APTOS — It wasn’t the ending Martin Gonzalez had in mind but at this point of the season, Pajaro Valley High will take a win any way it can get it.
The Grizzlies stormed out of the cage en route to a 34-29 win against Harbor High on Saturday afternoon in Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia division play.
“A dub (win) is a dub,” said Gonzalez, a Pajaro Valley High junior running back. “It always feels good to win.”
Gonzalez had a game-high 236 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries to help the Grizzlies improve to 1-6 overall and 1-2 in the league standings. The win also snaps a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Pajaro Valley scored 21 unanswered points in the second half led by Gonzalez’s explosive offensive production. He also excelled on defense where he recorded a fumble recovery for a touchdown and an interception in the fourth quarter.
“That’s probably one of the best on-field performances I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Pajaro Valley coach Kevin Cordova.
Pajaro Valley had built a 21-point lead in the second half, but the Pirates slowly started to chip away, causing some panic on the sideline for the coaching staff.
“We got to learn how to finish,” Cordova said. “It’s the first time finishing a game but we just got to learn how to finish..
“We try to find a way to lose it in the second half or third quarter going into the fourth. Thankfully we got our run game going in the second and third quarter and were able to chew up some clock when we needed to.”
Senior running back Omar Salazar broke free for a 40-yard touchdown in their opening drive of the third quarter. He finished with 73 yards and a touchdown on eight carries for the Grizzlies.
Pajaro Valley’s defense forced four turnovers — three fumbles and an interception — and Harbor missed a field goal attempt in the first half.
“We can’t win that way,” said Harbor coach James Gaynor. “And that’s been the thing all year. It’s been the turnovers.”
The Pirates fumbled on back-to-back drives in the second half. The Grizzlies capitalized on those turnovers.
Junior quarterback Daniel Garcia scored a 22-yard touchdown off of the first fumble, while Gonzalez scooped up a loose ball and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown.
“Today we had to come out confident but not that confident,” Gonzalez said. “We were looking for our first win and we were looking to fire off, play at our level and not play down to anyone else’s level.”
Garcia finished with 55 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Sophomore Nolan Villa finished with 33 yards on 10 carries.
Gonzalez said he felt like they made the right adjustments at the break and realized at that point the game was too close for comfort.
“We just can’t keep it like that,” Gonzalez said. “After that, we came out in the first drive and started shoving it down their throat. That just gave us more confidence to play our game.”
Harbor senior Garrett Lackey had more than 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also recorded 11 tackles, three of them coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Sophomore Danny Carrillo and senior Beau Small each had a touchdown reception, while senior Erick Juarez tallied 12 total tackles for the Pirates.
“We did some good stuff on offense,” Gaynor said. “We ran the ball well and we threw the ball well when we could but we gave up too many big plays on defense.”
In the third quarter, Cordova said the Grizzlies’ defense began to play better against the run. He also believed the receivers on Harbor were capable of running routes that could’ve caused some trouble for the defensive backs.
“I think we bolted down a little bit in the third quarter put (Harbor) into passing situations,” Cordova said. “After that I think our coverage was good.”
Harbor made a small run near the end of the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Cash Rosburg connected with Carrillo for a 25-yard touchdown to cut Pajaro Valley’s lead to 34-21.
Lackey continued to be the workhorse in the fourth quarter and put the Pirates in good field position for a chance to inch closer to the Grizzlies. But Rosburg was sacked on a fourth down situation.
Pajaro Valley made an interesting move on a fourth down when Cordova told junior Kevin Landeros to down the ball in the end zone for a safety.
Cordova said they’ve been dealing with some injuries at the long snapper and punter positions, which forced him to make the call.
“I don’t think it cost us anything, just two points,” Cordova said. “Looking at the point differential, it’s going to be a two possesion game at that point.”
The call paid off as Rosburg threw an interception to Gonzalez deep in Pajaro Valley’s territory.
Rosburg made one last push and connected with Small for an 18-yard touchdown with two seconds left in the game. But it was too little, too late as the Grizzlies’ special teams unit recovered the onside kick and went into victory formation to pick up their first win of the season.
Cordova said he remembers they were still in a bit of a shock after picking up their first league win last year against the Pirates. He mentioned they played well to earn that victory.
He said he believes the players know this time around there were many more chances to lose the game than close it out with a solid victory.
“Going forward, we’re not going to have that kind of edge on the next three teams that we play,” Cordova said. “So, it’s got to be four quarters, not two and a half quarters, which is what we played well in this game.”
Up next, the Grizzlies will play at Pacific Grove on Friday at 7:30 p.m.