Los Gatos makes a strong statement…

Los Gatos makes a strong statement in a season-opening win over Archbishop Mitty

LOS GATOS — Nine months after ending the previous season with a statement-making win over a traditional West Catholic Athletic League power, Los Gatos began the new season by beating another one.

Joey Wood rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns to propel the Wildcats to a 21-13 victory over Archbishop Mitty before an overflow crowd at Los Gatos.

The triumph follows Los Gatos’ win over St. Francis in the Central Coast Section Division II championship game last December.

“We know that’s the best league around,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “It’s a good measuring stick. Mitty is going to be a good team. They play hard. They’re physical. It feels good. Our guys are riding a little bit of confidence from our win last year. That definitely helped them to feel that they belong on the field with these guys.”

Los Gatos built a two-touchdown halftime lead behind Wood, its senior running back, and then answered Mitty’s third-quarter score with a 21-yard touchdown strike from Dru Brown to Nick Occhipinti.

Mitty scored on the game’s final play but cost itself with numerous penalties, spoiling Dave Brown’s first game back as coach.

“Way too many” mistakes, said receiver Benjamin Granberry, who caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that cut Los Gatos’ lead to 14-7.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wood wasted little time giving Los Gatos, ranked fifth in the Mercury News Top 15, the lead in the second. Two plays into the quarter, the powerful running back burst through a hole and rumbled 40 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

No. 3 Mitty, which beat Los Gatos the previous two seasons, went three-and-out on its next series, and Wood went right back to work. He gained 6 yards on first down and then found daylight on the right side on second down. He outraced the last line of defenders to the goal line for a 56-yard touchdown run, extending Los Gatos’ lead to 14-0 with 8:31 left before halftime.

At that point in the game, Wood had 130 yards in eight carries.

“That’s all the line,” Wood said. “I didn’t do anything on that. Those two plays, I got down the first 40 yards of the field untouched because the line opened up some great plays. I’ve got to put it on them.”

After Wood’s second touchdown, Mitty responded with its best drive of the half, moving from its 33 to inside the Los Gatos 10.

Along the way, the Monarchs converted three third-and-long plays into first downs, effectively calling draws to fullback Luke Allen and getting a clutch pass from quarterback Brett Foley to Ben Manley.

But once inside the 10, Mitty went in reverse. An illegal block and a hold moved the ball back to the 34. Mitty reached the 9 again, but a false start and an incompletion ended the threat.

With time running out in the half, the Monarchs held Los Gatos deep inside its territory, seemingly giving themselves one more opportunity to score before the break.

But a roughing-the-punter infraction kept the ball in Los Gatos’ possession, and the Wildcats took a 14-0 cushion into the locker room.

“It means everything, especially for me,” Wood said of the win. “I was on varsity for two years, and we lost to Mitty twice in a row. To come back and beat them is the greatest feeling ever.”

LOS GATOS 21, ARCHBISHOP MITTY 13

Archibishop Mitty 0 0 7 6 — 13

Los Gatos 0 14 7 0 — 21

LG — Wood 40 run (Sedgwick kick)

LG — Wood 56 run (Sedgwick kick)

AM — Granberry 34 pass from Foley (Eppel kick)

LG — Occhipinti 21 pass from Brown (Sedgwick kick)

AM — Monroe 25 pass from Foley (no PAT attempted)

Records — Los Gatos 1-0; Archibishop Mitty 0-1.

Article by Darren Sabedra, San Jose Mercury News