San Gabriel escapes with 14-7 win in OT
San Gabriel High’s Marcos Villalobos picks up yardage during the first half of Friday s CIF-SS playoff opener against Santa Fe. The Matadors beat the Chiefs in overtime, 14-7. Keith Birmingham/Staff Photographer
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
SAN GABRIEL — Under normal circumstances, being the top seed usually gives a team an easier route through the postseason.
In the case of San Gabriel High School’s football team, the seedings are merely a number and there is work to be done.
The Matadors, the No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, may perhaps have the toughest road in the postseason of any team in the Southern Section, evidenced by Friday night’s game against talented Santa Fe in the opening round.
The Chiefs gave San Gabriel all it could handle before the Matadors pulled out a 14-7 overtime victory in a game played at San Gabriel High.
Nick Castillo scored on a 4-yard run in OT to give the Matadors the lead.
“It felt great in overtime, and I want to thank the line,” said Castillo, who led the Matadors with 67 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. “(Felipe) Figueroa made a good block, and without Felipe’s help we would’ve been stopped.”
Figueroa came up with the defensive play of the game when he hit Santa Fe running back Aaron Turner, forcing a fumble on the Chiefs’ first play in overtime.
Figueroa then pounced on the ball to send the Matadors (9-2) to the second round, where they will travel to play La Habra, a 55-7 winner over Ocean View.
“(Felipe) did an awesome job playing at outside linebacker for us,” San Gabriel coach Keith Jones said.
The Matadors outgained the Chiefs (5-6) in total yardage, 302 yards to 201.
“I knew this was going to be a tough game,” Jones said. “They have athletes and can pound the ball.”
San Gabriel had a chance to win it in regulation when it got the ball at its own 39-yard line and used its two-minute offense to move to the Santa Fe 24.
But Patrick Courtney’s 41-yard field-goal attempt was just short with 2.3 seconds remaining to set up the extra session.
Early in the second quarter, San Gabriel marched 65 yards in seven plays to get on the board on a 2-yard touchdown run by Castillo.
“We came in not expecting a blowout,” Castillo said. “There were a lot of times we could have capitalized but we didn’t. But when we had to step up, the whole team stepped up.”
Matadors quarterback Isaac Valdez was 15-of-25 passing for 187 yards with two interceptions.
Santa Fe opened the second half with a 16-play, 79-yard drive that chewed up more than 10 minutes of clock.
After the Chiefs converted on a pair of fourth-down situations, Turner took it in for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game with 2:41 to play in the third.