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MT avoids near collapse

By John Gudel, Elk Grove Citizen, 11/10/09, 3:00AM PST


Strange occurrences seem to routinely happen on Saturday afternoons at Jesuit High School’s Loyola Field. As the only team in either the Delta River League or Delta Valley Conference without stadium lights and forced to play Saturdays, those matinees often include high-scoring shootouts, wild finishes and impossible comebacks.

Monterey Trail fell victim to that two years ago. Head coach T.J. Ewing recalled his team losing on a Hail Mary in a 34-30 loss on their last visit to Jesuit.

Monterey Trail avoided adding another chapter to Loyola Field’s history by surviving a near monumental collapse. Jesuit rallied from 24 points down to within three early in the third quarter, only for Monterey Trail to reel off 20 unanswered in a 57-41 win last Saturday.

The game lasted slightly more than 3 hours, had one ejection (Jesuit head coach Dan Carmazzi) and 28 points scored combined in the fourth quarter.

“This is a tough place to play,” said Ewing, after Monterey Trail won at Jesuit for the first time in school history and has now won back-to-back meetings in the season series for the first time ever. “It’s hard to play on Saturdays. Get an extra day off, an extra day of practice. Jesuit is used to it. This is what they do. That’s why they have been so successful.”

Most of the Monterey Trail team spent its off day watching the Folsom-Pleasant Grove showdown at Sheldon-Pleasant Grove Community Stadium last Friday. By virtue of Folsom’s overtime win, the Delta River League is locked in a three-way tie for first place with one week left.

A tri-title is possible considering none of the three teams involved - Monterey Trail, Pleasant Grove and Folsom - play each other in the season finale. Pleasant Grove has the benefit of playing at Jesuit on Saturday, at least for the fact that they will know what Folsom and Monterey Trail did the night before.

Folsom travels to Sheldon, while Monterey Trail faces Florin.

Pleasant Grove is seeking at least a share of its third consecutive league title. Monterey Trail is vying for its first ever.

“We’ll just see what happens,” said Ewing. “So many different things could happen. We could win it, we could have a three-way tie. You just don’t know. We’ll just go out and play.”

Ewing said his team was noticeably quicker to the bus Saturday morning for its drive to Jesuit after learning of Pleasant Grove’s fate. That urgency carried over into the early minutes of the game.

Monterey Trail scored 16 points in the first two minutes, with Evan Favors returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then Drake Tofi scoring on the next play after a Jesuit fumble. Before Jesuit blinked, they trailed 16-0 after Monterey Trail also converted a pair of two-point attempts.

Monterey Trail only stopped itself in the first quarter.

Stopping Monterey Trail two yards short of a fourth-and-six attempt from its own 38, Jesuit capitalized on the short field with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Benjamin Miroglio to Connor Bjorge to cut the deficit to 16-6.

Drake Tofi pushed the lead to 17 with a 16-yard run with 14 seconds left in the quarter.

The scoring from both sides was just getting started.

One play after Evan Favors’ interception, Derek Bellamy caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Calvan to inflate Monterey Trail’s lead to 30-6 and seemingly ending any suspense of Jesuit’s upset bid.

Not so fast.

Jesuit scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the second quarter to trail 30-20 at the half. Daniel Hrin then added a two-yard scoring run on Jesuit’s first drive of the second half to cut a once 24-point deficit to three with virtually the entire second half remaining.

“The second quarter was a nightmare,” Ewing said. “We didn’t do a very good job. Jesuit made a run at us and I’m not sure what happened. We just didn’t play like we did to start.

“The kids like competition,” he added. “Sometimes they wait until something like that happens and then all of sudden they turn it out. I hope that’s not what is. I hope they don’t think they can just do that.”

Fueled by Jesuit’s comeback bid, Monterey Trail answered with 20 straight points.

Just as the Jesuit student section began chanting its famous “Red Brick Wall” salute to its defense, Calvan snuck across the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line against the penetrable and charitable wall. Sedale Hunter scored on a four-yard run later in the third for a 43-27 lead and then he put the game out of reach with a 32-yard touchdown run one play after a blocked punt midway through the fourth.