George Watkins: Salinas, Palma set for round No. 27

George Watkins: Salinas, Palma set for round No. 27


George Watkins: Salinas, Palma set for round No. 27


If the Salinas High football team is looking for a place and time to put its season back on track, Friday night would be the target date.

History, however, tells a different story.

Salinas and Palma tangle for the 27th time Friday at Salinas High, and like so many other area schools, the Cowboys have had a rough ride when it comes to playing one of the top private school programs in the Central Coast Section.

It didn’t start that way. Salinas won all seven meetings from Palma up through 1969. It was another 25 years before they played again.

In 2002 the Cowboys became the first Monterey County team in 14 years to beat Palma. That’s their one hurrah — which is more hurrahs than most county teams have had against Palma since it began its rule over local schools in 1989 — ever since the rivalry was resumed in 1994. Palma leads the series, 18-8.

Last year the Cowboys had Palma on the ropes. They scored in the last minute of the first half to take a 21-7 lead at intermission. The Chieftains came back to out-score Salinas 14-0 in the third quarter and 14-0 in the fourth.

There are a couple of more angles to this year’s game and both involve Brandon Olivares, Palma’s marathon man-like running back. He’s close to breaking a school and Monterey County record.

According to our records Olivares has rushed for 1,164 yards on 223 carries. The Palma rushing record, according to stats compiled by The Salinas Californian, is 1,252 yards, set by Jack Baird in 2010.

Olivares needs only 89 yards to top Baird’s mark, and he’s just 19 carries away from setting a Monterey County record for most rushes in a season. The high mark of 241 was set by Kevin Bartlett of Pacific Grove in 1991. He gained 1,376 yards that year.

One more item: Palma opened this season with a loss to Carmel. The last time Palma lost to two Monterey County schools in the same season was 1988 – 20-19 to Pacific Grove and 14-0 to North County in a CCS D-II playoff opener.

Here’s a brief look at some of the more interesting Palma-Salinas clashes since 1994:

* 1994: Palma 14, Salinas 0 — Mike Pluta scores on a 35-yard fumble recovery and four-yard run in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Salinas High.

* 1995: Palma 21, Salinas 0 — Palma puts the game away with a 10-point fourth quarter when Phillip Snell boots a 44-yard and Bryan Petersen scores on a 14-yard run.

* 1996:
Palma 24, Salinas 6 — the Cowboys get on the board for first time since rivarly resumes. Manuel Sheppy scores a touchdown with 11:14 to play, but only after Palma scores the first 24 points.

* 1997:
Palma 34, Salinas 7 — Salinas takes its first lead in series on a 3-yard run by Anthony Dearborn. Palma rolls from there behind two touchowns in 84 seconds by Mike McGrath.

–2000: Palma 28, Salinas 6 — the Cowboys are held to one offensive play in the third quarter. It results in a lost fumble.

* 2001: Palma 26, Salinas 19 — the Cowboys score first and hold the lead into the second half. Luis Amaral scores the clinching touchdown with four minutes to play, then runs out of punt formation in the final minute for a first down to seal the deal.

* 2002: Salinas 24, Palma 13 — the Cowboys score 10 points in final minute of first half. They take a 17-13 lead, then mount a nine-minute drive to begin the third quarter for a touchdown and 24-13 advantage.

* 2003:
Palma 27, Salinas 14 — the Cowboys score first but Palma comes roaring back to score the next 27 points. The Cowboys don’t score again until the final minute.

* 2005: Palma 48, Salinas 19 — four different players score touchdowns for Palma in the first quarter for a 27-6 lead. Palma led 41-6 at halftime. Palma finishes with 440 yards of offense.

* 2009: Palma 28, Salinas 20 — Salinas battles back from a 21-0 deficit to pull within 21-20 early in the fourth quarter. Jack Baird then scores on a one-yard run with 1:35 to go.

* 2010: Palma 14, Salinas 0 — the Chieftains score in the first and third quarter. Salinas held to 79 yards rushing, 54 passing.

Correction (and lame excuses)

You’d think I’d know what I’m doing by now, having been here 34 years. But Friday night during North Salinas’ dramatic late-game drive against Alvarez I credited the wrong Viking receiver with making two clutch catches to keep the drive alive.

It wasn’t so much that I put the wrong name in the paper Saturday, but I actually double-checked the name and number as the drive was in progress just to make sure I’d get it right. And I still messed up.

Here’s what my notebook looked like: 4+12P11 to 4 + 34. Translated it means fourth-and-12 (4+12), pass (P) North High quarterback Justyn Gutierrez (No. 11) to Randy Ivey (No. 4) for 34 yards (+34). Only for some lame reason I put a name other than Ivey as the receiver. It was the same Ivey who didn’t get credit for catching the pressure-cooker touchdown pass with no time left on the clock.

I’d blame a tight deadline, a rush to get as much of the game-story in the paper as time permitted (it was full of big plays, hard hits and high drama) and a dose of hyperventilation for the error. But the fact is, unlike Ivey, I dropped the ball.

On the bright side, it was a great sight Friday to see two teams that have a tough time attracting big crowds pack the grandstands on both sides of the field. The crowd brought a lot of energy to the game, and their cheering and yelling (not to mention a bit of booing) was the loudest and longest I’ve heard at any this year.

In the preliminary game the unbeaten North High JV’s beat the previously unbeaten Eagles, 40-20.

From the playbook

* I ran into some veteran coaches Saturday on my way to the North County-Gilroy game and both gave nothing but rave reviews to Alvarez. One said, “They did some things we haven’t seen them do this year. They did a great job.”

Well, the Eagles can do something else no one has seen this year Friday should they slow down Gilroy’s record-setting running back Brandon Boyd in another showdown for first place in the MBL-Pacific Division.

Here’s Boyd’s seven-game re-cap starting with Game 1: 333 yards, 5 TDs; 242 yards, 2 TDs; 325 yards, 3 TDs; 304 yards, 5 TDs; 315 yards, 3 TDs; 212 yards, 5 TDs; 240 yards, 6 TDs.

In other words, Boyd averages about 280 yards and four touchdowns per game.

* Shirt of the week spotted at North County-Gilroy game: Keep calm and eat cookies.

* This Associated Press story out of Chicago, “A previously undefeated high school football team from central Illinois now has a loss after a governing authority ruled ineligible players affected the outcome of one close game.

Springfield’s State Journal-Register reports it stemmed from a booster group’s paying for championship rings for three Rockets players.

The players played in eight games.

But most were blowouts, so the association ruled their outcomes weren’t influenced by the ineligible players’ participation.”

So remember kids, run up the score just in case.

George Watkins is a sportswriter for The Salinas Californian. He can be reached at and 754-4264. He can also be followed on Twitter at watkins_salnews.


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