Central Valley Christian coach Mason Hughes didn’t expect the shootout his team was in against Exeter.
“If you told me we were going to give up this many points, I didn’t think we’d win,” Hughes said.
CVC and Exeter are two teams that rely on the running game to win football games, but it was all about the passing game on Friday night.
Tony Dragt accounted for more than 300 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to a 52-31 Central Sequoia League victory over the Monarchs in Exeter.
“Offensively, we didn’t expect to throw the ball,” Hughes said. “That’s the first team that could stuff our run, but the guys responded really well. Tony Dragt was unbelievable tonight. He was the best player on the field, in my opinion, and I’m so proud of him for that.”
Dragt was especially impressive in the first half, completing 9-of-15 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown.
He finished the game 11-of-20 passing for 212 yards, and he also ran the ball 10 times for 112 yards.
Dragt’s number hasn’t had to be called very much this year with CVC relying on a power running game with Macintyre Garbani and Mitchel Pendergast, but the Cavaliers definitely needed Dragt against Exeter.
“The kid is such a team player,” Hughes said. “He’s an elite athlete, I think he’s a Division I athlete, and when you’re really good, sometimes you demand the ball and want to do certain things. We only throw the ball 10 or 15 times and he never says a word. He just wants to win. If that means hand the ball off on a dive, then so be it. But he stepped up and was awesome tonight.”
Exeter, who usually relies on running back Austin Cardoza to move the football, couldn’t get much going with the running game either so it turned to quarterback Adin Trujillo and wide receiver Alex Cortez.
Trujillo completed 14-of-21 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns, and all three scores were to Cortez, who finished the game with 8 receptions for 175 yards.
“I don’t think we have anybody that can cover [Cortez],” Hughes said. “I don’t think anybody in our league does. He’s a phenomenal player. He runs great routes, he’s fast and he breaks tackles. He’s great.”
The Monarchs stayed with the Cavaliers until the fourth quarter.
CVC led 37-31 with 9 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game when it got the ball after an Exeter three-and-out on offense.
The Cavaliers went back to doing what they do best and they pounded the football on Exeter.
CVC went on a 9-play, 65-yard drive that lasted 4:58 and capped it with a Garbani 12-yard touchdown run. They added the 2-point co version to make it a 14-point game at 45-31 with 4:22 left in the game.
Garbani, who finished with 168 yards rushing on 20 carries, added a late touchdown to put the finishing touches on the victory.
Pendergast also had a nice game, rushing for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
Dragt completed passes to five different receivers, but Justin Dykstra was his favorite target, finishing with five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cavaliers defense struggled to stop Exeter’s passing game, but limited the Monarchs to just 116 yards rushing. Cardoza finished 94 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries.
CVC (5-2, 2-0) has another key CSL game against Kingsburg on Friday in Visalia.
“The kids knew all along and now everybody is realizing we belong here,” Hughes said. “But Kingsburg is awesome. They beat Dinuba so we’ll have to figure out how to stop them better than this.”