Wildcatz archrival Pajaro Valley retains Belgard Kup | high school football

Wildcatz archrival Pajaro Valley retains Belgard Kup | high school football

WATSONVILLE – Watsonville covered a squib kick from Pajaro Valley to start the 17th Belgard Cup intra-city rivalry game, and the Wildcatz cheerleaders broke into their famous chant, “We believe we’re going to win.”

The national anthem is usually sung when a result is a foregone conclusion and the first half was certainly against that cheer. The homestanding Grizzlies, led on defense by Neo Moreno and Ventura Ojeda, held Watsonville to zero yards of total offense in the first eight possessions of the first half and led 3-2 at the break.

But in the span of two minutes in the middle of the third quarter, Watsonville took the responsibility to fulfill the wishes of their fans. Salvador Fuentes, with a game-high 70 meters in 16 carries, broke up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run, and Diego Reyes returned a PV fumble 25 meters for another touchdown. The Wildcatz led by 12 and held off a late charge from the Grizzlies for a 22-17 victory, keeping the Cup on their side of town.

“This game means a lot,” Watsonville lineman Joel Salas. “It’s our big rival and one of the big games of the year. It felt great. We started out slow but the offense tightened up. We came out in the second half ready for blood.

As the clock ran out, Watsonville’s Robert Caput carried the team flag into the student section, Eli Hernandez and Damian Martinez danced, and Catz fans cheered. Salas, a third-year senior with three wins from PV and a powerhouse in the middle all day, ran around the entire football field with a flag, followed by a pair of excited teammates. Players pose for a picture with a large ceramic cup and take turns holding it high. The Kup has not been in the Grizzlies’ den since 2016 and it will remain with the Wildcatz for another year.

“What always makes the difference in high school football is the weight room,” Watsonville coach Anthony Valdivia said. “We have made it the center of our program. Today, our entire defensive line played spectacularly. Angel Navarro, Miguel Lopez, Isaac Urbina. We made plays and we blocked the offense.”

Watsonville High running back Diego Reyes scampers for an 18-yard touchdown against Pajaro Valley on Saturday in the Belgard Cup. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville High’s Devin Navaro trips up Pajaro Valley runner Juan Macias for a loss in the fourth quarter on Saturday. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Pajaro Valley High running back Juan Macias dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the second half on Saturday at the Belgard Cup. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Fans on the sideline cheer on Watsonville High’s Diego Reyes on as he slices through the Pajaro Valley defense to score for the Wildcats on Saturday in the Belgard Cup. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville High’s defense prepares to pounce on the Pajaro Valley fumble on Saturday in the Belgard Cup. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Pajaro Valley High’s Damian Torrez wraps up Watsonville quarterback Vicente Baltazar for a loss Saturday in the Belgard Kup rivalry game. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The first half is a defensive struggle. An Albert DeHaro Coffin corner punt first pushed PV back to their 1-yard line, and two plays later, AJ Escalante stuffed Jesus Basulto in the end zone for a safety. The Grizzlies countered late in the second stanza with a 21-yard field goal from Diego Magallon.

“Our defense was great,” said PV midfielder Basulto. “It still gives us a chance.”

In the middle of the time, the performance of cheer and dance members of both schools elicited loud cheers from the stands. On a cool sunny afternoon, the benches were filled equally with a large vocal section of students and fans from both sides of the city.

The team shouted out for the second round through cheerleader-held banners. The Watsonville banner read “White out, bright out. Shade. Keep the Kup,” a friendly swipe at PV’s three-year football stadium that had no lights. The passionate student section continued to vigorously support their cause. Students ran in front of the tribune carrying their school’s flag. The mascots confronted each other and almost dueled, until the Watsonville official convinced Willie Wildcat to return to the Catz’ side of the stand.

On the field, Watsonville took control. Fuentes scored with 7:30 to play in the third quarter. Reyes came forward with a crucial momentum-turner. PV faced third-and-three from its own 29-yard line.

“I’m going in for a blitz,” said Reyes. “One of my teammates hit the guy and the ball popped up. I caught the ball and ran it into the end zone.”

That touchdown put the Catz on top 15-3. The Grizzlies fought back. PV’s Moreno covered a fumble on the Watsonville 30-yard line and the home squad finally found paydirt. Miguel Martinez carried twice for 14 meters and workhorse Juan Macias, with 63 yards on 25 carries for the day, punched from three yards. Macias ran in the two-point conversion and the scoreboard read 15-11 with 11:37 remaining in the contest.

Escalante and Reyes responded for Catz. The burly lineman covered a Grizzlies’ fumble and Reyes ran it in from 30 yards two plays later to push the tally to 22-11 more comfortably.

“It’s a counter game,” Reyes said. “I stayed behind my lineman Joel Salas. He made a big hole for me and I ran through it.

In the final minute, PV put together its best drive of the day, covering 65 meters in 11 plays, culminating in Basulto’s 18-yard scramble for a score with 1:04 to play. However, the ensuing onside kick only traveled nine yards and Watsonville ran out the clock.

“Losing is a tough pill to swallow,” Basulto said. “But I feel ready for our next game. We have to be perfect next week.”

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Can I make it to the NFL? Anyone is allowed to enter the NFL draft, as long as they have graduated from high school. If you don’t play in college, continue to practice hard and consider becoming a walk-on.

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