Green Valley coach Brian Castro would be the first to say that his team’s outing Friday at home against Coronado was no work of art.
In fact, with the Gators committing three turnovers and getting docked 130 yards in penalties, it was more akin to a dumpster fire.
But thanks to the Green Valley defense putting out fires when it needed to, the Gators managed to secure a 24-7 victory.
“Obviously, we will take a win any time we can get it,” Castro said. “It was an ugly win for us. We have to play a little bit sharper.”
No. 4-ranked Green Valley (7-1, 3-1 Southeast League) forced five turnovers on defense and limited the Cougars’ offense to 45 yards in the second half.
With his team leading 9-0, Green Valley defensive lineman Jay Kakiva came up with the big play late in the third quarter to swing momentum. The senior came away with a loose ball in the end zone, and the Gators tacked on a 2-point conversion to extend their lead to 17-0.
“Honestly, it was a whole bunch of messy stuff,” said Kakiva of the end zone struggle to recover the fumble. “I couldn’t have gotten it without Reyden Morett getting the sack. But when the ball came out, he missed it, and I scooped it up for the touchdown.”
Kakiva said the key for the Gator defensive unit was to stay focused no matter what situation it was put in.
“We just had to just keep our heads in the game,” he said. “Even though offense had some letdowns, we couldn’t get mad at them or let that distract us.”
The defense had to step up again for Green Valley in the fourth quarter, when Coronado’s Javion Hawkins came up with an interception at the Gator 41 and raced down the sideline to the end zone to trim the Gator lead to 17-7.
Coronado recovered a surprise onside kick at the Green Valley 48 on the ensuing kickoff, but Chase Kopp ended the threat by recovering a fumble on a bad snap. Six plays later, Julian Hulse iced the game with a 16-yard run up the middle for a touchdown with 5:35 left for the final margin.
Hulse was the offensive force for the Gators, rushing for 166 yards on 25 carries.
“He did a great job,” Castro said. “He’s kind of the hot hand right now. We have some other guys who ran the ball pretty well too, but we rode the hot hand tonight.”
Zacari Holbert had 97 yards rushing to lead Coronado (2-6, 0-4).