CONCORD – Clayton Valley Charter had its chances to beat a tough and experienced Salinas team on Friday night, but wasn’t able to find the end zone when it mattered most.
Down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Ugly Eagles on two occasions moved the ball inside the Cowboys’ 20-yard line. But Salinas turned them away both times, including once with less than two seconds left in regulation time to help pull out an impressive 21-14 nonleague victory.
“We definitely had our opportunities,” Clayton Valley Charter coach Tim Murphy said.
Clayton Valley’s last best chance to tie the game came after it recovered a Salinas fumble with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter and took over at its own 49-yard line.
After six plays, the Ugly Eagles had third down on the Cowboys’ 15 with 10.5 seconds to go, but a Christian Aguilar pass intended for Davin Amos just outside the end zone was intercepted by senior Josiah Garnica, sealing the win for Salinas.
Interception by Salinas with 1.9 seconds left to seal a 21-14 win over Clayton Valley pic.twitter.com/pob3tFNvOr
— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) August 27, 2022
“I feel like we did drove the ball downfield really well, in my opinion. We just need to finish, that’s all,” said Aguilar, who was playing his first game for his new school after he transferred from Pittsburg earlier this year. “We did have a lot of momentum going our way.”
With the game tied at 14, Salinas went ahead for good with 27.3 seconds left in the third quarter, as Cowboys senior quarterback Adam Shaffer scored on 5-yard run to complete a three-play, 29-yard drive.
Salinas had excellent field position after the Ugly Eagles elected to go for it on fourth down deep in their own territory. On 4th-and-8, though, an Aguilar pass fell incomplete.
Murphy has always had a distaste for punting, particularly when he previously ran a double-wing offense and routinely went for it on fourth down.
Clayton Valley had punted on its previous two possessions before the turnover on downs.
“I kept trying to get my punter to do a certain thing on the punt and he just kept not doing it,” Murphy said. “So I said, let’s just try to go for it. I saw something that I thought was gonna be wide open. It wasn’t.
“I’m always a kind of a fourth down guy. But three punts in a row. I just couldn’t take it anymore. That’s a little much. But that’s kind of what I’ve always aspired to do is make sure that we give our kids all four downs. I always feel like punting is just a minor version of quitting, because you’re giving up the ball with one more down left.”
Both Murphy and Aguilar mentioned how dropped passes hurt the Ugly Eagles, who are trying to transition into a more balanced offensive team after being mostly run-first in recent seasons.
Aguilar and junior Mason Lovett alternated snaps at quarterback for the first three quarters, but Aguilar was under center for most of the final 12 minutes. The two quarterbacks combined for 220 yards passing, and the Ugly Eagles added 160 yards on the ground.
Aguilar threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Hayezon Jackson with 5:35 left in the first quarter to give the Ugly Eagles a 6-0 lead, and Nick Khashabi scored from one yard out with 1:08 left in the first half to cut Salinas’ lead to 14-13.
Murphy said he’ll keep the two-quarterback system in place until he feels one has demonstrably progressed ahead of the other.
“Obviously, we’ve got two good ones,” Murphy said. “I think they both have their positives. But we’ll probably continue to do this until one just surpasses the other. We just don’t go live enough practice to really get a gauge on which quarterback is better, but we’re gonna definitely see it in games.”
It didn’t help Clayton Valley’s cause that both Khashabi and fellow running back Micah Avery missed time late in the game with cramping issues. The Ugly Eagles also lost junior defensive end Angel Gonzalez in the second half to what Murphy was told was a broken right ankle.
The Ugly Eagles host Del Oro next Friday.
Shaffer also threw two touchdown passes in the first half, connecting with Zach Ball on a 14-yard pass with 3:38 left in the first quarter and Cal-bound Nyziah Hunter on a 65-yard touchdown pass with 8:39 left in the second quarter.
Shaffer also carried the ball 16 times for 81 yards, with his most impressive runs coming in crunch time in the second half.
“He’s been that guy the last few years for us,” Salinas coach Steve Zenk said. “When we need a big play with his legs or his arm, he gets it for us, and he did a great job tonight right when we needed him.”