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December 4, 2022

Football | Soledad’s historic season comes to an end after playoff loss

SOLEDAD — After earning a spot in the Central Coast Section Division III high school football playoffs, the Soledad Aztecs saw their season come to an end when they lost to the No. 2 seed Live Oak Acorns.

Going into last Friday’s playoff game with Live Oak, the Aztecs knew they would need to have their A-game as they faced a team four points away from winning their league title. Being the underdog was nothing new to Soledad, as they found ways to win all year long against the odds.

Coming into the season, the Aztecs were coming off a season where they went 3-7 and had to find a new head coach for the fourth straight year. The good news is that they had tons of talent coming back.

The team turned to former Aztecs alum Marc Villanueva to return Soledad to its dominant form. One of Villanueva’s signature moves was to bring back former head coach Eric Rodriguez as their defensive coordinator. From the start of the season, Rodriguez’s defense was the team’s backbone.

To begin Friday’s game, Soledad’s defense started on the field. On the first play, the Aztecs’ opportunistic once again came up big as they recovered a fumble by a Live Oak running back, setting up their offense that scored 30 or more points in four of their last five remaining games. The offense was on top of its game to start on the Live Oak side of the field.

It took time for the Aztecs to find their groove offensively this season. Early on, they went through a stretch where they struggled to put a complete game together. If it weren’t for Soledad’s Ivan Salcido, the Aztecs would be making clutch kicks against Greenfield and North County, and who knows what direction the season would have gone.

Once the Aztecs put Dominic Chavez back at quarterback for their homecoming, that’s when the team saw not only the growth from the players, but also the coaching as a whole.

The Aztecs played aggressively on their first drive, but they came up a yard short and gave the ball back to Live Oak on down. The Acorns drove down the field to get their first points of the game. In the first half, Soledad could move the ball, but once they got close to that 20-yard line, it seemed they stalled.

On their second drive, the Aztecs had to settle for a Salcido field goal to cut the lead to four. As the first quarter finished, the Aztecs were only down 7-3.

Although Soledad was losing, it didn’t seem that the Live Oak team was more dominant than them, but in this game, the Aztecs didn’t have the magic. Soledad only found the endzone once in the game, when Chavez passed to Daniel Raso for a touchdown.

Live Oak won 49-9, ending Soledad’s hopes of continuing in the playoffs.

It might not have been the storybook ending the Aztec players wanted — seeing their 2022-23 season come to an end at Live Oak — but this season will still be immortalized in the Soledad gym as their Cypress Division title hangs forever.

Jason Gallardo
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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