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est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

Varsity Football Falls to 2-1 With Loss to Apaches; Faces Undefeated Sunny Hills on Friday

Julie Marquez
Nathan Aceves, junior, dismisses a Westminster High School defender during the Wildcats’ Aug. 18 non-league win. Aceves rushed for a game-high 130 yards. (Courtesy of Julie Marquez)

A Wildcats’ victory slipped out of their grasp in the final 15 seconds against Arcadia High School on Sept. 1. Despite a season-high 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns by junior Nathan Aceves, the back-and-forth game resulted in a 39-36 loss, dropping the Wildcats’ record to 2-1 on the season.  

In the first half of the away game against the Apaches, the Wildcats were slow to get started offensively with a lone touchdown in the first half to fall behind 13-6.

Arcadia extended their lead in the third quarter to 13 points, but the Wildcats clawed back to tie the game, 33-33, in the 4th quarter.

“We played very consistently throughout the game, but Arcadia just had some really big plays on defense,” Justin Villasenor, football coach, said. Arcadia’s defense registered four sacks and tallied 72 tackles, including six for loss of yards. 

However, the Wildcat offense found its rhythm in the second half. Quarterback Cullen Doyle, junior, passed for 266 yards on the night — just three yards shy of the 269 he tallied in a season-opening win against Westminster High School — and threw for two touchdowns, his seventh and eighth on the season. 

Aceves had a break-out performance on the ground, eclipsing 200 yards for the first time. The running back, who also hauled in three catches for 49 yards, said of his performance, “That was my best offensive game I’ve ever played.”

Creating space for the Wildcats’ running game was junior center David Baker, who was named this week’s Wildcat Co-Offensive Player of the Week

Receiver Ryan Nero, sophomore, gained 88 yards and a touchdown. Addison Altermatt, junior, contributed 92 yards receiving and a touchdown, and was named the Wildcats’ Co-Offensive Player of the Week.

The Wildcats’ comeback was partly fueled by the timely defensive stops in the second half.

Joshua Patton, junior, led the Wildcats with a career-best 11 tackles — seven solo, and three for loss of yards. The junior also recorded one of the team’s four sacks. 

Three other Wildcats had seven tackles apiece: juniors Issak Rivas-Mendelez, Vincent King, and Evan Kessel.

Hindering the Wildcats during the Arcadia game were injuries to key personnel. Jake Brooks, junior defensive end, suffered a broken hand in three different places during the Aug. 25 game against California High School. Sean Mason, junior running back, has swelling in the knee. And Brandon Elder, junior wide receiver, is recovering from a torn ACL. 

Villasenor said of the injuries: “We are going to have to come together as a team and help each other out because the younger guys and backups are going to have to step up and start playing in some games.” (Of Brooks’s injury, Villasenor said, “He should hopefully be back by the end of the season, but right now he’s just taking it day by day.”)

Prior to the Arcadia game, the Wildcats opened their season with wins against California and Westminster high schools. 

The home game against Westminster on Aug. 18 was also a close one with a final score of 28-26. Elijah Sanchez, junior receiver, gained 125 yards and one touchdown. On defense, Rivas-Mendelez and Jake Owens, junior, both snagged interceptions. 

Against Cal High on Aug. 25, the Wildcats prevailed, 47-21. Despite the many team and individual highlights, Nero acknowledged that,”there’s always room for improvement.” Nero gained 113 yards receiving and added 12 points to a scoreboard that was lit up with seven Wildcat touchdowns, including a 96-yard kick-off return by Rivas-Mendelez.

 “We won because we played as a team,” Sanchez said. Testament to the Wildcats’ reliance on one another: six different players scored points that night. 

Next up for the Wildcats is local rival Sunny Hills High School, who enters the contest with a 3-0 record. 

Villasenor said, “In order to win…practice is the key. They [will] be prepared mentally and physically.”

That mental and physical preparation is evidenced by the Lancers’ defense which has only given up 20 points through three games, including a 50-0 shutout of Katella High School on Aug. 25.  

“We have the talent and work ethic,” to beat Sunny Hills, said Aceves. 

Patton added, “If we fix things on defense, like missed tackles and having better coverage, then we will be a tough team to beat.”

Making tackles will be one the Wildcats’ keys to success against the Lancers, as Sunny Hills’ senior running back Johnny Ramirez is averaging 112 yards rushing per game, with six touchdowns, on the season.

 “If we do our jobs correctly then we will win,” Aceves said.

Villasenor added, “Our motivation to win is that [we] now know the feeling of losing and we don’t want to feel like that again.”

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Siena Codekas
Siena Codekas, Sports Editor
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  • JoeSep 11, 2023 at 7:10 pm

    What an excellently well-written summary of the game and season. Nice work!