1-1) in nine straight meetings dating back to 1998. The last undefeated team left in the MBL-Pacific, Gilroy has beaten Watsonville in each of the last four seasons, including last year’s 48-13 drubbing at home.

Gilroy, coached by Jubenal Rodriguez, is fresh off a dominant 24-6 win over rival Christopher High on the road in which it led 24-0 before giving up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs have playmakers all over the field. Junior running back Joseph Barnes has rushed for 908 yards and 12 touchdowns, senior running back Christian Rodriguez has amassed 414 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and four receivers have all totaled more than 100 yards receiving and at least one score. Senior quarterback Jonathan Castro leads the bulldozer of an offense, which is averaging 36.3 points per game this season.

Coached by Ron Myers, Watsonville is back to full health after a much-needed bye week. The Wildcatz started their MBL-P season with a 35-7 win over North Monterey County High but then had the tables turned against Alisal High in a 35-7 loss to the Trojans. The 35 points allowed were uncharacteristic for a Watsonville defense that had held teams to 13 points per game before the loss.

The Wildcatz’ Achilles heel this season has been playing from behind. Only once has Watsonville trailed and come back to win the game — it beat Pacific Grove after trailing 18-14 in the second quarter.

Watsonville will need a big night from its offensive line and its plethora of running backs, including seniors Evan Delozier and Johnny Bravo and junior Matthew Barcelo. Delozier has been the workhorse back and has nine rushing touchdowns on the season.

Gilroy is ranked 248th in the state in MaxPreps.com’s rankings. Watsonville, meanwhile, is 759th.

Here’s a look at the rest of the action happening this weekend:
• North Monterey County at Monterey, Friday at 7:30 p.m. — The North Monterey County High Condors will look to build on last week’s emotional win over Pajaro Valley High when they travel to Monterey High to play the Toreadores.

Coached by Sean Gomes, N.M.C. (2-5, 1-2) opened up its new field with a 29-0 win over a struggling and banged up P.V. team but will have a much bigger challenge on its hands this week against speedy Monterey (2-4, 1-1).

Coached by Dan Brown, the ‘Dores last week lost 43-21 to Alisal High in Monterey Bay League Pacific division play. It was a surprisingly one-sided defeat after an encouraging 55-21 win over P.V. the week before.

In order for the Condors to notch their second straight league win over the ‘Dores, they will need to bottle up sophomore running back Azjani McGill and junior receiver Iris Hutchins. Both players can hit the home run for Monterey, which is powered by junior quarterback and safety Evans Charles.

N.M.C. last year stunned Monterey in a 22-14 win. Junior quarterback Joseph Bertao, who passed for two scores and also ran one in last week against P.V., will look to make it two years in a row. Bertao has a handful of small but quick targets on the outside, including juniors Lupe Chavez and Abel Ruiz.

N.M.C. is ranked 911th in the state by MaxPreps.com, while Monterey enters Friday ranked 915th.

• Aptos vs Alvarez, Friday at 7:30 p.m. — Aptos High’s league game winning streak is still going strong and the Mariners will try to extend it to 36 consecutive victories on Friday night at home against Alvarez High.

The Mariners (4-2, 3-0), coached by Randy Blankenship, have won their last three games against Palma High, Seaside High and North Salinas High by a combined 90 points.

Their mammoth and mean offensive line has led the way for junior running back Marcos Reyes, who leads the team with 10 rushing touchdowns, and has also given junior quarterback Angel Aparicio enough time to find open receivers in the passing game.

Aparicio has thrown four touchdowns over the last two games and has brought a nice balance to the Mariners’ run-heavy attack.

Alvarez (2-4, 0-3), coached by Brad Mendes, comes in riding a four-game losing streak. Things have not gone according to plan for the Eagles since winning their first two games of the season. Last week, they finally scored more than seven points for the first time since Sept. 1 but could not keep pace with Monte Vista Christian in a 48-27 loss.

The Mariners, ranked 210th in the state in MaxPreps.com’s rankings, have two big road games coming up against San Benito High (Oct. 20) and M.V.C. (Oct. 27) but they cannot overlook the Eagles, who at times, started looking like their old selves in last week’s loss.

• St. Francis vs Soquel, Saturday at 2 p.m. — The St. Francis High Sharks will get their first big test of Mission Trail Athletic League Coastal division play on Saturday afternoon against the Soquel High Knights.

Both the Sharks (6-1, 3-0) and the Knights (4-2, 2-0) will enter with unscathed league records.

Coached by John Ausman, St. Francis has wins over Marina High, Greenfield High and, last week, Harbor High.

Coached by Brad Tompkins, Soquel has beaten Gonzales High and Harbor. The Knights have a good amount of momentum after winning three of their last four games and they will be plenty fresh and healthy, too, coming off a bye week.

Soquel employs a run-heavy offense with senior running back Nolan Mass as its main weapon. Mass, a 6-foot, 190-pound bruiser, has run for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Andrew Keller has been a beast in the red zone, scoring seven rushing touchdowns.  

St. Francis also makes its money on the ground, meaning Saturday’s game will be a knock-down-drag-out battle in the trenches. The Sharks have several weapons in the backfield. Juniors Devin McLeod, Abel Martinez, Aaron Soto and Andy O’Rourke have all been impressive, while senior Carson Cuzick has channeled his inner Jerome Bettis this season, bowling over defenders with powerful runs.

St. Francis has not beaten Soquel since 2010. Since then, Soquel has won four consecutive times against the Sharks.

St. Francis is ranked 692nd in the state by MaxPreps.com, while Soquel enters as the 852nd team in California.

• Monte Vista Christian at Palma (at Rabobank Stadium), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. — Monte Vista Christian will begin its most important and difficult stretch of the season on Saturday night at Rabobank Stadium against Palma High.

Coached by Bruce Dini, the Mustangs will have their hands full over the next three weeks. After playing Palma on Saturday, M.V.C. will play Salinas High at “The Pit” in Salinas and host Santa Cruz County rival Aptos High.

This week, the Mustangs will have to deal with a Palma (2-4, 1-2) team that has not been as dominant as the teams of the past but still has plenty of talent. The Chieftains, coached by Joe Carnazzo, are coming off a 21-7 loss to Salinas High, their first loss to the Cowboys since 2002, and will look to get back on track against an M.V.C. (4-2, 2-1) team that has looked like a Monterey Bay League Gabilan division contender during the first three weeks of its league season.

Led by an explosive passing attack, the Mustangs blew out Alvarez High, 48-27, to keep themselves in contention for the league title.

Senior quarterback Sean White tossed four more touchdowns and is now up to 15 passing scores on the year. Senior running back Cody Paresa has also provided a nice balance in the backfield. He ran for 182 yards and two scores in last week’s win.

The Chieftains will attack with sophomore running back Anthony Villegas and junior quarterback Grant Sergent. The young duo is talented but last week the two combined for just 149 total yards and one touchdown.

M.V.C. has never beaten Palma. The Mustangs came close to accomplishing the feat in 2015 but ultimately lost, 35-25.

M.V.C. is ranked 415th in the state in the MaxPreps.com rankings but is still ranked behind Palma, which sits at 352nd.