WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High senior Josh Rocha stood on the sidelines with 40 seconds left in the game, watching every second tick away until the scoreboard read all zeros.
“I was just soaking it in, this is my last time I’m ever going to put on this helmet probably,” he said.
At the same time, he was also enjoying every last second of Saturday’s 26-7 win over cross-city rival Pajaro Valley High in the 14th annual Belgard Kup.
Watsonville once again raised the illustrious 5-quart white ceramic coffee mug in front of dozens of family members at The Grizzlies Den.
Watsonville (1-4, 0-4) is now 13-2 all-time against the Grizzlies (1-4, 1-3). The Belgard Kup has left its trophy case on East Beach Street just two times since 2007, in what was the second meeting between the two teams but the first involving the Kup.
The teams’ finale marked the end of a bizarre season that saw football games take place in March and April due to the ongoing changes in the Covid-19 guidelines for youth sports.
Watsonville coach Anthony Valdivia received a Gatorade bath by members of the coaching staff after the game. He was extremely happy for the seniors who worked hard from July 2020 until the final whistle of Saturday’s game, which they had circled on their calendar since the schedule was first released.
“Congratulations to them for going out and getting the game that means the most to them,” he said.
The first-year head coach called the game a family rivalry. That’s because some of the players that lined up against each other might be related or they went to the same middle schools, but now go to separate high schools.
He believes the rivalry has gained acclaim because Watsonville is such a small, tight-knit community.
“You always want to beat the people who you’re closest to,” he said.
Rocha, who didn’t play against any relatives, mentioned that the game brings attention to the community, no matter how good or how big the teams are. Plus, he said it’s twice as nice when they can pick up the victory on their opponent’s new home field.
“A road win is always better than a home win at times,” he said. “You always like beating opponents at their house, so that always feels great.”
Wildcatz quarterback Colin Parker started the party crashing with a 5-yard keeper that landed him in the end zone for a touchdown to give them an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
But, he also made some mistakes in the first half that could’ve been costly, starting with losing a fumble on a failed pitch attempt to the running back.
Parker then threw an interception that Pajaro Valley safety Martin Gonzalez jumped in front of for a pick-6, but the touchdown was negated due to a roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Manny Rodriguez.
Valdivia said that Saturday games can take some time getting adjusted to, which is what happened early on in the first quarter.
“It’s getting the body to realize that, ‘Hey, we’re in a football game, time to go now,’” he said.
Watsonville capitalized on the mistake as it marched down the field in a 2-minute drive that was capped off with a 5-yard touchdown by junior Adrian Arevalo, giving them a 14-0 lead going into halftime.
Things continued to spiral downward for the Grizzlies, starting with a fumble on the first play of the third quarter. The Wildcatz took advantage of the turnover with another touchdown drive, this time capped by running back Adrian Alvarado, who bulldozed his way into the end zone from two yards out.
Pajaro Valley did make up ground in the third quarter when defensive lineman Osmin Longoroia scooped up a fumble and ran it back 65 yards for a touchdown. The big defensive play made it a two possession game at 20-6, giving the Grizzlies some life and hope for a comeback on their home turf.
But, it wasn’t quite enough of a momentum shifter. Watsonville’s defense had its eyes set on Gonzalez, who was bottled up for most of the game.
“We always wanted to know where [Gonzalez] was on offense and where he was on defense and that’s how we were going to go accordingly,” Valdivia said.
Rocha said the defense showed up ready to play, especially after Watsonville gave up 45-plus points in three of its four losses.
“But it’s the last game, we gotta make it count,” he said.
Arevalo recorded his second score of the afternoon with a 45-yard touchdown to seal the deal, giving the Wildcatz the victory and the right to take home the Belgard Kup for a 13th time. The junior running back said the win felt good, but for him it felt like any other game.
“If I think it’s a different game then nothing goes right for me,” he said. “I’ll celebrate after.”
And he did celebrate along with the rest of his teammates who are set to return next year in what will be a short offseason.
Arevalo said the win against Pajaro Valley gives them the momentum and motivation to hit the weight room during the summer.
“It’s a big plus for our guys,” he said.
Valdivia said it’s already time to get ready for the start of the 2021-22 season that starts in September, which is just four months away.
“We gotta roll, we gotta go,” he said. “This is a great conclusion to this season but we’re already three months behind for this season that’s coming. So, back to work.”