With the regular season over, the season has come to an end for 51 of the Central Coast Section’s 93 teams. Before everyone enters playoff mode, though, it’s worth looking at a few noteworthy stats from the previous 11 weeks.
Despite missing out on the playoffs by losing to Homestead last week, Gunn still finished with the section’s top scoring offense, scoring 450 in 10 games. Not far behind was Salinas, scoring 390 in nine games for a 43.3 average. Gunn led the entire section in rushing yards with 3,362, while Salinas and Saratoga were locked in a great battle for the passing crown, which is detailed later in this section.
Defensively, Valley Christian was by far the top team in the section, allowing just 55 points in 10 games. Wilcox’s 13 points in the teams’ opening-week matchup turned out to be the most the Warriors allowed on the year, though the last six of those came after the outcome was settled. Clovis West put up 12 on the Warriors while Serra managed 10, with seven being set up by an interception and offsides penalty on a field goal attempt. WCAL teams combined to score just 30 against the Warriors in seven games. In all, Valley Christian shut out four opponents, including three league foes. St. Francis scored seven points when the teams met on Sept. 28, returning the opening kickoff to the house but never sniffing the end zone again. The only other team to even allow less than 100 points in the regular season was Half Moon Bay, checking in at 94.
South San Francisco had the unfortunate distinction of being both the lowest-scoring offense and the most porous on defense, getting outscored 493-20. Credit the Warriors for toughing it out and never giving up on the season.
Leland, Milpitas and Pioneer weren’t able to rest their defenses much. The three teams tied for the most interceptions thrown in the section, giving away the ball 17 times apiece through the air. Live Oak and Wilcox each picked off 14, and it’s no coincidence that they were in the same leagues as the teams who threw the most interceptions. Wilcox intercepted Milpitas four times in a 49-21 win, with Bryan Escorza and Forrest Watts each coming away with two errant Trojan passes. Live Oak victimized Pioneer three times, with sophomore Anthony Gracia coming up just shy of the end zone on a 90-yard return. Against Leland, the Acorns picked off just one.
From an individual standpoint, Saratoga’s Payton Stokes won the overall passing race, throwing for 3,020 yards, but Salinas’ Carl Richardson threw for 2,956 in just nine games, giving him the edge in yards per game (328.4 to 302). Thanks in part to the extra game, Stokes had a 36-32 advantage in touchdowns. Richardson had the slight edge in QB rating (139-133.6) and had a pronounced edge in completion percentage (71.5 to 67.1), as well as averaging a full yard more per attempt. He did, however, throw six interceptions to Stokes’ five, with two apiece in each of the Cowboys’ final two regular season games. Stokes also threw two picks on Friday as Saratoga beat Cupertino.
Like Richardson, Palma’s Anthony Villegas played just nine games (both Palma and Salinas had Gilroy forfeits on their schedules), but he led the section in not just rushing yards per game but overall rushing yards. He raced past defenses for 1,827 yards, more than a mile’s worth, including 318 in a Nov. 1 win over Aptos. His lowest total on the season was 157, which he posted in wins over both Oakdale and Carmel. His 28 touchdowns were more than any other back or receiver in the entire section, and unlike many of his peers, all of his came on the ground.
As for receivers, it gets a bit messy as Carmel has yet to post stats from its final regular season game, a loss to Alvarez. Entering that game, Benicio Cristofalo had 48 receptions for 1,033 yards. Christopher’s stats from its final two games have yet to be published, but Cody Ahola had 72 catches through six games, making him the likely leader for the entire section. Of teams that have had stats readily available through all 10 of their games, whether they’re via MaxPreps or other programs, St. Ignatius wide receiver Danny Ryan had 1,063 yards on 75 catches. Alex Murrell only played in Piedmont Hills’ first seven games before injuries took their toll, but he managed to pile up 881 yards on 56 catches, and his 14 receiving touchdowns led the section. Ironically, the Pirates won the three games they played after he went down with his injury, though head coach Matt Kiesle had noted his vocal presence on the sideline during the first of those wins.
Pioneer’s Jared Kennedy led the section in tackles with 157 (73 solo). Stats from Gunderson’s season-ending loss to Prospect have yet to be posted, but sophomore Ruben Manzanares entered that game with 13 sacks, clear of any of his peers who have stats from all 10 of their contests. Seven of those came in one game, a 20-6 victory over Hill. While Saratoga has yet to post defensive stats from last week’s win over Cupertino, Tyler Ouchida had 24 tackles for loss in his first nine games and teammate Talon Sisco had 23, tied with Manzanares. Much like a horse race that goes down to the wire, it may take a while for the results to come in to get an official verdict on the winner.
Sequoia’s Nolan Tarzon led the way for ballhawks with seven interceptions, including three in a Week 2 win over Woodside. He got his seventh in last week’s 38-28 win over Carlmont to claim the Terremere Trophy.
Field goal stats are hard to come by, but Saratoga’s Fabian Alvarado went 56-for-61 on extra points, giving him the most makes in the section. Wilcox’s Isaiah Flores was 42-of-43, while Ty Goldsbury went 45-for-48 for Los Gatos, though he wouldn’t attempt a single one against Flores as the Chargers shut his Wildcats out. Unsurprisingly, Sacred Heart Prep’s Ronan Donnelly made 39 of 40 tries. Luke Silva got to show his leg off on Friday, going 6-for-6 in Salinas’ win over Aptos to bring him to a 41-of-44 mark on the season. As for the punters, Milpitas’ Nate Miskella averaged 44 yards per kick, just ahead of Donnelly’s 43.1. It’s worth noting that Miskella did so with a much larger sample size, booting away 34 punts to Donnelly’s 14. Riordan’s Roberto Alas has the dubious distinction of punting the most times out of any individual player, sending 35 kicks into the sky. The longest punt of all, though, was a 60-yarder by San Mateo junior Olle Mandorf. Ryan Daly, better known for his abilities as St. Francis’ quarterback, sent a section-high eight punts inside the opposing 20.
When it comes to returners, teams might want to avoid kicking to Austin Flax. The Mountain View junior averaged 33 yards per return, including a 94-yard house call in a win over Fremont. Nearby, St. Francis sophomore Camilo Arquette had the longest return, 96 yards on the opening kickoff in a loss to Valley Christian. As it turned out, those would be the only points the Lancers scored in that game. In terms of overall return yards, though, Sobrato’s Jose Reyes takes the cake. In just nine games (one was canceled by a power outage), he returned a total of 20 kickoffs and punts, picking up 542 yards to give his team good field position throughout the season.
Watsonville finishes season with stunner
Perhaps the most surprising upset of the entire season flew under the radar as Watsonville topped Santa Cruz, 27-20. For the Wildcatz, it was just their third win on the year, and one of those prior two was by forfeit. Santa Cruz (7-3, 5-1 PCAL Cypress) entered having already locked up an outright league championship, but perhaps the Cardinals were looking ahead to the playoffs as Watsonville (3-7, 1-5) forced four turnovers. Santa Cruz stuffed Watsonville QB Andrew Rocha on fourth-and-goal at the 1 with 3:38 left to preserve the 14-14 tie, but a fumbled pitch on the very next play was recovered for the go-ahead touchdown by Nasser Sabla. Rocha then came away with an interception for the defense’s fourth and final takeaway, and the Wildcatz would add an insurance touchdown before Santa Cruz scored one last time on a 17-yard Dillon Danner touchdown pass to Caleb Womack with 43 seconds left. After three scores in three minutes, Watsonville’s Kobe Berry finally ended the drama by recovering the onside kick to seal the win.
With both Serra and Branham losing last week, Half Moon Bay stands as the lone CCS football team to make it through the regular season without a loss. The Cougars were rarely challenged on the way to their 10-0 season, with their closest call coming in a 27-13 win at Hillsdale. In a 45-26 win over Burlingame, they led by just three in the third quarter before rattling off the game’s final 16 points, but all of their other contests were decided by at least 25 points.
Hard work pays off
San Jose (1-9, 1-6 BVAL West Valley) snapped a 15-game losing streak with Friday’s 20-12 win over Yerba Buena (4-6, 3-4). The Bulldogs shut the Aztec Warriors out in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory and win on Senior Night.
Six teams finished the regular season winless, with a seventh only getting a win via forfeit. The horrifying scandal at Gilroy and the ensuing forfeiture of the Mustangs’ season meant there was no Severance Bowl played this season. It technically meant Christopher finished the year with a win, but the Cougars were unable to do so on the field. The possibility of two winless teams duking it out for crosstown bragging rights and the chance to go out with a trophy would have made for an entertaining story.
Of those six winless teams, one of them not only came close to a win on Friday but did so against a strong opponent. Teams featured in this section typically get their wins against lesser competition, but Del Mar put up a stellar defensive effort to hang with Willow Glen (7-3, 4-3 BVAL Santa Teresa) the entire way before the Rams finally got a Dylan Pruitt touchdown with 10 seconds left to win 13-7.
“We fought all year,” first-year head coach Shin Kong said of his team. “We had five losses by one touchdown or less. It was a true rebuilding year.”
The Dons will likely be relegated to the West Valley Division next year, but they’d be an instant contender for the title there. Their defense improved dramatically as the season went on, holding three of their final four opponents under 21 points. Offensively, they managed just 83 points on the year but were led by sophomore quarterback Emmit Hugill, one of eight members of the class of 2022 on the roster. Del Mar also had three freshmen on the team.
Still one game to go
Technically, there is still one last regular season game to be played in the Central Coast Section. Lincoln (6-3) will host San Jose (1-9) on Thanksgiving in the 73rd Big Bone Game. Often played at neutral sites in past years, the Lions will play this year’s edition on their home campus.
The game does bring up some debates regarding the playoffs. In addition to the question of whether or not it’s worthwhile for Lincoln to keep this game up for the sake of tradition (the Lions enter this year’s meeting with a 21-year streak), there’s also the matter of what happens to the Lions’ playoff berth if they qualify, as was the case this year. Lincoln would have had the fourth and final automatic bid from the BVAL Mt. Hamilton Division, which was instead given to fifth-place Santa Teresa. The Saints are 4-6, and the four teams they beat are a combined 5-35.
Meanwhile, Silver Creek finished in a three-way tie for the Santa Teresa Division championship and was left out of the playoffs. The Raiders aren’t going on to the playoffs despite being the only team to beat Branham on the season and being ranked 40th in the section. Santa Teresa, meanwhile, is 57th and lost to Branham in September. The Saints also lost to Lincoln 34-9, while Silver Creek lost to the Lions by just two points in head coach Aaron Noriega’s first game. Some changes to the BVAL and CCS bylaws for handling that playoff berth, perhaps turning it into an at-large bid instead of just handing it to the next team in line in Lincoln’s division, may be a wise move.