Now playing: Friday Night Lights, the sequel.
The Alvarez High football team continued to write a script that might be the best this side of Odessa, Tex., by continuing its incredible journey from a dark past to the bright lights of Jim Reavis Field.
The Eagles became the first team in the history of Monterey County prep football to go from 0-10 one year to now 11-0 the next by virtue of beating Monta Vista of Cupertino 24-10 Friday night in a Central Coast Section Division I opener.
It was the Eagles’ first playoff appearance since 2002 and first post-season victory since 2001.
Next task for Alvarez is try to become the first team in the 18-year history of the school to win a second CCS playoff game in the same season.
Alvarez, the top seed in Division I, will have a chance to add another chapter to its dream season when it plays defending D-I champion Hollister (6-5) in the semifinals. That game it tentatively scheduled for next Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alvarez High.
In a first half where all three touchdowns by the two teams were the result of costly mistakes, the Eagles overcame a 7-6 deficit to lead 12-7 at halftime.
Alvarez scored the first touchdown of the game after its third punt of the first quarter grazed the back of an unsuspecting Monte Vista player with the Eagles recovering at the Matador 36-yard-line. Three plays later Edric Gamble threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Ryan Hocog for a 6-0 lead.
Alvarez then recovered the onside kick, but on third-and-eight Gamble was being grabbed from behind when he threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off by Monte Vista’s Milanko Plasvic, who raced untouched 55 yards for the go-ahead score.
But in a first half where the gifts just kept on coming, Monte Vista elected to pass out of punt formation from its own 41.
The pass fell incomplete, turning the ball back to the Eagles with 5:38 left in the second quarter.
Four running plays brought the ball to the 13-yard-line, and from there Gamble rode it in for the 12-7 halftime edge.
Hocog got the second half off to a flying start when he returned the kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown and an 18-7 lead. The Eagles were unable to convert any of their four extra point tries.
Alvarez used two huge defensive stands to keep its lead.
Monte Vista needed 12 plays to go from its own 20 to a first-and-goal at the Eagle 6-yard-line late in the third quarter. Four times it tried to run it in, and on fourth down the Matadors were stopped at the 1-yard-line.
Following a punt, Monte Vista came right back again and had a first-and-goal from the 10.
But Rene Chavez made the stop on first down and two defensive plays by Jose Jimenez — the first on a run the next he broke up a pass — forcing the Matadors to settle for a 27-yard field goal that trimmed the lead to 18-10 with 11 minutes to go.
The Alvarez ground attack, which had been so strong all year but had been well contained by Monte Vista, finally got its traction when needed the most.
Ceasar Ramirez, who led the Eagles with more than 1,000 yards on the season but was held to zero yards on five carries in the first half, finally broke loose for a 57-yard touchdown run with 4:45 to play in the game to bump the lead to 24-10.
Monte Vista was never a threat after that.
Ramirez finished with 85 yards on 11 carries. Gamble, who also topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark, had only one carry for two yards in the second half to finish with 52 for the game.
In all, eight Alvarez running backs combined for 226 yards.
Alvarez’s staunch defense held Monte Vista to 41 rushing yards in the first half and 97 for the game. The Matadors (7-3) were 10 of 20 for 100 yards through the air.