For the second year in a row, the Pleasanton Eagles will miss the playoffs following a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to La Vernia at home on Friday.
The Eagles fell behind two scores in the first half for the second week in a row and narrowly missed a stunning comeback for the second time in as many weeks in another entertaining game.
“It was very fun,” senior Dalton Hobbs said, still lamenting the loss. “We started off slow. That’s what killed us. But our team came out and fought the whole game. We didn’t back down when we were down two touchdowns. We fought back. We just started too slow to finish the game.”
La Vernia jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter on a 43-yard pass from quarterback Gage Lowry to Koy Carpenter and a safety after a snap went over Carlos Garcia’s head on a punt.
That lead would grow to 16-0 after La Vernia’s Diego Mendoza scored on a 6-yard run with 10 minutes, 8 seconds left in the first half. Pleasanton would go into the break trailing by that same margin.
Pleasanton would then come out and score 20 of the 27 second half points to pull within 23-20. A pair of touchdown runs by Joel Arevalo, who was battling a lingering shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the latter stages of the season, and one touchdown run by Toby Gardner made the potential comeback possible.
“I’m so proud of them for not giving up again as usual,” head coach Stephen Liska said. “We have a lot of fight in us. It’s just, we get behind the chains early and we’ve gotta battle out of it. First quarter, everything didn’t go our way. … Kids played hard, we had a good gameplan. Things happen. It’s football.”
Arevalo, through the pain, would finish with 28 carries for 166 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles.
“He’s a man-child. You’re gonna hear that kid’s name for the next two years around here in the San Antonio area,” Liska praised. “He’s 15 years old, he’s a sophomore and he battled like a warrior. He’s a tiger. That kid has the heart of the champion.”
Arevalo and Gardner helped the Eagles find high gear offensively, racking up 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns combined.
“Tonight, Joel and Toby really stepped up,” Hobbs said. “The past few games, Nathan Bosquez has been stepping up and making the big plays I usually make. It helped the team out tremendously.”
Arevalo appeared to re-injure his shoulder in the second quarter after running over a La Vernia defender. He came back in the second half to try to get his seniors to the playoffs.
“To see an underclassmen do that for us — Joel’s a beast,” senior quarterback Nathaniel Acevedo said. “He loves us and we love him. We show him love all the time when we work with him. We’re just happy he loves us too. He put all his heart in his game. We’re just glad he got some good highlights in this game.”
In the end, it was another goodbye to another senior class, one of the first classes to come through when Liska took the reins of the program.
“It goes fast,” Liska said. “I can remember standing on that sideline when Dalton was a freshman starting. He had to be on our sideline because coach [Tab] Dumont would have to tell him what route to run and those kind of things. He knew what to do.
“Yeah, it’s a sad ending, but there’s a lot of joy. Because the kids, you just enjoy watching them play and grow up.”
Pleasanton finishes the season 6-4.