SOLEDAD — For the first time since Nov. 8, 2019, Soledad High Aztecs presented a football game last Friday at Gene Martin Stadium in Soledad.
The team hosted the Greenfield Bruins, ultimately winning 32-12 in the battle for the Aztec-Bruin Helmet, which Soledad has held since 2011.
That night the stadium was electric, with the stands almost filled hours before the start of the varsity game.
Fans in the stand were exuberant as they cheered on the teams. One Aztec supporter even became emotional because she was able to see how happy her son was while playing football again.
Coming into the Aug. 27 game, Soledad Head Coach Jose Martinez was making his home coaching debut. The Aztecs defense stepped up all game, only allowing Greenfield to score 12 points.
“Our defense caried us today,” Martinez said. “They bailed us out at the end of the game.”
Earlier in the week, Greenfield’s starting left tackle injured himself at practice. That injury, however, wouldn’t hurt the Bruins’ running game, as they still rushed for more than 130 yards.
Greenfield Head Coach Adam Barsenas said that player could have possibly played, but with a whole season still to go, he wanted to be on the safe side.
The injury bug would hit Greenfield again, as they lost their starting quarterback, Eric Hernandez, on the game’s first drive. Backup quarterback Edwin Flores ended up taking the Bruins the rest of the way.
After forcing a turnover on downs on the first drive, Soledad’s offense went to work, when starting quarterback Bryan Acero would connect with Isaiah Cruz on the first two touchdowns.
“I saw the cornerback look at our QB too much,” Cruz said. “So I knew I could beat him with speed.”
Soledad would build a lead, 16-0, before Greenfield struck back, when Flores connected with Anthony Morales right before the half. The Bruins kept that monument after they forced a fumble and recovered it.
A couple of plays later, Greenfield’s Alonso Barcenas would power his way into the endzone to make the score 12-16. Barcenas finished with 30 carries and 116 yards rushing.
The Bruins defense would come up big during the third quarter. They were led by Jonathan Anaya, who had two sacks and two forced fumbles. Also, Carlos Gonzalez finished with six tackles and three tackles for loss.
The Aztecs’ struggles continued going into the fourth quarter, as they would fumble on the second straight drive to set up the Bruins on their side of the field. The Bruins would drive down to the Aztecs’ seven-yard line before Soledad’s defense stepped up and forced a turnover on downs to keep the score at 16-12.
The Aztecs offense took advantage of the moment the defense gave them. Acero connected with wide receiver Daniel Raso to increase the lead 22-14 with about 8:30 left in the game.
Greenfield tried to mount a comeback, but Soledad’s starting free safety Anthony Medina came up big with two interceptions on consecutive Greenfield drives.
Acero would later take advantage of the short field and connect with Raso to get them down to the two-yard line. The quarterback took it himself into the endzone, which made the final score 32-12.
Acero accounted for three touchdown passes, one running a pass and more than 250 yards in throwing. Acero said he wasn’t satisfied with his performance and would give it a C grade.
“I could have made a better read,” Acero said. “I got the throws, but offensively could have done much better. We got a great offense we need to execute. Our line needs to start off by blocking and not getting beat. I need to start making better reads.”
The mood of the Soledad sideline was “satisfied” to win the game, but seemed to point out that the team underperformed on the offensive side of the ball.
Martinez pointed out how his team did stay together when Greenfield had control of the game.
“They stayed together as a team,” Martinez said. “They owned up to their mistakes. That was the great part.”
The Aztecs will face the Everett Alvarez Eagles at home on Thursday, Sept. 2, in Soledad. Greenfield will host the King City Mustangs on Friday, Sept. 3.