Trojans have a chance for the best season in school history and keep alive hopes to be an unbeaten CCS Open Division champion after victory on Friday at home over top-ranked foe.
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Playing music from an Alfred Hitchcock movie or from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion isn’t necessary for any opponents of the Milpitas football team to feel frightful.
Just take a look at that offensive line. Halloween or not, that’s a scary bunch.The host Trojans, ranked 20th overall in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, passed perhaps their toughest test of the regular season on Friday with a 27-21 victory over Los Gatos but not before the Wildcats caused some fearful moments of their own with a late comeback.
With the win, Milpitas improved to 8-0 and just about wrapped up the De Anza Division title of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League. Coach Kelly King’s squad also appears headed for the top seed in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, also because the section’s other front-runner team, state No. 19 Serra of San Mateo, went down in an upset on Friday 27-14 to Archbishop Mitty of San Jose.
Since Los Gatos owns a win over Mitty and since its only other loss is to 8-1 St. Mary’s of Stockton, the Wildcats (6-2) still may be playing in the CCS Open Division but as one of three at-large teams. They will remain in the Cal-Hi Sports CIF Division II North bowl game rankings but would be taken out if they end up in the CCS Open Division since the CCS Open Division winner can only qualify for the NorCal D1 bowl game.
The Halloween backdrop was the reason for the theme music over the loudspeakers at Milpitas but playing on the same night as trick or treating likely caused fewer people to attend.
Still, to the players on the field, they knew what was at stake and for Milpitas the win was more impressive because of how the game began.
On its first possession, Los Gatos converted two third down pass plays and ended up in the end zone on a two-yard run around the right end by senior Joey Wood.
Then on the first play run by the Trojans following the kickoff, Cros Chavez had the ball ripped away from him by a Los Gatos defender. The Wildcats took advantage of that turnover immediately when quarterback Dru Brown lofted a pass to his right sideline that was hauled in by teammate Matt Wilcox for a 45-yard touchdown.
Milpitas got untracked on its second possession and put together a scoring drive that was capped by a three-yard TD run by Christian Rodriguez.
In the second quarter, Milpitas assumed control and did it thanks to yet another interception return touchdown by senior Christian Rita. On the play, Rita stepped in front a pass near the Los Gatos sideline and took it back 45 yards the other way for a score.
“All of us on defense have been working hard doing the right reads on the quarterback,” said Rita of a unit that recently had four interception return touchdowns in one game. “Our defensive coaches have been preparing us well.”
With the Trojans still trailing 14-13, they grabbed a 19-14 lead at halftime on a 46-yard TD pass from John Keller to Dion Leonard. Keller finished 10 of 17 for 152 yards while Leonard ended with four catches for 89 yards.
Although Milpitas didn’t add to that lead on its first series of the third quarter, the Trojan defense quickly got the ball back for the offense and on that drive the offense delivered. Rita scored the touchdown on a 11-yard pass play from Keller in which he caught a pass in the flat and made a move to get to the end zone.
Just before the start of the fourth quarter, Los Gatos wasn’t doing much on offense and seemed on the verge of suffering a blowout loss. Coach Mark Krall’s squad, however, turned it around. First came a flea-flicker play that resulted in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Nick Occhipinti.
Milpitas was then stopped on its ensuing possession, which gave Los Gatos its first of two possible go-ahead touchdown drives. The first one ended on an incomplete pass. The second one, which came after Wilcox intercepted a pass in the end zone, saw the Wildcats pick up four first downs and got them inside the Milpitas 15-yard line. On a fourth down play, however, with 50 seconds left Brown was intercepted by Victor Rodriguez after he was pressured by Milpitas 6-foot-5 senior Jason Scrempos.
Scrempos also gets into the game on offense as a tight end but at nearly 250 pounds is a lightweight compared to the Trojans’ offensive line. That unit, led by senior Tevita Musika (6-2, 330) at center, also includes junior Christian Haangana (6-6, 347); senior Uate Mataele (6-4, 370); junior Siti Mataele (5-10, 300); and the “little guy” of the bunch, Victor Baquilod (5-10, 250).
“Our size is great but everyone has been on point every week,” Rita said. “We’ve just been listening to our coaches and we have a lot of amazing athletes.”
Despite the early fumble, Chavez still found his way for 108 yards rushing on 20 carries to lead the Trojans.
Los Gatos wasn’t able to run the ball much against the Milpitas front (which includes Scrempos and Musika) but the Wildcats had some success in the air. Brown ended up 13 of 24 for 189 yards. Wilcox had five catches for 101 yards plus the interception on defense. Occhipinti had six catches for 54 yards.