GONZALES — With four minutes to play against the first place St. Francis Sharks the host Gonzales Spartan football team cut the deficit to just seven points. St. Francis survived the scare with a 65-yard touchdown run by Devon McLeod to seal the Mission Trail Athletic League (Coastal), victory at 40-27 and clinched a share of the Sharks first-ever football championship.
“I am proud of our team for making some big time plays and making a game of it,” said Gonzales head coach Arthur Berlanga. “We fought hard and cut the lead to seven points by coming up with defensive stop when we needed them and stopped their offense and forced them to punt. St. Francis beat us up with their no-huddle, hurry up offense but we settled down and played better on both sides of the ball in the second half. It is hard to come back from a 21-point deficit but we never quit trying.”
St. Francis took a 7-0 first quarter lea short touchdown run by Andy O’Rourke. The lead became 14-0 at the 11:29 mark of the second quarter on a 19-yard touchdown run by O’Rourke. After an interception McLeod scored from 35-yards to give the Sharks a 21-0 lead.
Gonzales cut the lead to 21-7 on a touchdown run by quarterback Raul Morales of eight yards and a PAT by Jaime Perez with 5:39 to play in the first half. With 1:08 to play in the half Carson Cuzick scored a touchdown to stretch the Shark advantage to 28-7.
In the third quarter Gonzales fought back with a four-yard touchdown pass from Morales to receiver Dominic Emery to cut the deficit to 28-13 after a missed two-point conversion pass play. With 6:51 to play in the third quarter the Sharks Mario Velasquez scored on a 74-yard touchdown and the lead went to 34-13, St. Francis. Gonzales then got on the scoreboard again with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Morales to Payton Flores, and the Spartan trailed 34-19. With four minutes to play in the contest linebacker Pablo Villasenor flew in to block a St. Francis punt and Seth Mays scooped up the ball and outran the Sharks for a 34-yard score. A Morales to Flores two-point conversion pass play made the score 34-27.
The Spartan defense led by plays by Leo Ruiz backed up the Sharks on their next offensive series but on a fourth and long call McLeod ran up the gut for the 65-yard score that game the visitors a two-touchdown lead at 40-27. Gonzales had the ball one final time but the game ended on an interception with 3:03 left to play.
Morales led the Spartans on the ground with 81-yards on 11 carries and passed threw for 157 yards on a 16 of 28 passing performance with two interceptions. Players led the Gonzales receiving corps with 103 yards on nine receptions and scored on touchdown. Other Spartan receivers were: Emery (four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown); Damian Acosta (two catches for 11 yards); and Hernan Mojica (one catch for six yards).
“Friday night will be our Senior Night and we have 12 senior players that we will be honoring,” said Coach Berlanga. “Our goal is to finish the season with a win over Harbor. We are 2-4 in league and 3-6 overall but could have been 4-2 if we had beaten a couple of teams when we had leads. As a team we want to finish the season on a high note.”
In the JV game the Spartans defeated the Sharks by a 19-12 score after leading 13-12 at halftime. Frankie Leon scored on a 55-yard pass play from Jason Flores and scored on a 10-yard running play. Jose Lopez score the last Gonzales touchdown on a 10-yard run.