SOLEDAD — The last two times the Gonzales Spartans played the Soledad Aztecs for the Heritage Trophy, they have kept the trophy in Gonzales, but this time it will stay in Soledad.
“Even though the season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to, if you beat your rival, you can end the season on a good note,” said Soledad Head Coach Jose Martinez.
In the last five match-ups between the football rivals, the Aztecs lead the series 3-2, but the Spartans won the previous two entering Friday night’s season finale in Soledad.
Coming into the Nov. 5 game, the Spartans had been hit by injuries that kept a couple of key players out of the game. One of the players that didn’t play for Gonzales was sophomore starting quarterback Juan Pablo Acosta-Ayala.
Although the Spartans didn’t have all their players available, they outplayed Soledad in the first half. The Gonzales defense was playing fast and aggressively, creating turnovers. Gonzales’ Nate Dixion and Champ Flores recorded interceptions in the first half.
The Soledad offense would get the ball into the Spartans territory, but they kept turning it over. In the game, the Aztec quarterbacks threw four interceptions.
All season long, the Aztecs had played two quarterbacks. Soledad senior Bryan Acero was the week one starter, then junior Dominic Chavez took over. Both in the first half were unable to keep drives alive to generate any points.
Gonzales took a 6-0 lead into halftime — the first time the Spartans have led at the half since they played Greenfield.
Coming out of halftime, the Spartans maintained all the momentum, getting another turnover that would keep Soledad out of the endzone.
Starting in the second half, one could feel the energy and competitiveness coming out of the players. After several 15-yard penalties and kerfuffles, the Soledad side woke up.
On a critical fourth down that changed the game’s momentum in the third quarter with 8:16 left, Gonzales went for it and got it, but a penalty forced them to punt. The Spartans ran a fake punt trying to catch the Aztecs off guard, but they weren’t fooled. Soledad got the ball back on the Gonzales 24-yard line.
“That was a huge stop,” Martinez said. “That changed the momentum of the game.”
After the stop, Soledad’s Daniel Raso took over the game. On the next play, Raso scored and tied up the game. The Aztecs went for two and got it, making the score 8-6.
“That play set the tempo for the rest of the half,” Raso said. “We sparked after that.”
Gonzales fumbled on their next position, and Soledad took over. After another skirmish between both teams that seemed to energize the Soledad sideline, the Aztecs turned to Raso again, who scored his second touchdown, making the score 15-6.
Raso not only scored his fourth touchdown of the season, but he also set the school record for interceptions in a game with three, according to Martinez.
Soledad rattled off 28 straight points when Chavez connected with wide receiver Isaiah Cruz. Cruz recorded his 11th touchdown reception, putting him second in touchdown receptions in Monterey County.
Gonzales added another touchdown when Dixion ran into the endzone, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Aztecs ended the Spartans’ winning streak in the rivalry, coming out on top by a final score of 28-12.
“Nobody has held this trophy not named Berlanga,” Martinez said. “It’s a pleasure and honor to be mentioned with those guys. Those are my mentors. I owe a lot to the guys.”
Soledad finished the season with a 3-7 overall record, while Gonzales ended winless at 0-9.