Over the hump: How Los Gatos ‘broke the curse’ and beat Riordan in CCS playoffs

CCS Division I playoffs: Los Gatos flips the script and defeats WCAL opponent behind senior core

LOS GATOS, CA — After losing in the first round of the Central Coast Section playoffs in heartbreaking fashion the previous two years, the Los Gatos football team was able to reverse its fortunes and experience the euphoric rush of postseason victory Friday with a 28-14 victory over Archbishop Riordan.

“We just broke the curse,” said Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung, a running back.

The Wildcats lost to Bellarmine and Mitty of the West Catholic Athletic League, one at the end of regulation on an interception return and the other in overtime. They won this time against another WCAL opponent.

“It feels great, we had two excruciating losses the last two years,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said.”It’s not just public-private partnerships, which appear to be the trend these days. It’s fantastic that our guys can feel this way because they work so hard.”

No. 4 seed Los Gatos (9-2) advances to play at No. 3 St. Ignatius in the CCS Open/Division I semifinals next weekend.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” Kopcsak-Yeung stated.

Following a 14-14 first half tie, the Los Gatos defense held the high-powered Riordan offense scoreless in the second half.”

“I think we just kept their offense in front of us,” said linebacker Henry Masters, who had a key fumble recovery and scored the game’s first touchdown on an 11-yard run while filling in at running back for Kopcsak-Yeung. “Our defense is lightning fast, and everyone rushes to the ball.” I didn’t think they’d be able to drive it on us if we kept them in front of us.”

After Kopcsak-Yeung had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury, Masters took over at running back.

“I sprained it,” he admitted. “But Saturdays are for crying, and Fridays are for fighting.” They taped it up, and I’m fine.”

He returned and did his usual heroics, carrying 26 times for 168 yards.

Los Gatos received the second-half kickoff and went on a lengthy drive. However, on the 11th play, Tyrone Jackson intercepted the ball.

However, on Riordan’s second play, the Wildcats recovered a fumble by Nate Goldsbury. On third down, AJ Minyard connected with Jaylen Thomas for a 33-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline, putting Los Gatos ahead for good.

After forcing a punt, the offense needed only five plays to go 55 yards for another touchdown and a two-score lead. Kopcsak-Yeung ran 25 yards and caught a 22-yard pass from Minyard for a first down at the 9, setting up Scott Garwood’s inside reverse touchdown run. Minyard passed it to Kopcsak-Yeung, who passed it to Garwood, who scored.

“That is not a gadget play for us,” Krail declared. “We’ve been working on it since the first day of spring. It’s one of our go-to dishes.”

In the first half, both teams scored two touchdowns. Down 7-0, sophomore quarterback Mike Mitchell Jr. led the Crusaders 80 yards in six plays, five of which were completed through the air, with Jackson catching a 29-yard touchdown pass.

Los Gatos retaliated quickly. Minyard connected with Owen Panu for 46 yards on the first play before handing the ball off to Kopcsak-Yeung on four consecutive plays, the fourth of which resulted in a 3-yard touchdown.

Riordan responded once more, this time with Mitchell hitting Chris Lawson for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

Mitchell completed 29 of 43 passes for 314 yards. Lawson had 12 catches for 133 yards, Jackson five for 59 yards, Cynai Thomas four for 57 yards, and Judge Nash four for 42 yards.

Los Gatos’ offense was balanced, with 212 yards rushing and Minyard completing 11 of 19 passes for 232 yards. The team’s big-play threat, Thomas, caught four balls for 120 yards. Panu caught five passes for 86 yards.

Riordan was penalized 11 times for 95 yards in addition to losing the ball twice on fumbles and once on an interception.

“We didn’t play clean football tonight,” Adhir Ravipati, Riordan’s coach, said. “And they have a fantastic team.” They performed admirably, and they will not be defeated.’

After going 3-7 in Ravipati’s first year as head coach, Riordan finished the season with a 7-4 record.

“I’m disappointed for the kids,” Ravipati admitted. “We have a young team that has had its ups and downs.” The difficult part is creating a culture and ensuring consistency in execution. We need to do a better job as coaches and in the offseason to get where we need to go. There’s a lot to look forward to next year, but I’m sad for our seniors. They’re a very special class to me, with a wonderful group of students. They’ve done a lot to change the face of Riordan football.”

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