CONCORD, Calif. – With two intra-section powers that rely on the running game for their success, there was no question that the team able to win the battle in the trenches was going to emerge victorious.
That team was Prep2Prep Sac-Joaquin Section No. 3 ranked Monterey Trail. The visiting Mustangs dominated the line of scrimmage over host and Prep2Prep North Coast Section No. 3 Clayton Valley Charter in a 24-13 victory where they led 17-0 at halftime.
“This was a great night for Mustang football,” Monterey Trail head coach T.J. Ewing said. “I think the biggest thing for us tonight was the guys really played for each other – and we had a lot of guys out.”
“We had to adjust with the guys we had and they took on some new responsibilities,” continued Ewing. “It’s tough for young people to sometimes believe in that but they were all in and I couldn’t be prouder of their performance tonight.”
Besides missing players, Monterey Trail (2-0) doesn’t even have the top returning running back from the metro Sacramento area in action as USC-bound Prophet Brown decided to avoid the circumstances created by the pandemic. Although he didn’t graduate early, Brown opted to forego his senior season.
No problem. Ewing has a mammoth offensive line and even without Brown he has other runners chomping at the bit to step up.
“Our line played really well tonight against a tough physical team, and that allowed us to do some things,” Ewing said.
What they did is what Ewing and his offense is known for, running the football.
Four runners combined for 336 yards rushing on 60 carries. Two running backs, junior Otha Williams Jr. and senior Chris Lands rushed for over 100 yards once again just like in the season opening win over Woodcreek.
Williams had the bulk of the carries after rushing for 131 yards on 28 attempts with one touchdown. He was the ultimate grinder and always was moving forward even as he was being tackled. Lands flashed some speed and got outside a couple of times for long gains, including a 26-yard run that opened the scoring and gave Monterey Trail a lead it never relinquished. He finished with 15 carries for 120 yards and the one touchdown.
Junior Ronnie Brutus had 10 of his 11 carries and 45 of his 46 yards rushing in the second half.
Quarterback Frank Arcuri rushed for 39 yards on six carries. The junior only completed 3-of-8 passes, but one of them was for a touchdown to junior wide receiver Brevin Amiga.
For Clayton Valley head coach Tim Murphy, who has taken three teams to CIF state Bowl games since 2014 using a predominantly run-oriented offense, including last season when they won the 2-AA title, it was like looking in the mirror.
“This is what it was like playing against us the last seven years,” Murphy said.
Clayton Valley (2-1) took the opening kickoff but went three and out.
The visitors got the ball at their own 44-yard line and drove 56 yards in seven plays. During the drive they converted two crucial third downs, including a 16-yard run by Williams on third-and-six that came right before the romp to paydirt by Lands.
After the Ugly Eagles went three-and-out again on the ensuing drive, the Mustangs drove it in again on a 10-play, 45-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard plunge by Williams to give Monterey Trail a 14-0 lead.
When they got the ball a third time, Clayton Valley finally recorded a first down, but it wasn’t until there was only 33 seconds left in the first quarter. On the drive the Ugly Eagles ran 10 plays but couldn’t convert on fourth down and the ball went over on downs.
The Clayton Valley defense came up with a stop on fourth down on the next series. But when they got the ball back an eight-play, 52-yard drive came up empty when quarterback Jake Kern was intercepted at the Monterey Trail four yard line.
From there the Mustangs looked like they were going to take a 21-0 lead at the half but they ran out of time, and after driving 87 yards in 13 plays, they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Diego Soto that split the upright as time expired in the second quarter.
Monterey Trail was going to get the ball to open the second half. And with Clayton Valley not having an answer for the grinding ground game of the Mustangs it would have been easy for the Ugly Eagles to go in the tank and get blown out, but that didn’t happen.
Monterey Trail took the second-half kickoff and as expected they drove down the field. But after 13 plays and 39 yards, Brutus fumbled and senior linebacker Lukas Linkhart recovered it at the 26 for Clayton Valley.
The Ugly Eagles finally got on the scoreboard when senior running back Omari Taylor scored the first of two second-half touchdowns when he broke loose for a 21-yard TD run to cut the deficit to 17-7.
The Mustangs answered right back with another long drive of 67 yards in 13 plays that produced their final score on the touchdown pass from Arcuri to Amiga from 4 yards out.
The next series for Clayton Valley produced their best drive of the night when they went 71 yards in 13 plays with Taylor scoring on a 9-yard run.
The Ugly Eagles went for a 2-point conversion and failed, and then tried an onside kick that was recovered by junior Tanaki Tonga, who also had the first-half interception.
Taylor finished with all the scoring for Clayton Valley and had 94 yards on 21 carries. Junior running back Rashaan Woodland had all six of his carries in the second half and finished with 52 yards rushing.
Kern split time at quarterback with junior Brenden Bush. Bush completed 4-of-5 passes but only for 18 yards. Kern did not complete any of his three passes but he rushed for 30 yards.
Murphy was clearly disappointed in the outcome but tried to be upbeat.
“I thought we ran the ball well but the biggest positive is we battled and the kids didn’t quit,” Murphy said.
Clayton Valley will need to put this game behind them and prepare for Monte Vista this Saturday in Danville. Monte Vista (0-3) has been missing players and is off to a rough start, including a 38-31 loss in overtime to a California team the Ugly Eagles defeated 20-16 two weeks ago. Last year in East Bay Athletic League action Clayton Valley lost 31-21 to Monte Vista at home.
Monterey Trail has another tough opponent when they face cross-town rival Cosumnes Oaks. For the Prep2Prep Sac-Joaquin Section No. 8 Wolfpack it will be their season opener.
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