In a battle between neighboring high schools, St. Francis and Watsonville were more than eager to play in front of their hometown fans.
Especially when the atmosphere was lively with every seat taken, the school band playing along to the game and a variety of fan favorite food tents available.
In the end, it was junior Alex Arevalo dancing to the tune of victory and helping himself to a serving of three touchdowns for the Wildcatz in their 46-26 win over the Sharks on Oct. 20.
The 5-foot-7 running back spent the afternoon displaying an array of strength and agility to slip past St. Francis defenders.
“[The offensive line] always executes on offense and in practice we had a very physical week,” Arevalo said. “There were some plays where I was getting really tired. I was taking some shots and just believing in myself to keep running.”
While his first touchdown was called back due to holding, Arevalo never looked back the rest of the game.
Both teams came into the contest with 1-2 records in league play, sitting fifth in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission North Division standings.
With the win, the ‘Catz currently own a .500 winning percentage with a 2-2 record in league play, while the Sharks dropped to 1-3 after failing to swim off with a victory.
The competitive contest remained close until midway through the second half when errors allowed the Wildcatz to pull ahead.
“We did miss some opportunities, some little things, that kind of killed us,” St. Francis head coach John Ausman said. “If we handled those things we’d be better off, I guess those plays just wiped us out.”
Ausman and other Sharks players expressed three key plays that all resulted in Wildcat touchdowns, and took them out of the game.
It started with a pick-six that gave Watsonville a 25-12 lead, followed by an 80-yard kickoff return from junior Patrick Miller-Brown and finally a 95-yard run from Arevalo.
St. Francis has grown accustomed to playing with a significantly smaller team than they routinely go up against.
The Sharks have 28 players listed on their roster, compared to Watsonville with 46 players ready to suit up.
“It’s just how the team is,” St. Francis senior Pedro Ibarra said. “We play with a lot of heart, so we don’t ever want to come out. It is tiring, but during practice we work hard, so it’s all the conditioning we do.”
To begin the game, the Sharks came out of the gate firing with the first touchdown of the afternoon. Watsonville was quick to even the score at 7-all with a TD pass in the end zone.
In a wild turn of events, senior Canak Lara recovered the first of many onside kick attempts by the ‘Catz that marked the first momentum swing in their favor.
St. Francis was able to amend the error with a fumble recovery by Nick Paz who then sprinted over half the field into the end zone, giving the Sharks the lead midway in the second quarter.
It would be their last lead of the game.
On the Sharks’ kickoff, there was speculation if Watsonville touched the ball before bouncing out of bounds. To the audible dismay of fans, the officials concluded they did not.
After verbal dismay from the Sharks, they were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which brought Watsonville forward 15 yards.
“I didn’t see it, that’s what our kids said,” Ausman said. “But they [the officials] didn’t call it. In life there’s going to be things that aren’t going your way, and the more you complain about it the more it takes you out of your game.”
The game was riddled with penalties, and took away from the flow of the game for both teams.
That was until Arevalo ran a 10-yard touchdown through the Sharks’ defensive line to add an exclamation point to their win.
Throughout the season, the ‘Catz have faced communal differences within the team after the acquisition of interim head coach Marcus Northcutt shortly before the season began.
However, those differences seem to be fading with the team as Watsonville continues to improve.
“It’s gotten better,” said Northcutt—who also serves as the school’s athletic director. “It’s just trying to refocus them, realize what our purpose is and what we’re trying to accomplish here. We’re a young team and learning how to play at the varsity level takes time.”
St. Francis coaches and players alike said they are hoping to finish the season giving their seniors a fun and memorable end to their high school football careers.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, Watsonville (3-5, 2-2) will play at Monte Vista Christian (4-4, 1-3) on Friday at 7:30pm. The Sharks (3-5, 1-3) will play at Seaside (5-2, 3-1) on Friday at 7:30pm.