Los Gatos Weekly Times
Los Gatos finds its footing in commanding victory
LOS GATOS >> If the season opener is any indication, the Los Gatos football team will be a force to be dealt with in 2023.
The Wildcats turned in an impressive performance after a 45-14 victory over visiting Soquel on Aug. 24, with four unanswered touchdowns punctuated by a flawless second half on defense closing out the night.
“We made some mental mistakes early. They played us pretty tough on the line of scrimmage,” said Los Gatos coach Mark Krail. “We had decent protection throwing the ball, we were able to move the pocket a little bit. … Really proud of our defense to hold that team to seven points essentially.”
Soquel, which reached the Central Coast Section Division III semifinals last season, was limited to one offensive touchdown and 158 total yards. Los Gatos even found the end zone on defense on a 32yard interception return by Henry Masters in the third quarter.
Offensively, the Wildcats' passing game was humming.
Quarterback AJ Minyard, who started one game last season as a junior, completed 16 of his 21 passes for 249 yards and five touchdowns.
“He was very composed out there,” Krail said. “He knows our stuff, he's confident in the huddle, he knows formations. … We have a lot of confidence in AJ.”
Minyard pointed to Los Gatos' last drive of the first half as a key one for him.
With a small 17-14 lead and 1 minute, 54 seconds
left before intermission, Minyard led the Wildcats on an 80-yard scoring drive. A pass from Minyard to Boxer Kopcsakyeung on a wheel route went for 36 yards to the Soquel 10, then the drive culminated with a 10-yard TD pass to Scott Garwood with 19.5 seconds remaining.
“Really in that two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter, when I threw that ball to Boxer Kopcsak-yeung … that really got me going,” Minyard said. “It really made me confident throughout the rest of the game.”
“That's stuff we practiced all summer,” said Krail about the drive. “I told the guys, `Hey, be ready for no-huddle hurryup, we're going to go score.' I noticed certainly from a coach's perspective there was no panic.”
Jaylen Thomas, the returning Santa Clara Valley Athletic League/peninsula Athletic League De Anza Division Most Valuable Player, caught five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
The first touchdown, a 21-yarder, was particularly impressive as the Los Gatos senior out-juked multiple defenders over the final 10 yards to find the end zone.
“He's special,” Krail said. “We ask a lot of him, and he came through.”
Garwood added five catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats, including the first score of the season from 10 yards out in the first quarter.
“We've got a pretty good room of receivers,” Krail said. “We've got four or five guys that can get in there and play. Obviously,
Jaylen and Scotty Garwood are the 1-2.”
On the Los Gatos offensive line, both tackles (Ryan Vernale and Lyndon Bailey) return from last year's team, and junior center Matt Ludeman played a little for the Wildcats last year.
Los Gatos' three-guard rotation was new, however.
“I thought they responded well, their effort was great,” Krail said.
Kopcsak-yeung rushed for a game-high 70 yards.
Defensively in the trenches, the quartet of Vernale, Bailey, Joe Matthews and Aurelio Valdez helped contain Soquel ball carriers to 55 yards on 24 carries.
Vernale and linebacker Andrew Sandoval recorded sacks in the game, while Nate Goldsbury added a fumble recovery
for Los Gatos.
The Wildcats' secondary, led by two-way standouts Thomas and Garwood at safety, limited Soquel to only 103 yards
through the air.
Los Gatos aims to continue a high level of play tonight at Liberty-brentwood (1-0). The kickoff is scheduled for 7.