Corona del Mar's JT Murphy (No. 31) ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns Friday. (File Photo / Daily Pilot)
The Los Gatos High football team was pounding the right side of the offensive line, moving the ball down the field on Corona del Mar at will early in the second half.
The 14-play drive to start the half, which took more than six minutes off the clock, seemed to signal the Wildcats were ready to take control of Friday’s nonleague game at Davidson Field. They already had a one-point halftime advantage.
CdM senior defensive back Joey Flanigan said, “Not so fast.”
Flanigan played Robert Nelson’s pass into the end zone perfectly, getting inside position and intercepting it. Six plays later, CdM senior running back JT Murphy was off to the races on a 46-yard touchdown run that gave the Sea Kings back the lead.
Momentum tended to shift quickly in this one. The Sea Kings finished strong in the second half, turning a back-and-forth contest into a 43-28 win, their first of the season.
“We were certainly challenged by Los Gatos in the first half,” CdM coach Dan O’Shea said. “They hit us in the mouth in the running game. They challenged our character, our toughness, and they challenged our togetherness, if we had the will to fight back. We responded really well in the second half defensively. Our offense, I thought, was really, really good tonight. We just couldn’t give them the ball back quick enough.
“We were dying. Joey Flanigan makes an interception in the end zone, kind of saves our butt. They do some really good things offensively, formation-wise. They got us in some bad alignments and they ran it down our throat. We’ve got some work to do up front, for sure, but when you make a big play like Joey Flanagan made, I think it turned the momentum of the game in our favor. After that interception, I think we were on our way.”
Corona del Mar (1-1), ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, was able to bounce back from last week’s season-opening loss to JSerra. The Sea Kings got a big individual performance from Murphy.
For the second straight year, Murphy scored two rushing touchdowns against Los Gatos. Last year, he did it up north. This time, he had 18 carries for 184 yards rushing and the pair of scores.
“He’s a beast,” O’Shea said. “He’s so underrated in the county. He’s absolutely one of the single-best tailbacks in Orange County high school football.”
Nelson, who had four touchdown passes for the the Wildcats, started feeding senior receiver Cole Patterson more in the second half. Seven of Patterson’s eight catches for 129 yards came after the intermission.
Early in the fourth quarter, Nelson found Patterson in the end zone to convert a third-and-19 from the Sea Kings’ 21-yard line. The touchdown gave the visitors their final lead, at 28-27 with 9:22 to play.
Los Gatos (1-1) wouldn’t score again though, and the Sea Kings responded with a six-play drive. Alex Pourdanesh dragged tacklers into the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run, and Erik Zimmerman’s conversion pass to John Humphries gave the Sea Kings a 35-28 advantage.
CdM senior linebacker Clyde Moore, a defensive leader along with Connor McGuire (three sacks), caused two incomplete passes on the ensuing drive by breaking up passes. Los Gatos was forced to punt, but the punt was muffed and recovered by the Wildcats at midfield.
However, Los Gatos couldn’t capitalize on the mistake. Nelson almost found Patterson open in the end zone on third down, but the pass was overthrown. Then, on fourth down, CdM’s Max Casper deflected a pass downfield to cause a turnover on downs.
For the second straight game, Zimmerman split time at quarterback with senior Nathaniel Espinoza. The favorite target of both was senior TaeVeon Le (nine catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns), who caught a touchdown from each quarterback.
Espinoza was behind center on this drive late in the fourth quarter, and he essentially iced the game with a 65-yard touchdown scamper up the middle with 3:47 to play.
Espinoza finished with seven carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. He gave credit to the CdM offensive line of Colston Chacon, Cameron Prudhomme, Sean Owens, Julian Pourdenesh and Bryan Aceves-Rodriguez.
“We had a great push up front all night,” Espinoza said. “We work as a unit. That’s how I got the big run, we just made them tired up front.”
One of the first people to congratulate Espinoza after the touchdown run was Zimmerman. O’Shea said the quarterback position is “still evolving” for the Sea Kings, and that he’s looking for consistency in decision-making from both players.
“We have fun with it,” Espinoza said. “We’re all a family, so it’s really good.”
CdM, which also got a late interception from Soloman Swensen, plays at El Toro (1-1) next week.
Los Gatos…………………..14 7 0 7 — 28
Corona del Mar….……….13 7 7 16 — 43
CdM – Le 23 pass from Espinoza (kick failed), 10:36.
LG – Davis 60 pass from Nelson (Huesby kick), 8:32.
LG – Smith 2 pass from Nelson (Huesby kick), 3:44.
CdM – Le 37 pass from Zimmerman (Casper kick), 0:34.
CdM – Murphy 4 run (Casper kick), 2:21.
LG – Van Belleghem 18 pass from Nelson (Huesby kick), 1:04.
CdM – Murphy 46 run (Casper kick), 3:18.
LG – Patterson 21 pass from Nelson (Huesby kick), 9:21.
CdM – Pourdanesh 11 run (Humphries pass from Zimmerman), 7:42.
CdM – Espinoza 65 run (Redman pass from Zimmerman), 3:47.
CdM – Murphy, 18-184, 2 TDs.
LG – Garwood, 8-57.
CdM – Zimmerman, 8-12-1, 102, 1 TD.
LG – Nelson, 16-32-2, 293, 4 TDs.
CdM – Le, 9-127, 2 TDs.
LG – Patterson, 8-129, 1 TD.