SALINAS VALLEY — After losing the previous two “Little Big Games,” the King City Mustangs defeated the Gonzales Spartans, 34-14, to recapture the coveted megaphone.
Last Friday’s victory in Gonzales not only moved the Mustangs to 3-0, but also marks the first time in the 21st century that they started the season with 3-0.
Going back to last week, both teams had faced some adversity, with the Mustangs’ game against Carmel canceled due to Covid-related issues and the Spartans blowing a 19-point lead against Greenfield. Both came out fired up and were ready for war.
The Spartans, dressed in their all-orange uniforms, started with the ball after the Mustangs deferred to the second half. The Spartans came out showing a willingness to run the ball against a Mustang defense that didn’t give up a point in the last game.
After a couple of first downs for the Spartans, the Mustang defense got a turnover on a strip but was unable to convert it into points.
If one were to find a weakness in the Mustangs’ game, it would be how the offense get off to a slow start. The Spartans defense helped continue that trend as both teams went scoreless after the first quarter.
In three games, the Mustangs offense has yet to score points, but under King City defensive coordinator Matt Mendez, the defense had not allowed points in six straight quarters.
Starting in the second quarter, the King City offense fed off the defense and got going. It started when King City quarterback Jjey Martinez connected with wide receiver/shutdown corner Alexis DeDios that set them up at the Gonzales’ 5-yard line.
A play later, the Mustangs scored with running back Elijah Clavijo for the first of his two touchdowns in the game, making it 7-0. Clavijo finished with 18 carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the problems Gonzales had coming into this game was protecting their quarterback Juan Pablo “JP” Ayala-Acosta after they gave up six sacks against Greenfield.
King City continued to take advantage of the lack of protection as its defensive end Sebastian Garcia produced two sacks in the second quarter. Garcia had four tackles for loss; two sacks and one fumble recovery.
With all the momentum on the King City side, the offense went to work again as Martinez scored with a quarterback keeper to increase the lead 13-0. Martinez completed eight of his 11 pass attempts for 180 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to 38 yards rushing with one rushing touchdown.
Right when everything was going King City’s way, Gonzales got a great return added with a King City penalty that set up the Spartans at the Mustangs’ 45-yard line. With one play, Ayala-Acosta connected with receiver Adrian Perez for 45 yards to make the score 13-7.
After a failed onside attempt, the Spartans had life and some momentum going in their favor as they had King City in a third-and-long situation. With Gonzales trying to force a punt, Martinez dropped back and delivered a strike to DeDios down the middle of the field, with no one able to catch up with him, making the score 20-7.
DeDios recorded five receptions for 162 yards and one touchdown, as well as added his fourth interception of the season. Coming into this game, he only had four catches for 22 yards.
King City Head Coach Mac Villanueva was waiting to release DeDios’ full potential.
“We tried to hide him a little bit,” Villanueva said. “We knew we were going to unveil him this week, and that was our plan coming in.”
Other than one play that the Spartans scored on, the King City defense was playing well. But the Mustangs handed Gonzales a touchdown when the defense had a miscommunication.
Ayala-Acosta connected with Gonzales wide receiver Gabriel Mendez for his fourth touchdown of the season, making the score 20-14 at the half.
In the second half, the Mustangs took over the game, holding the Spartans to zero points, and the offense continued to add points when Martinez found King City receiver Jackson Villanueva for his first touchdown of the year to increase their score, 27-14.
Another touchdown by Clavijo in the fourth quarter meant the Mustangs broke a two-game losing streak against Gonzales by the final score of 34-14.
In the final minute, there was an overflowing jubilance coming from King City players and coaches as the final seconds ticked down to zero.
“If there was one game I wanted to win this season, it’s this game right here,” Clavijo said. “This means a lot to our team and town. Our boys played super hard, and I love every person on this team.”
But in a moment when the team and coaching staff could have celebrated after breaking their losing streak, they chose to reflect on the past. During the team celebration, coach Villanueva reflected and dedicated the win to last year’s players because they could not play against the Spartans due to the Covid-19 shutdown.
“I’m so fortunate to be here and coach the quality of kids that I have at King City High School,” Villanueva said. “That last group was a special group of young men. I love my boys that I get the opportunity to coach and I really love that senior group. I definitely want to dedicate this win to them since they didn’t get an opportunity last year.”