WATSONVILLE—The stage was set for Pajaro Valley High senior Martin Gonzalez and the Grizzlies’ football team as they finally got a chance to play a home game on their own campus for the first time in the program’s history.
The Grizzlies left their fans more than satisfied with a 47-14 trouncing against Harbor High in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action on March 20.
Gonzalez said he didn’t want the crowd to leave disappointed, and an offensive explosion in the second quarter made sure everyone in the green and gray went home satisfied with fond memories of the stadium’s long awaited debut.
“I think everybody knew they had to bring the energy,” he said. “I’m just so full of emotions right now. It’s so overwhelming but in a good way.”
Gonzalez scored the first touchdown, an 18-yard scamper into the end zone that sparked a five-touchdown eruption in the second period. Gonzalez scored twice more before the end of the half, and the Grizzlies went into the break up 34-8.
He said picking up the inaugural score and win in the new stadium felt like an award for all the hard work he put in since the time he was called up to the varsity team as a sophomore.
“I think it’s just a small accolade of so many,” he said. “It was a nice reward for me.”
Grizzlies junior Manny Rodriguez nearly had an accolade of his own, as he almost scored the first defensive touchdown at the new stadium on an interception he snatched in the second quarter. He said he knew it was extremely important to start the season with a win on their new field because now they get to set the tone for the rest of the pandemic-shortened season.
“This is history, this is forever going to be remembered,” he said. “First game on the field we took a ‘W’ [win].”
Rodriguez was also excited to finally have a chance to get back to playing some football, especially after schools throughout the state were prohibited from playing any sports at the start of the school year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The SCCAL—which allowed all schools within the county to join the league this year—took a big hit during Week 1. Five of the six league games were postponed until April 17 because of some confusion with testing procedures leading up to a game.
Santa Cruz County superintendents released updated guidance for outdoor high-contact sports that won’t require teams to test for Covid-19 moving forward so long as case rates remain low.
The Grizzlies wanted to impress the small group of spectators who were allowed to attend the school’s first-ever home game on their campus, but the first quarter didn’t go as planned. The offense gave up the ball twice, including a fumble on the Pirates’ 19-yard line in their opening drive.
Gonzalez said they struggled to get into a full groove and forgot what it was like playing in a live football game.
Rodriguez also noticed that it took some time for them to get adjusted to the speed of a live game, including how to handle the pressure coming from the opposition. The biggest play they gave up was a 55-yard touchdown pass from Harbor quarterback Cash Rosburg to receiver Danny Carrillo midway through the second quarter.
But it didn’t take long for Rodriguez, who recorded an interception and eight tackles, and the rest of the defense to make adjustments as they forced the Pirates to turn the ball over four times.
“We picked it up and in that first half we ended pretty well,” he said. “Our defense balled out, definitely.”
Gonzalez got the show started on offense with his first scoring run, and wove through Harbor’s defense, yet again, on their ensuing possession for a 78-yard touchdown run.
“They brought it all out in the second quarter, they knew that they had to pick it up,” he said. “After my first touchdown we just wanted to get more.”
Gonzalez credited the offensive line for opening up the lanes he needed to get into the end zone. He also praised a defensive unit that allowed 14 points in its first game back in more than a year.
The Grizzlies celebrated after the game, as they rightfully should have, but Gonzalez was quick to tell the team that they needed to start focusing on their next opponent. They will host St. Francis High on Saturday at 2pm.
“It starts right away and right after the next game,” he said. “Just like [NFL quarterback] Tom Brady says his favorite ring is the next one, our favorite win is the next one.”