High school football coaches want their teams to play hard and play fast. That’s exactly what Live Oak High did in its 30-7 win over visiting Christopher High last Friday. The Acorns ran their record to 2-0 by running all over the Cougars to the tune of 240 yards en route to the blowout victory. Defensively, players were flying to the ball, most notably Ashton Green, Anthony Gracia and Connor Hennings.
The trio combined for 26 tackles, with Green and Hennings recovering fumbles and Jaxon Toombs, Brandon Hooks and Elver Avendano forcing fumbles. It’s no coincidence the Acorns forced three fumbles against Christopher, as they constantly work on stripping the ball in practice.
“(On my fumble recovery) I have to thank all my teammates,” Green said. “Brandon Hooks swiped at it and the ball was gone.”
Green’s fumble recovery off of Hooks stripping the ball loose set up Live Oak’s second score of the game, a Mosiah Saulala 8-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 with 53 seconds left until halftime. Live Oak’s defense was stout, limiting the Cougars to 231 yards of total offense. The Acorns put constant pressure on Christopher quarterback James Goodrich, receiving two sacks from Logan Wiemann and 1 ½ sacks each from Zach Souza and Avendano. For the Live Oak defense, it’s all about flying to the ball and having a heat-seeking missile type mentality.
“My mindset is to unload,” said Green, who also completed a pass for 34 yards. “I missed the first game so I was ready to go and was extra motivated and pumped up to get out there. The key for us on defense is our D-linemen getting in there and stuffing those (offensive) linemen and allowing our linebackers to make plays.”
It’s hard to miss Green on the field, as he literally stands out at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds. The junior outside linebacker said he has a mentality to grind everyday so he can constantly improve through physical reps and watching video of the team’s next opponent.
“The more you watch film, the more you know where guys are going and knowing all the plays,” Green said. “I owe a big thank you to my coaches because they’ve been teaching me what to do and I’m playing hard and hopefully my best. I feel like I’ve improved a lot from last year.”
If the Acorns can avoid injuries, they’re on track to have another solid if not spectacular season. They’re utilizing quarterback Caleb Ojeda’s athleticism to the max, as he has already made a big impact at the prep level by being able to beat defenses with his arm and feet. Ojeda followed up a huge Week 1 performance against Burlingame with another terrific game against Christopher.
The junior standout rushed for 66 yards on eight carries and completed 5 of 10 passes for 61 yards and a TD. Talk about a versatile talent: Ojeda also handles the kicking duties for the team, and he nailed a 63-yard punt midway through the first quarter. With Ojeda being dangerous on run or pass plays, the Live Oak offense will be tough to stop.
“Caleb has got talent and can play anything,” Green said. “He is one of my brothers and it’s fun going against my teammates in practice. But it’s more fun when I come out there and hit other (team) colors.”
Saulala, who rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries, has come back bigger and stronger, and that shows when at times he mauls smaller defenders. Tailback Nick Lomanto rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries, juking defenders while also showing an ability to run tough between the tackles. He scored the team’s last two TDs, one on a 6-yard reception and the other on a 11-yard run. Elijah Fernandez led the team with three receptions for 51 yards.
In past years, Live Oak’s game with Christopher usually came down to the last possession. While last year’s game was a barnburner, the Acorns ran away with this one. They took a little while to get going, as it was scoreless after the first quarter. However, Ojeda scored on a keeper on the second play of the second quarter to make it 7-0. It was a nifty play from Ojeda, who deftly sidestepped a defender near the line of scrimmage before reaching the end zone.
Live Oak nearly went the rest of the quarter without scoring until it took advantage of a critical Christopher turnover, the aforementioned Green fumble recovery at the Cougars 20-yard line. The Cougars got back into the game when they recovered the second-half kickoff, setting up possession at the Live Oak 24-yard line. They scored a TD to cut their deficit to 14-7 with 8:53 left in the third quarter, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Acorns scored the final 16 points of the game to win going away, including two points on a safety when seemingly the entire Live Oak defensive line sacked Goodrich in the end zone with 34.5 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Live Oak opened the fourth quarter with an impressive drive, going 54 yards on seven plays, capped by Ojeda’s 6-yard TD pass to Lomanto in the left flat to make it 23-7. Lomanto was a workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball five times for 5, 4, 2, 5 and 4 yards, respectively. Wiemann spearheaded an offensive line that also included Julian Mendoza, Nathan Zavaleta, Chris Salinas and Chris Dzek.