On a night of highlights, Los Gatos pulls away in second half to roll at home past Soquel
LOS GATOS — For one of his two touchdowns, Jaylen Thomas juked past a slew of defenders. Henry Masters intercepted a pass and made certain he returned it for a pick-six. Scott Garwood scored three touchdowns.
As if that weren’t enough playmakers for Los Gatos, there was quarterback AJ Minyard, who led the Wildcats to a 45-14 season-opening victory over Soquel at home on Thursday.
After a competitive first two quarters, the senior completed 16 of 21 passes for 249 yards and five touchdowns as Los Gatos — ranked seventh by the Bay Area News Group — put the game away in the second half.
“I was a little nervous,” said Minyard. “But we worked all summer, so I had nothing to be concerned about.” I have faith in my team. I have faith in my receivers. I put my coaches’ play calls in their hands. I have nothing to complain about.”
Los Gatos took a 7-0 lead on its first series when Minyard threw a 10-yard pass to Garwood.
The Wildcats increased their lead to two touchdowns after Nate Goldsbury recovered a fumble and returned it 10 yards to the Soquel 4.
But the drive stalled, and Los Gatos had to settle for Sam Pearman’s 26-yard field goal with 3:03 left in the first quarter to make it 10-0.
Adrian Lopez-Kais returned Scotty Brennan’s interception 25 yards for a touchdown early in the second period, and Braylon Noble caught an 18-yard TD pass from Sam Whelan later in the quarter.
Minyard led scoring drives that kept Los Gatos in control each time, including a big one just before halftime that included a 36-yard pass to Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung that moved the Wildcats to the 10 yard line.
Minyard connected with Garwood from 10 yards out two plays later to make the score 24-14 at halftime.
“That’s stuff we practiced all summer,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “‘Hey, be ready for no-huddle hurry-up,’ I told the guys. We’re going scoring.’ There was no panic, as far as I could tell as a coach.
“There was no question of ‘What are we doing?’ This is something we support. Every week in practice, we work on it. They responded admirably. That made me very proud of them.”
Two more touchdowns late in the third quarter effectively put the game out of reach.
Minyard’s 6-yard pass to Thomas increased the lead to 31-14, and Masters, a junior linebacker, followed with an interception that he returned 32 yards down the sideline to increase the lead to 38-14.
When told he appeared determined to cross the goal line, Masters replied, “I had to. I wouldn’t have made it without the blocks. But it just felt right. That one, I believe, gave us momentum and served as a watershed moment. Then our offense came alive and scored another touchdown, and it was game over.”
The home team had many highlights, but it wasn’t a perfect game, as Krail noted afterward.
“We didn’t run the ball very well,” he acknowledged. “I’m concerned about that. We take pride in our ability to run the football. We made some mental errors early on. They were very tough on the line of scrimmage. On the offensive line, we had three rookies start for the first time. We need to do some cleaning. We’ll work it out.
“However, we had good protection when throwing the ball.” We were able to shift the pocket slightly. As they say, we have a pretty good receiver room. We have four or five players who can step in and play.”
That was evident on Thursday.
Thomas finished with five receptions for 83 yards, a fake punt pass completion, and an incredible one-handed defensive play to stop what appeared to be a big play for Soquel.
Garwood caught five passes for 72 yards, while Kopcsak-Yeung caught four for 67 yards.
On opening night, it all added up to a big win.
Next up: a tough road test in Brentwood against Liberty, which defeated Enochs-Modesto 49-3 on Thurs