SAN JOSE — Willow Glen head coach Oscar Caballero spent the week leading up to his team’s game against Mt. Pleasant preparing for a fight to the finish, even though the Cardinals were a division below his Rams in the Blossom Valley Athletic League.
It wasn’t just coach-speak. Mt. Pleasant had pushed Leigh to the brink last week, and while the Cardinals may be in the West Valley Division, they showed that they could put a scare into strong foes.
That scare never came on Thursday, much to the relief of Caballero and his Rams, who led 13-0 after one quarter and 28-0 at half en route to a 42-14 win.
“I’m very surprised,” Caballero said. “We were pretty nervous coming into this week, seeing what they did against Leigh. We were nervous about stopping the run; they’re explosive. We were a lot cleaner this week from the start.”
The Rams got things started with a three-and-out, then needed just six plays to find paydirt, taking the early lead on a Gabe Negrete 17-yard pass to Michael Malvini. Jared Mulic and Pau Reed combined for a sack to stop the second Mt. Pleasant drive shy of midfield before Mulic would make his mark on offense, starting another scoring drive with runs of 20 and 12 yards. Jake Medina finished things off, racing up the sidelines for a 25-yard score.
Those two drives were the first of six marches down the field for Willow Glen (2-0), with Negrete leading an offense that had graduated its 1,000-yard rusher and passer from last year but nonetheless looked like a well-oiled machine.
“I played receiver last year, so it’s been a big move, and I didn’t really expect it,” Negrete said after running 10 times for 103 yards and completing seven of his 11 passes for 129 yards. “I’ve just been putting my time into it.”
A six-yard Reed touchdown opened up a three-score lead, and Negrete’s 14-yard score with 10 seconds left in the first half all but put the game away. A two-yard Ryan Davis touchdown kept the ball rolling in the third quarter as the Rams gave time to their second-stringers, and Malvini finished the scoring with a six-yard run after relieving Negrete at quarterback.
“We’ve got really good kids that do what they’re asked to do,” Caballero said of his versatile group that’s transitioned well through a bevy of position changes.
Shorthanded Mt. Pleasant (0-2) did score twice in the fourth quarter, breaking the shutout with a 10-yard Ethan Hernandez pass to Ayjyan Johnson and getting a 19-yard Hernandez touchdown run as time expired, but the absence of three two-way starters was too much for the Cardinals to overcome.
“When you play a great team, you need all your top dogs, and we only suited 21,” head coach Frank Lopez said. Linemen Robert Ceballos and Mark Lagapan were sorely missed as Reed and co. dominated the trenches for the Rams.
Hernandez completed five of his nine passes for 72 yards, with Marco Herrera hauling in three of them, highlighted by a 32-yard grab on the final play of the third quarter.
“Games like this are a good measuring stick,” Lopez said. “We went from the penthouse to the outhouse after having great success last week, but we went 0-3 in nonleague last year and went on to win six games.”