WATSONVILLE — New coach. New offense. New defense. Oh, and a preseason filled with juggernauts.
The Monte Vista Christian Mustangs faced more adversity during the first three weeks than some teams see all season.
“There’s that saying, ‘it’s not where you stand in times of comfort, it’s where you stand in times of adversity,’” said M.V.C. senior defensive end Jason Bettencourt. “The best teams are the ones who push through and don’t give up. That’s what we are. We’re never going to give up, no matter what happens.”
Senior Dan Brierley ran for 100 yards and a touchdown, junior Nate Renggli threw for 140 yards and a score and M.V.C.’s defense came within seconds of posting a shutout in a dominant 36-6 Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission division win over Scotts Valley on Friday.
After an 0-3 start to coach Jubenal Rodriguez’s first season at the Watsonville private school, M.V.C. (2-4, 2-1) has started to look the part of a league-title contender by winning two of its last three.
The early-season struggles did little to dissuade the Mustangs’ belief in Rodriguez’s overhaul.
“We made that happen by having faith in our new coaching staff,” Brierley said. “If you don’t have faith in your leadership, everything is going to fall apart. If you don’t buy in early, if you don’t buy in at all, everything is going to shutdown.”
Of course, M.V.C.’s losses did not come against weak competition. Christopher, The King’s Academy and Aptos are a combined 14-4 after Week 7. T.K.A. and Aptos are both frontrunners in their respective leagues, and Christopher plays in a division above M.V.C.
Additionally, its lone league loss was last week’s 14-0 defeat against Carmel (6-0, 3-0), a team that is averaging 43 points per game this season.
If the Mustangs want to win a league title, they’ll have to hope another team in the PCAL-Mission can stop Carmel. That might be a pipe dream the way the Padres are rolling through teams — they beat Watsonville 47-7 on Friday — but attaining one of the division’s three automatic Central Coast Section playoff berths is still very much in the cards.
"We're taking it a week at a time," Rodriguez said. "Next week is another playoff game for us. That's our mindset."
That doesn’t mean Friday's win wasn’t worth celebrating.
“[Rodriguez] has been telling us the whole season that we’re this close, and tonight it finally clicked,” Renggli said. “I’m just as relieved as he is.”
M.V.C.’s offense moved the ball at will, and its defense showed up, too.
Brierley ran for a 14-yard touchdown on the first drive of the game, senior Scott Tinsley added a pair of 3-yard rushing scores before the end of the half and the Mustangs held Scotts Valley (3-4, 0-3) to just 45 yards of offense over the first two quarters to head into the break up 22-0.
Renggli hooked up with senior receiver Nick Bautista for a 17-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, and Quinn Alexander’s 7-yard touchdown run early in the final stanza gave the Mustangs a running clock the rest of the way.
“I think our first three games, that was just us ironing out everything — trying to get everything set in stone,” Brierley said. “We were trying to learn a whole new offense. It really helped playing better teams. As coach Rodriguez likes to say, we really sharpened our sword in preseason.”
The Mustangs’ defense stop the Falcons four times on fourth down, and did not allow a touchdown until the final play of the game — Mayhar Vahabi recovered a fumble in the end zone to deny M.V.C. the shutout.
Bettencourt recorded a sack and also made a interception on a tipped pass in the fourth quarter. John Coniglia also pulled down Scotts Valley senior quarterback Kyle Rajala, who made a handful of smart plays with his legs but could not crack the Mustangs’ defense for many big gains.
Rajala finish 6-of-10 for 51 yards through the air.
Senior running back Will Schwartz plowed ahead 16 times for 92 yards.
“We remembered our assignments — we did our job,” Bettencourt said. “Other than a few plays here and there, we were really disciplined.”
M.V.C. continues its year on Oct. 12 at Alisal.
In other week 7 high school football action:
• St. Francis 56, Pacific Grove 27 - St. Francis scored 28 unanswered points to blowout Pacific Grove in PCAL-Cypress action on Friday night at Santa Cruz High.
Senior running back Andrew Seymour scored four rushing touchdowns and also caught a score for the Sharks (4-2, 1-1), who will travel to San Lorenzo Valley on Oct. 13.
Senior quarterback Joseph Ramirez also had a rushing touchdown to go along with this passing score. Senior fullback Aaron Soto also ran for a touchdown, and senior running back Devin McLeod returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
• Aptos 48, Alvarez 14 - Senior running back Marcos Reyes and junior fullback Josh Powell each scored a pair of touchdowns in Aptos’ PCAL-Gabilan romp over Alvarez on Friday night in Salinas.
Senior quarterback Hunter Matys tossed a touchdown pass to sophomore running back Andrew Manning, and senior fullback Silvano Lopez and junior running back Vaughen Holland each ran for a touchdown.
The Mariners (6-0, 3-0) host Gilroy on Oct. 12.
• Carmel 47, Watsonville 7 - Watsonville lost its PCAL-Mission showdown to undefeated Carmel on Friday night in Watsonville.
Watsonville (4-2, 1-1) will try to bounce back on Oct. 12 at Scotts Valley.
• SLV 30, NMC 3 - North Monterey County dropped its PCAL-Cypress game on Saturday in Felton.
The Condors (3-4, 1-2) will look to rebound on Oct. 12 against Santa Cruz.