LOS GATOS — Jaylen Thomas juked past a bevy of defenders for one of his two touchdowns. Henry Masters intercepted a pass and made sure he’d take it back for a pick-six. Scott Garwood found the end zone three times.
And then there was quarterback AJ Minyard, who was precision-like while leading Los Gatos to a 45-14 season-opening victory at home over Soquel on Thursday.
The senior completed 16 of 21 passes for 249 yards and five touchdowns as the Wildcats put the game away in the second half after a competitive opening two quarters.
“I was a little nervous,” Minyard said. “But we worked all summer and I had nothing to really be nervous about. I trust my guys. I trust my receivers. I trust my coaches with the play calls. Can’t really complain.”
Los Gatos scored on its opening series when Minyard threw a 10-yard pass to Garwood for a 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats put themselves in position to expand the margin to two touchdowns after Nate Goldsbury scooped up a fumble and returned it 10 yards to the Soquel 4.
But the drive went in reverse, and Los Gatos settled for Sam Pearman’s 26-yard field goal that made it 10-0 with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
Soquel pulled to within three early in the second period when Adrian Lopez-Kais returned Scotty Brennan’s interception 25 yards for a touchdown and again later in the quarter when Braylon Noble caught an 18-yard TD pass from Sam Whelan.
Each time, Minyard led scoring drives that kept Los Gatos in control, including a big one just before halftime that included a 36-yard pass to Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung that moved the Wildcats to the 10.
Two plays later, Minyard connected with Garwood from 10 yards out to make it 24-14 at halftime.
“That’s stuff we practice all summer,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “I told the guys, ‘Hey, be ready for no-huddle hurry-up. We’re going to go score.’ I noticed from a coach’s perspective there was no panic.
“There was no, ‘What are we doing?’ We rep this. We work on it every week in practice. They responded really well. I was very proud of them on that one.”
Two more touchdowns late in the third quarter put the margin out of reach.
Minyard’s 6-yard pass to Thomas made it 31-14 and Masters, a junior linebacker, followed with an interception that he returned 32 yards down the sideline to widen the advantage to 38-14.
Told he seemed determined to reach the goal line, Masters said, “I had to. Without the blocks, I wouldn’t have got there. But it just felt good. I felt that one gave us the momentum and was really the turning point. Then our offense stepped up and scored another touchdown and it was a wrap.”
There were lots of highlights for the home team, but it wasn’t a perfect game, as Krail noted afterward.
“We didn’t run the ball very well,” he said. “That is concerning to me. We pride ourselves on running the football. We made some mental mistakes early. They played us pretty tough on the line of scrimmage. We had three guys starting for the first time on the offensive line. We have some cleanup to do. We’ll figure it out.
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“But we had decent protection throwing the ball. We were able to move the pocket a little bit. We have a pretty good room of receivers, as they say. We have four or five guys that can get in there and play.”
That was obvious on Thursday.
Thomas finished with five receptions for 83 yards, a pass completion on a fake punt and an amazing one-handed defensive play to knock down what looked like a big play for Soquel.
Garwood caught five passes for 72 yards, and Kopcsak-Yeung reeled in four passes for 67 yards.
It added up to a big win on opening night.
Next up: A challenging road test in Brentwood against Liberty, which won its opener over Enochs-Modesto 49-3 on Thursday.
Los Gatos’ Jaylen Thomas (3) knocks down a pass intended for Soquel’s Jordan McCord (33) in the fourth quarter of their game at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Soquel’s quarterback Sam Whelan (12) throws a pass against Los Gatos in the third quarter of their game at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Los Gatos’ Henry Masters (48) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Soquel in the second half of their game at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Los Gatos’ George Charles (64) congratulates teammate Jaylen Thomas (3) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter of their game at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)