SOLEDAD — The defending Central Coast Section Division III Soledad High Aztec football came through in crunch time to defeat the visiting Carmel High Padres 23-21 in the league opener. The defending Mission Trail Athletic League champion Padres gave up nine fourth quarter points in the loss to the Aztecs.
“There were so many big plays on our winning drive,” said Soledad head coach Frankie Berlanga. “Our quarterback Robbie SantaAna completed passes to Angel Olivas and David Madrigal and Ulises Uribe produced yards on the ground. He (Uribe), ran the ball hard and SantaAna was a leader on the field.”
Carmel took the lead at 7-0 on a touchdown pass from quarterback Kai Lee to Rahsaan Ward. The Aztecs answered back with a 33-yard pass play from SantaAna to Angel Olivas and a PAT by Uribe and the game was tied at 7-7. The Padres took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter with a touchdown run by Luke Melcher. The second quarter was a painful one for Soledad as leading rusher Emanuel Ortega left the game with a shoulder sprain. Ortega has rushed for 661 yards through five games with seven touchdowns and had 20 yards on seven carries before the injury.
Melcher and the Padres put a scare into the Aztecs at the start of the second half as he took the kick 85 yards for score to give Carmel a 21-7 lead. Without Ortega the Aztecs relied on the passing of SantaAna to Olivas and three other receivers and the running of Uribe to move the ball. The Aztecs cut the Carmel lead to 21-14 in the third quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run and PAT by Uribe.
After stopping the Padres on the next offensive series the Aztecs scored on an 18-yard field goal by Uribe with 10:46 left to play in the contest, and the Padres led 21-17. Jose Calderon at defensive tackle, Miguel Vargas at defensive end, and SantaAna at cornerback rose up in the final quarter forcing the Padres to punt the ball back to Soledad.
On the winning drive the Aztecs had the ball on the six-yard line when SanAna called his own number on fourth down and was stopped on a running play. Carmel was a little rough with the Aztec quarterback on the play and were flagged for roughing the quarterback. SantaAna did not hesitate on the next call as he ran the ball in from the one-yard line to give his team the lead at 23-21. Soledad missed the PAT and had to kick off to Carmel with four minutes left on the clock. The Aztec defense held the Padres and forced a punt with hopes the offense could run out the game clock on Carmel.
Soledad did all they could to run out the clock and protect the ball but were forced to punt and give the ball back to the Padres with 37 seconds left to play. Carmel had one good shot to score the go-ahead and possibly winning points when Lee threw a pass to Ward. The ball was tipped in the air by a Soledad defender then Ward caught the ball but was out of bounds. On the next play the game ended on an interception of a pass from Lee by SantaAna.
“We had hoped to get the ball and milk to the clock but it didn’t work out that way,” said Coach Berlanga. “Our veteran players made the plays we needed to win the game. Now we have to keep the enthusiasm, the energy, and the motivation going as we prepare to play King City.”
The JV game was a struggle for the Aztecs as they were beaten 34-14 by the Padres. Soledad was shutout in the first half, 34-0.
“They (Carmel), had a good team and we had trouble tackling and blocking,” said Soledad JV head coach Rudy Carrasco. “We played much better in the second half and put together a couple of scoring drives.”
Josiah Freeman of Soledad scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Damian Mejia and Nate Aldrich finished off a long drive with a five-yard touchdown run.