Jesse Isais epitomizes the Live Oak High football team. Listed at a generous 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds, Isais routinely goes up against bigger players. However, the Acorns junior cornerback/receiver and his teammates have been superior against every one of their opponents so far. Last Friday, Live Oak put together its best performance this season in a 38-13 win over host Pioneer in the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division opener for both teams.
“They’re believing in each other and playing really well right now,” Acorns coach Mike Gemo said. “The kids wanted to play this game. They heard a lot about Pioneer and no one said much about Live Oak. They wanted to prove we were right there with them.”
Live Oak, which improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in league, showed it was the superior team, running away with the victory. In fact, the game was effectively done midway through the fourth quarter, when Gemo most likely faced his toughest coaching decisions in the game: How to get the second- and third-stringers in the game and make sure no one got left out.
Gemo and the coaching staff seemingly accomplished that task, a hearty reward for all of the players who show up to practice everyday. The Live Oak defense has come on strong in the last two games, allowing just eight points in the second half against Burlingame and zero points against Pioneer (3-1, 0-1).
Isais locked down any receiver he was covering, Logan Wiemann was stout on the defensive line and linebackers Jered Brindle, Ashton Green and Connor Hennings were flying to the ball with fury and precision.
“The defense is playing like they’re ready to finish off league right now,” Gemo said. “We had to learn how to win and the kids believe they can do it now. They’re showing it on the field, and it’s just one of the next seven we need.”
The Acorns received another brilliant performance from quarterback Jonathan Singleton, who completed 10-of-21 passes for 249 yards while running for 68 more. His 31-yard TD run early in the third quarter came on a scramble down the right seam. Once Singleton took off, he went untouched to the end zone, a showcase of his vision, speed and big-play capability.
Live Oak finished with 495 yards of total offense to Pioneer’s 213, with Jared Martinez rushing for career-high marks of 93 yards on 11 carries. Singleton connected with five different receivers, hooking up with Elijah Fernandez three times for 73 yards, including a 52-yard highlight-reel play early in the second quarter.
Fernandez caught the ball as he was falling down, a result of a Pioneer player pulling him down. Matt Blocker had two receptions, and they were huge plays that went for 32 and 42 yards. When asked how he would defend his own offense, Gemo grinned and could only compliment his players.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of playmakers out there and Jonny knows where the ball needs to go. He’s also a run threat so when we’re going well, we’re hard to beat.”
Live Oak scored on its first possession, with Caleb Ojeda rushing for a 19-yard touchdown on an end around. The play before that, Nick Lomanto (55 yards on nine carries) juked two defenders after he made a catch in the flat, gaining extra yards in what turned out to be a 29-yard play.
The Mustangs answered on the next drive to take a 7-6 lead. However, the Acorns responded on the very next possession, going 64 yards on seven plays, capped by Lomanto’s 11-yard TD run with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. Singleton hit Richard Cortez for a 20-yard gain and Fernandez for an 18-yard completion during the drive.
The TD was the start of Live Oak scoring 19 unanswered points, with Pioneer scoring a TD just before halftime to cut its deficit to 25-13 at halftime. The Live Oak defense, which had a difficult time closing things out in the second half against Alisal and Christopher, posted a second-half shutout against Pioneer to make this a runaway.
Isais said the defense has improved in the last couple of weeks because everyone is executing their assignments combined with a renewed focus in practice.
“Everyday of the week we had a good, hard practice, and it showed on the field today,” he said. “When I come out, I try to win every play.”
Live Oak 13 12 7 6—38
Pioneer 7 6 0 0—13
L—Ojeda 19 run (kick failed)
P—Valencia 2 run (Kennedy kick)
L—Lomanto 11 run (Dietz kick)
L—Singleton 1 run (kick failed)
L—Fernandez 23 pass from Singleton (kick failed)
P—Matthew 26 pass from Compani (kick blocked)
L—Singleton 31 run (Ojeda kick)
L—Martinez 15 run (kick failed)
RUSHING (carries-yards): LIVE OAK—Martinez 11-93, Lomanto 9-55, Singleton 13-68, Ojeda 2-23, Cortez 3-6, Silva 4-2, Jackson 1-3 Saulala 1-(-4). Totals 44-246. PIONEER—Valencia 19-130, Compani 2-22, Custer 1-2, Huynh 1-2, Monticalvo 4-(-10). Totals 27-146. PASSING (comp-att-yds-td-int): LIVE OAK—Singleton 10-21-249-1-0. PIONEER—Monticalvo 7-15-41-0-1, Compani 1-1-26-1-0. RECEIVING (catches-yards): LIVE OAK—Fernandez 3-73, Lomanto 2-47, Cortez 2-45, Blocker 2-73, Isais 1-10. Totals 10-249. PIONEER—Matthew 3-34, Compani 2-16, Valencia 1-16, Huynh 1-1. Totals 8-67. TOTAL OFFENSE (rush-pass-total): LIVE OAK 246-249-495; PIONEER 146-67-213.