A text from Monterey Trail’s offensive coordinator Rick Arcuri to the Citizen moments after the 12th –seeded Mustangs defeated the 4th-seeded Merced Bears on Friday night in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs: “Monterey Trail 51-45, football heaven, practice on Thanksgiving.”
A few moments later while riding on a joyous team bus, Mustangs’ head coach T.J. Ewing echoed over the phone his assistant coach’s sentiments that a sign of success in the high school game is that your team is practicing at school rather sitting at home eating turkey and watching the pros play on TV.
“That’s a hundred percent correct,” Ewing said. “To play and to practice into Thanksgiving week is the best thing to ask your players.”
Arcuri’s next text was one that told the story of why the Mustangs, a fifth-place finisher in the Delta League, are still alive this season.
“Trey Nahhas, 33 carries, 391 yards, 5 TD’s.”
Just two weeks removed from a school record 346 yards rushing in the season finale against Davis, the Monterey Trail senior halfback once again was a load to take down while erasing his own record.
“I keep telling scouts he’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” Ewing remarked. “I’d sure offer him. The guys around him are inspired by the way he plays.”
SJS Playoffs - Second Round Scores
Monterey Trail 51, Merced 45
Folsom 56, Franklin 13
Elk Grove 59, Wood 34 (Div II)
Grant 63, Downey 21 (Div II)
Modesto Christian 42, Bradshaw Christian 14 (Div VI)
Nahhas also completed a 40-yard halfback pass to Andre Flury to add to his memorable performance.
Now with road playoff wins over Cosumnes Oaks and Merced, the Mustangs, now 8-4, have the biggest obstacle in front of them. This Friday they take on number-one seed, and undefeated, Folsom, who destroyed Franklin, 56-13.
“It’s an honor for our school and our players to be in the Section semi-finals,” Ewing said. “To win two road games says a lot about the character of our team, their willingness to sacrifice for each other.”
Throughout the game Monterey Trail maintained a lead. The Mustangs ran out to a 21-7 advantage after the first quarter thanks to an E.J. Viacrusis to Jermaine Bell touchdown pass, an interception by Andre Flury and a quick TD run by Nahhas.
“Then it got a bit helter-skelter and Merced threw the ball a bunch and kept it close,” Arcuri said. “After they made it 51-45 with about four minutes left, we got the ball at our 20 and drove down the field, running the clock and we ended up taking a knee at their three yardline to end the game.”
Interceptions by Bell and Myles Pruitt in the first half allowed the Mustangs to get the ball back for their veer offense to steer out to a lead. Plus, the Mustangs earned a safety when a snap to the Bears quarterback went over his head and he was forced to land on the ball in the end zone.
Viacrusis had a good night throwing completing eight of 11 passes for 139 yards.
“Our guys went out there tonight purposing not to lose, they never waivered from that,” Ewing summarized.
With Grant’s 63-21 win over Downey and Elk Grove’s 59-34 victory over Wood in Division II, to go with Jesuit’s and Monterey Trail’s wins in the second round means four Delta League teams are still alive. That’s something that doesn’t surprise Ewing.
“Our league is no joke, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We play in the toughest league in the Section. Every team has great players on it. Every week we play like it is a playoff game.”
But, the Bulldogs stand between the Mustangs and their first return to the Section championship game in four seasons. A year ago in a non-league game, Folsom won easily, 49-21.
“Folsom is a truly outstanding team, coached by an outstanding man,” Ewing said. “We’ve known their coaches for years. They know how to run that spread (offense) and we have to be able to stop that. It ought to be a very good game and our kids are excited. The road to the championship runs through them, so we have to play them sometime.”