Soledad Aztecs are chasing their first-ever Cypress Division title, but first they must face the King City Mustangs on Friday. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

SOLEDAD — When the season started, many football fans around South Monterey County thought the Cypress Division would come down between King City and Soledad; however, entering tonight’s game, the Soledad Aztecs are chasing their first-ever Cypress title, while the King City Mustangs are trying to knock off the Aztecs, who haven’t lost a game since Aug. 26.

It’s been a while since these two rivals have played games with each other. Their last matchup was back in 2017, when King City won 24-17.

Last week the Mustangs saw not only their title hopes disappear, but also it looks like they will miss the playoffs again. Soledad, on the other hand, had the luxury of a bye week and was able to rest up their players for their final two games.

Along with taking the Cypress’ title, the Aztecs are just one win away from being kings of the South County, as they knocked off Greenfield and Gonzales earlier this year. The Aztecs have played their best ball since Dominic Chavez moved back to quarterback.

Other than South County rivals, these two schools have players and coaches with close ties to each other.

Soledad defense coordinator Eric Rodriguez is an alumnus and spent time on the King City coaching staff during the 2011-12 season.

This time last year, Ivan Salcido was helping the Mustangs chase the Cypress title, but this year, he is assisting the Aztecs in pursuing the designation.

Friday, Oct. 28
Soledad Aztecs (7-1) vs. King City Mustangs (4-4)
7:30 p.m. at King City High School

Soledad Aztecs

What We Know: As the season progressed, the coaching staff for the Aztecs improved, and it’s shown in the play as the Aztecs are clicking on both sides of the ball. The offense played their best game of the season when they hung 41 points on Pacific Grove. The defense has been outstanding all year, as they saved the season many times this year and can stop anybody.

Players to Watch: Dominic Chavez has been great after moving back to quarterback. Since the Watsonville game, he went 29-37 with 417 yards throwing. Francisco Ballesteros has provided the running attack they needed to open up the passing offense. Last game Ballesteros rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Question: Can the defense contain Mustang quarterback JJey Martinez? It’s simple for the Aztecs: if they stop Martinez, they will win the game.

King City Mustangs

What We Know: Since the Mustangs entered the league, their defense hasn’t been performing as we thought. The defense only gave up 21 points once during the preseason during league play; they had 21 or more points in three of the last four games.

Players to Watch: JJey Martinez has thrown his name into the mix as one of the best of the best quarterbacks in PCAL. Martinez has thrown 1,635 yards with 15 touchdown passes and rushed for 465 yards. Noah Pacheco will have to be the most dominant player on the field if the Mustang defense wants to stop Soledad.

Question: Can King City slow down the Aztec offense? The Aztec offense has been improving and will have more speed than the Mustangs coming into Friday’s game.

Prediction: Coming into the game, the Aztecs are the better team, but King City has nothing to play for and is looking to derail their South County rival’s season. If this game had been played earlier, it might have been a different outcome. The Aztecs are clicking and playing their best ball. Soledad wins this game — 31-14.

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Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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