As the fall gust chilled the air for the first time, Pleasanton Head Coach Stephen Liska was doused with Gatorade as his Eagles ended a nine-game losing streak in district play.
Pleasanton (3-5, 1-1) beat the Uvalde Coyotes (1-8, 0-3) 30-7 in District 14-4A DI. The win was the biggest step the Eagles needed to take for their hopes of a playoff berth.
“We’ve still got two tough games. I mean, there’s a lot that can still happen,” Liska said. “But I like our chances. Our kids keep coming to work. Energy and effort, we’ve been preaching that. We’re playing like a team and loving each other.”
For seniors like linebacker Ty Hehman, a three-year varsity starter, it was their first-ever win in district play. The emotions of clearing that hurdle were almost indescribable.
“It was crazy. It’s something I’ve never felt on varsity,” Hehman said. “I’ve never won a district game on varsity and it feels awesome in my senior year. It’s an amazing feeling.”
The Eagles leaned on their defense once again, which forced four turnovers and held the Coyotes to just 199 yards of total offense. That defensive play is a sense of pride for the senior leaders for the Eagles.
“I’m very proud,” said senior cornerback Ashon Thompson, who had an interception and a touchdown catch Friday night. “It’s great seeing us feed off everyone’s energy. We just try to do great and be great. We push each other in practice, we push each other in the game.”
Thompson was able to fight off a defender and score on a 23-yard pass from Sean Ramos at the beginning of the fourth quarter to extend Pleasanton’s lead to 21-7. He would finish the game with three catches for 45 yards and the touchdown. Ramos was 8-of-17 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown against one interception.
The Eagles scored off one of the four turnovers. Ty Hehman picked off Uvalde’s Jordan Curtis in the fourth quarter and returned the ball 38 yards to Uvalde’s four-yard line. That set up Toby Garner for his second touchdown of the game on the very next play to put Pleasanton up 28-7 with 4:07 left in the game.
It was the first interception of Hehman’s career, but he felt he should’ve had two on Friday night after bobbling a pass on a similar play earlier in the game.
“It was total redemption,” Hehman laughed. “The first one was almost heartbreaking because it was my first pick on varsity. The second one, it just needed to happen.”
Garner would finish the game with 229 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns in the win. In total, Pleasanton amassed 375 yards of total offense Friday night.
The senior running back credited his big night to his offensive line clearing the way for him.
“Without my offensive line, there really wouldn’t be any gain at all,” Garner said. “They work hard every week in practice. Without them, simple as that, I couldn’t get those yards without my offensive line. I’m very thankful for those guys.”
His coach echoed his sentiment and made sure the linemen were showered with praise earlier in the week.
“On Tuesday I called the offensive line over and told them, ‘Everyone looks at the stars outside, the running backs, quarterbacks and receivers, but nothing happens unless you guys up front make it happen,’” Liska said. “I told them we were gonna lean on them and they’re the difference in the game.”
Garner added that he feels more confident in the backfield now with eight starts under his belt after the loss of Joel Arevalo for the season to injury.
“I feel real confident and comfortable,” Garner said. “I’ve been building relationships with these guys since last year and all offseason.”
Pleasanton will travel to Somerset (1-6, 0-2) on Friday, Oct. 30, needing a win to clinch the program’s first playoff berth since 2017.