SAN ANTONIO—A strong running game and defense are key components to a successful playoff run. Canyon Lake had plenty of both Friday night, especially after halftime.
The Hawks outscored Pleasanton 21-0 in the second half, riding its bruising Slot-T offense and a stingy defense to a 28-10 area-round win at San Antonio Northside ISD’s Gustafson Stadium.
Canyon Lake (10-2) ran for 247 yards, including 160 after halftime, to make up a small deficit at the break. The Hawks defense also did its part, racking up five sacks and limiting the Eagles attack to 56 second-half yards.
Canyon Lake took a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter when fullback Jacob Ruff burst through the middle on a 27-yard run. The Hawks forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but Dalton Hobbs pinned Canyon Lake at its 4-yard line following a 55-yard boot to start the final frame.
The Hawks took 6:56 off the clock in driving 96 yards for a back-breaking score to put the game out of reach.
“We’re playing kids both ways,” Pleasanton coach Stephen Liska said. “We had to play our offensive linemen a lot to help us out on defense. We were rotating kids in and out…It wears on you, but our kids battled.”
Tristan Chacon, who also added a late 12-yard TD run, capped the 15-play possession with a 3-yard score to give Canyon Lake a 21-10 edge with less than five minutes remaining.
The Eagles offense could not get on track in the second half after 219 yards in the first two quarters. The Hawks blitzed their way to five sacks after halftime, totaling a loss of 35 yards.
“We were just trying to take what they were giving us,” Liska said. “…Our kids played hard. I agreed with every play call we called tonight on offense and defense. The kids executed the best they could.”
While Pleasanton moved the ball in the first half, the Eagles lost a fumble at the Canyon Lake 8 and settled for a field goal eight seconds before the break after driving to the Hawks’ 1-yard line.
Quarterback Johnny Zamora had Pleasanton’s lone TD on a 5-yard scramble to open the scoring in the first quarter. The 67-yard drive was set up by a fumble recovery on Canyon Lake’s opening possession. Zamora went 21-for-29 passing for 215 yards. It was the only game this season the junior did not throw a TD. He finished the season with more than 2,600 passing yards, 30 TDs and two interceptions.
Friday was also the first game without a receiving TD by Hobbs, who finished with 13 and almost 800 yards. The sophomore had one reception for seven yards against the Hawks.
Eagles senior Isaac Mendiola wrapped up his high school career with 10 catches for 128 yards. Classmate Austin Renner had a team-high 57 rushing yards, including a 32-yard scamper that set up Victor Gutierrez’s 18-yard field goal before halftime. Gabriel Murillo added five catches for 41 yards for Pleasanton.
Ruff, one of three Hawks with 11 carries, had a game-high 77 rushing yards. Tanner Faris had 51 rushing and 82 receiving, including a 44-yard screen pass for a TD.
The game marked the conclusion of Liska’s first season as head coach.
“Our kids were very disciplined and very humble. That’s the thing I’m most proud of,” he said. “The message that we sent, they listened. I’m just proud of that and happy for this community.”
The loss also ended one of the winningest seasons in Pleasanton history. The Eagles (10-2) won 10 games for only the third time since 1961 and first since 2007.
“I thanked the seniors for their service and everything they’ve done. They’ve laid the foundation for what we wanted to start,” Liska said. “…They opened the door for us for what we need to be every year: two rounds, three rounds in the playoffs.”