Mustangs hope Prune Bowl restores prowess

After disappointing season, anything can happen in annual
Hollister rivalry
It may have been homecoming, but there wasn’t much to celebrate
after the Mustangs of Gilroy High succumbed to the Salinas Cowboys
last Friday night 28-0.
After disappointing season, anything can happen in annual Hollister rivalry

It may have been homecoming, but there wasn’t much to celebrate after the Mustangs of Gilroy High succumbed to the Salinas Cowboys last Friday night 28-0.

In the process, the once-ranked Mustangs slipped to 1-5 on the season and just about ended all of their playoff hopes.

Tomorrow, Gilroy will square off with the Haybalers of San Benito High in the always hard-fought Prune Bowl.

“There’s a lot of history with that game,” said Gilroy Coach Darren Yafai of tonight’s contest, which started in the 1920s. “Each team gets real excited; and the winner gets to display the VFW trophy at their school for a year.”

Last year the Mustangs beat Hollister at home 37-20.

But this year, things could reverse. Hollister has a record of 3-2-1 and is coming off a 28-14 win over Live Oak.

Last season, the Balers lost the Division II Central Coast Section Championship by a single point to Salinas.

“They (Hollister) might not have as many game-breaking weapons as Salinas, but they are very disciplined. And they are big, strong and aggressive,” said Yafai. “But in this game, I’ve seen the lesser team win before. You can pretty much throw out the records for this one.”

Yafai probably would like to throw out the stat sheet on the last one.

Gilroy managed less than 100 yards of total offense against the Cowboys. On the other hand, the Cowboys racked up 335 yards of offense-almost all via a surging ground attack.

Part of the reason for the lopsided stats was Yafai’s decision to bench standout running back J.L. Mangono for disciplinary reasons.

“He’ll play this week,” said Yafai. “But that’s our team policy. It hurt not having him on the field.”

So far this season, Mangono has 395 yards rushing and four touchdowns to lead the Mustangs. In Mangono’s absence, senior Benji Amecquita got to start his first game.

But without their star running back and an injury to quarterback Ben Hemeon, it was obvious Gilroy wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

And Salinas took advantage.

In the first half, Salinas wasted no time on offense. They scored on two of their first three possessions and had built a 14-0 lead by the half.

The Cowboys’ first score came on a two-yard run by Christian Taylor. The Cowboys’ second score came when tailback Jordan Ventura scampered four yards into the end zone.

In the third quarter, Salinas opened things up when Taylor ran over the Mustangs’ left side of the defensive line and burst 10 yards for the score.

On the closing play of the quarter, Salinas struck gold again when Ryan Laughton, who replaced starting quarterback Andy Palacios, ran 25 yards on an option keeper around the right side.

“They are defending CCS champs and a powerhouse team,” said Yafai. “They have a lot of weapons.”

The Mustangs now have four games remaining. If they win them all, it is conceivable that Gilroy could go back to the post-season dance.

“If we run the table, we have a chance,” said Yafai.

Gilroy’s remaining four games include contests against Hollister, at Palma, at North Salinas and Live Oak.

Palma is the No. 1 ranked team in the Central Coast Section.

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