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It’s been one of those years when picking up big yardage on a single play has been no problem for the Saratoga football team.
Getting a single yard, though, is sometimes a little more difficult.
And that task proved impossible for the Falcons last Friday night in a key moment in a big game against Los Gatos when the powerhouse defense of the Wildcats proved impenetrable for Saratoga.
The Cats were leading just 21-10 late in the first half when Saratoga took over at the Los Gatos 14 following a bad snap on a punt attempt. A third-down pass from J.J. Walters to Kyle Dozier took the Falcons to the 1-yard line where they faced a first and goal.
That’s when the Los Gatos defense went to work. After Ty Doughty made the touchdown-saving tackle on Dozier at the 1, the Gatos senior teamed with Tyler Perkins, C.J. Butcher and Bailey McNally to drop Saratoga’s Bryson Yates for no gain on two consecutive plays. Saratoga fumbled the snap on third down, and Perkins recovered for the Cats to end the ‘Toga threat.
As it turns out, that would be the last real threat of the night for the Falcons, and Los Gatos would go on to post an impressive 28-10 win in the game between the longtime local rivals.
"I couldn’t be more excited for the kids," said a visibly pleased Butch Cattolico moments after the victory.
The Los Gatos coach went on to say, "I told the kids before the game that this was going to be a legacy game. I told them how important this game was to the program."
The players must have believed it. They went out and held a team that had been averaging more than 400 yards a game to just 192 yards of total offense.
"I can’t think of too many teams that have held them to 10 points," added Cattolico.
He’s right. The Falcons had been lighting up the scoreboard this fall, averaging 40 points a game through the first nine games of the season. The fewest point total for Saratoga had been 21 in a loss to Santa Clara.
The Falcons were hampered in the game, though.
"We were down two starting offensive linemen and that hurt us tonight," said Saratoga coach Tim Lugo.
"Our inability to run the ball hurt us, and there were passes out there that we normally hit," he added. "We had our chances tonight."
They’re best chance came at the end of the first half.
After the Falcons had stalled just over midfield, their defense went to work. Dozier, Chance Cox, Daniel Castronovo and Zachary Hansen came up with key tackles to force the Wildcats to punt. But the snap was high, and Gatos punter Logan Chapman had to fall on the football at his own 14.
The Falcons took over deep in Los Gatos territory with 2:26 left in the half, but McNally immediately made things tough on them when he sacked Walters for a 10-yard loss. Walters got the yardage back when he scrambled for 11, then he hit Dozier over the middle for 10, Doughty pulling him down at the 1-yard line.
Perkins plugged the hole to stop Yates on first down, then Doughty, Butcher and McNally stopped the tough Saratoga back for no gain on the next play.
The fumbled snap on the next play ended the threat.
The clubs traded the football through the third quarter and part of the fourth before they traded fumbles with just over nine minutes left. Christian Lee and Mike Fitzsimmons forced a fumble that Dozier recovered at the Saratoga 43 with 9:05 left in the game, but Jack Tittle recovered a Saratoga fumble on the very next play and the Cats were back in business.
The Wildcats then did what they like to do–run the ball behind their powerful offensive line of tackles Nico Aimonetti and Alex Randolph, guards Brendan Williams and Kevin Tjon and center Dave Fishman, with tight end Teva Brender and fullback Tittle contributing powerful blocks.
"Our offensive line was back healthy," said Cattolico.
The Cats moved 39 yards on seven running plays to face a fourth and goal at the Saratoga 3-yard line. Quarterback Nick Bawden rolled to his right and flipped a jump pass to the waiting arms of Max Herman in the back of the end zone.
"Max made a great catch," said Cattolico of Herman.
The coach was also pleased with the performance of his junior quarterback.
"He did a great job of managing the football game and throwing the ball," said Cattolico of Bawden, who hit on 6 of 9 passes for 76 yards.
With top receiver Kyle Kevorkian on the sidelines with an injury, Chapman stepped up with his best offensive game of the year. The junior wide receiver pulled down four passes for 60 yards, two of them setting up Los Gatos touchdowns.
"Chapman really did a nice job," said the coach.
Two of Chapman’s catches came on the first Gatos possession of the night, good for 12 and 11 yards and a couple of first downs. Sophomore back Joey Wood took advantage when he broke through the line for a 35-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the game. The first of four Chapman extra points made it 7-0 with 10:01 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons completed a couple of passes after the kickoff before William Le put them in a hole with a quarterback sack. On the next play, Brent McCoy picked off a pass at the Saratoga 45 and ran it down to the 26. A 15-yard pass from Bawden to Chapman set up Wood for a 1-yard TD run with 5:43 left in the half.
Saratoga answered that score with one of its own, though. Walters tossed 19 yards to Grant Faylor and Yates took off for 13 yards. After Walters and Faylor hooked up for another 13 yards, they connected for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 4:32 left in the first period. Fred Feyzi’s kick cut the lead to 14-7.
It was a pass interception by Saratoga’s Steven Ruff that got the Falcons going in the second quarter. Walters completions to Dozier, Faylor and Travis Stokes helped move the Falcons down the field before Feyzi drilled a 24-yard field goal with 8:39 left in the half.
Not to be outdone, though, the Cats came clawing back. Matt Etterman returned the kickoff 32 yards to the 33, then broke a 33-yard run out of the wildcat formation with another 15 yards tacked on the end due to a penalty. Wood got a big block from Herman to break a 12-yard run for a first down. A couple of plays later, Bawden snuck over from the 1 for a touchdown to make it 21-10.
That’s how it remained at the half thanks to big goal line stand by the Wildcats.
"We had worked on what we would do when they went into a three-back system and knew what we were going to do out of it," said Cattolico of the goal line stand.
But that stand was just part of the defensive story for the Cats, who gave the Falcons fits throughout the game.
Gatos put pressure on Walters all night, sacking him four times–Aimonetti had two and Le and McNally each had one. Perkins, Brender and Tittle each recovered fumbles and McCoy picked off a pass.
"Mark felt strongly that we needed to keep fresh bodies in there," said Cattolico, referring to defensive coordinator Mark Magagna. In all, 19 Cats got in on tackles in the win.
Doughty led the Wildcats with eight tackles and McCoy and Tittle finished with seven apiece. Two of Tittle’s tackles were for losses and McCoy had a pass deflection to go with his pick.
Aimonetti and Butcher each had six stops, Perkins and McNally five apiece and Herman four. Le, Cody Marshall, Chapman, Cameron Ackerman, Mike Mahoney, Wood, Myles Morrison, Connor McKeen, Brender, Matt Wilcox and Turnwall were also in on tackles.
Wood was the offensive leader for the Cats with 39 carries for 175 yards. Etterman supported with 48 yards on six tries, Bawden picked up 23 yards on seven carries and Le added 22 yards on eight attempts.
Despite giving up 334 yards of total offense, the Saratoga defense was solid, too.
"Our defense played great," said Lugo. "They were scrappy."
Henry Wei was more than scrappy, though, he was outstanding. The senior linebacker was in on 24 tackles to lead the Falcons.
Hansen finished the night with 13 stops, Dozier 11, Cox 10, Castronovo eight, Fitzsimmons six and Lee five.
Davis Berryhill got in on our tackles and Joey Mederios and John Moyles three apiece. Moyles picked off a Gatos pass and Dozier recovered two fumbles.
Faylor, Stokes, Jacob Marr, Abraham Salas and Jacob Camp were also in on tackles.
Walters finished the night hitting on 23 of 36 passes for 178 yards. He went to Dozier 10 times for 79 yards and Faylor eight times for 74. Yates caught two balls for five yards, Stokes one for 11, Ruff one for five and Berryhill one for one.
Article written by Dick Sparrer for the Los Gatos Weekly News