The Monterey Trail Mustangs had to adjust their coverages in the second half of their first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section Division I matchup as they beat the Pleasant Grove Eagles 28-14 Friday night.
Monterey Trail (10-1, 5-0) started the game a little sluggish as they punted on their first possession of the game after they managed to pick up one first down on their opening drive.
The Mustangs got on the senior defensive back Antonio Williams who intercepted a Pleasant Grove senior quarterback Nathan Valencia screen pass and brought it back 95 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, which gave Monterey Trail a 7-0 lead with a little over three minutes to go in the first quarter.
“Our backs were against the wall deep in our territory, so I had to make the play,” Williams said.
Before Valencia threw the interception, the Eagles had a lengthy drive downfield that took over six minutes off the clock.
Pleasant Grove (6-5, 2-4) answered back on their next possession as Valencia tied the game up at 7 after a one-yard TD rush in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Eagles were able to rush the ball up the gut on Monterey Trail early in the game between Valencia on quarterback reads and junior running back Chris Weinberg.
The Mustangs responded to the Pleasant Grove touchdown on the following possession after senior running back Caleb Ramseur snuck into the end zone on a five-yard TD rush to put the lead at 14-7 with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Valencia found Weinberg for a 38-yard TD pass off a screen and the Eagles tied the game back to 14 with three and a half minutes to go in the first half.
Monterey Trail struggled to move the ball down the field with their high-powered Veer offense with less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half.
Mustangs head coach T.J. Ewing said Pleasant Grove was able to execute the run through the middle of the field well and get a chunk of yards.
“We considered ourselves down at the half,” Williams said. “We knew we were going to eventually get stops, but we all said keep pushing.”
Ewing alluded to the fact that the difference of the leagues made an impact on what his team saw during the Metropolitan league schedule.
Monterey Trail outscored its opponents in the Metro League 233-14 in their five combined league games, which included a 2-0 forfeited win over Burbank.
“The league difference is always hard for us because were not use to seeing that,” Ewing said. “You get exposed when you’re not used to seeing different things.”
He added that the adjustments he made for the second half was to switch guys around that would be fresher.
That is something Ewing couldn’t do in some of the last few years, due to him playing a lot of athletes on both sides of the ball the entire game.
Ewing said he doesn’t have a current player that had played both sides of the ball for an entire game this season.
The Eagles started the second half with great field position, but the Mustangs defense looked like they were locked in and ready to go because they came with a new attitude in the second half.
Pleasant Grove would get some momentum, but penalties would kill big gains for the Eagles for the rest of the night.
“We would get ahead, then the penalties would just hold us back,” Valencia said.
Ramseur put Monterey Trail ahead with 5:10 left in the third quarter when the Mustangs started this drive on their own 1-yard, and he exploded up field for a 92-yard rushing TD to go up 21-14.
Monterey Trail scored extending their lead to 14 points in the fourth quarter when junior running back Prophet Brown found Williams in the end zone for a 17-yard TD reception.
“In the huddle, he told me to be ready to catch a dime pass,” Williams said.
The Mustangs will travel to Stockton this Friday night and take on the fourth seeded St. Mary’s Rams in the Division I bracket.
“We need to execute a lot better,” Ramseur said.
Pleasant Grove wasn’t expected to make the playoffs by anyone in the area
Their motto of “Row the boat,” took the area by storm when Valencia and other Eagles brought the paddle with them every Friday night.
An emotional Pleasant Grove head coach Matt Costa couldn’t express anything but love for his players.
“I have an amazing group of kids,” Costa said.
He added how far his senior class of athletes overcame adversity throughout their time in the Eagles program.
“They never won a game in high school before the season started,” Costa said. “Now look at them, they won six games this season and made the playoffs.”
Costa added that, for next season, Pleasant Grove will return 29 players on its roster.
For Valencia, although his time as a football player as an Eagle is over, he will start to gear up for wrestling season.
He added the bond between him and Costa is special because he is like another father figure.
“He’s everything to me as a coach,” Valencia said. “This year was a special year for both of us.”
As the Mustangs move on to the second round, the game will kick off at 7 p.m. at St. Mary’s High School.