GONZALES — Greenfield Bruins came into last Thursday’s away game with the Gonzales Spartans on the verge of starting the season 0-3, but the Bruins defense as well as wide receiver and defensive back Anthony Morales helped the team overcome a 19-0 start to beat the Spartans, 33-25.
The last time Greenfield (1-2) beat Gonzales (0-2) was on Oct. 25, 2013, according to Mbaypreps.
The Sept. 9 game had everything a football fan can ask for: hard hits, trash talk, high intensity, coaches yelling at refs, good quarterback play, late drama and seeing a player have the performance of a lifetime. The competitive friction between these two schools started at last month’s South County Jamboree.
After Gonzales played a solid second half against Pacific Grove, in which their offense rattled off 20 straight points, the offense kept up that momentum against Greenfield by scoring first on an 18-yard run by Andre Nunez to make the score 6-0.
Nunez wasn’t done after that touchdown. He stripped Greenfield by running to regain the ball for the offense. Gonzales quarterback Juan Pablo “JP” Ayala-Acosta then converted on a fourth down using his legs, and a couple of plays later, he snuck into the endzone, making the score 12-0.
Greenfield came into this game with a new quarterback, Cristian Zavala, who had never played the position before until last week, when he took over for a couple of drives in a blow lost to King City.
During the King City game, Zavala asked Head Coach Adam Barsenas if he could play quarterback without ever practicing at quarterback or playing in any competitive game.
“At that point I was like, you know what, we are down, I don’t know what the score was to King City, and I gave him a shot,” Barsenas said. “I was impressed. His mobility gave us a different factor.”
Barsenas knew he had to adjust because the last time his team scored an offensive touchdown was in the third quarter of their first game of the season against Soledad.
But the offensive struggles continued as they punted the ball back to Gonzales. Ayala-Acosta once again converted on a fourth down that led to a touchdown pass to Adrian Perez, his first of the year, making the score 19-0.
At the end of the first quarter, it seemed Gonzales was on its way to a blowout win. But Barsenas anticipated his team might come out flat due to the short week they had.
“I understood that we were coming off of a short week,” Barsenas said. “I understood my quarterback only had two days of practice. I understood it was going to take time for him to settle down. I didn’t expect us to go 19-0 so fast, but I expected us to start slow.”
To start the second quarter, Greenfield’s defense began to pick up its intensity by completely stalling Gonzales’ offense, holding them scoreless.
Greenfield Defense Coordinator Rogelio Pacheco had his defensive line ready as they dominated the line of scrimmage.
Bruins defensive end Jonathan Anaya had seven tackles and four sacks, while defensive tackle Julian Untalon finished with nine tackles and five tackles of loss.
Following a Gonzales punt, Greenfield put together a drive that placed them into the Spartans redzone. But the drive stalled, as the Gonzales defense held them to a field goal that was botched, keeping the momentum on the Gonzales side.
Without any offensive production, the Bruins finally scored on a punt block, and Greenfield recovered the ball in the endzone to cut the lead to 19-6.
Gonzales had a chance to recapture the momentum right before the half. They got to the Greenfield 20-yard line before the offense stalled and was forced to kneel on the ball to end the half.
Everyone that stayed for the second half witnessed The Anthony Morales Show, as the Greenfield wide receiver had the best game of his career.
Greenfield’s defense continued to dominate, not allowing the Spartans offense to score in the third quarter.
The Bruins defense helped the offense get started when Greenfield safety Rafael Alvarez picked off Ayala-Acosta. Every next play, Greenfield running back Alonso Barcenas ran it into the end zone to cut the lead to 19-12.
In the next possession, the Gonzales offense drove to the Greenfield side of the ball before they turned it over on downs again.
With Gonzales loading up the box to stop the run, it was up to Zavala to complete some passes downfield. He found Morales on an 8-yard pass that gave Greenfield their first lead of the game 20-19.
To start the fourth quarter, the Gonzales offense finally woke up and scored to retake the lead 20-25. With the help of three penalties to keep the drive alive, Ayala-Acosta connected with Gonzales wide receiver Gabriel Mendez.
The Greenfield offense wouldn’t be outdone, when Zavala found Morales again for a 53-yard touchdown pass, retaking the lead 33-25.
Morales finished with four receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Greenfield had this game in hand, but they gave Gonzales second life when they recovered a fumble with 2:47 remaining in the game.
Gonzales took it to the Bruins 2-yard line before Morales picked off Ayala-Acosta and returned it 101 yards to cap off the comeback. Greenfield won its first game of the season, 33-25.
“Something that stood out to me was the effort our team showed,” Morales said. “We didn’t let a 19-0 halftime score get to us. We knew it was a slow start and little mistakes that could be corrected. In that second half, our team started to have pride and believe in each other, and that turned the table in our favor.”