King City Mustangs quarterback Jjey Martinez (#2) holds up the coveted megaphone after beating the Gonzales Spartans, 35-14, on Sept. 9. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

KING CITY — In the 90th meeting of the Little Big Game between King City Mustangs and Gonzales Spartans, something had to give as both football teams came into last Thursday’s matchup winless so far this season, and of course the coveted megaphone was also on the line.

At the start of the week, when California was going through a heat wave, King City had the highest temperature in all of South Monterey County, reaching 113 degrees. Both teams still held practices, but they added extra breaks to make sure the players were hydrated.

After fighting the heat all week, the temperature on game day wouldn’t play a factor as it dropped below 100 and the wind was blowing.

Last year the Mustangs were able to take back the megaphone, when they won 34-14 in Gonzales. After both teams suffered a loss in the previous week, the schools were looking to turn their season around, but only one would be able to claim a victory.

The Mustangs, who were struggling to find the endzone this season, started the game on point, with quarterback Jjey Martinez finding his leading receiver Adan Garcia-Loa for the first score of the game.

“We knew this was a must-win,”  Martinez said. “This last game against Alisal, our offense did amazing. We just didn’t finish when we were in the red zone. So this week, we emphasized executing and finishing.”

Gonzales looks to score against King City’s defense during the Little Big Game. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

The Spartans struggled in the first half. Unable to get things going, they would see King City score 21 straight points to start the game.

After King City got out to a 14-point lead in the first half, they got a scare when their leading receiver went down with an ankle injury. The Mustangs, who had a problem with dropped passes this season, needed a receiver to set up, and they got that with Isiah Hernandez.

Entering the game, Hernandez didn’t catch a pass this season. That didn’t stop Martinez from giving him a chance, and they connected to increase their lead to 21.

“Well, the first thing I said to myself was, this is how Alexis DeDios felt,” Hernandez said about the team’s top wide receiver last year. “What went through my mind was confidence, knowing that Jjey and the coaches trusted me to catch that ball. I just went up and took what was mine.”

Although the Mustangs were rolling, the Spartans still had some fight in them.

Gonzales scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives, one right before the half and the second after taking advantage of a short field because of a Mustang turnover. Scoring both of the Spartans’ touchdowns was Adrian Perez, who leads the team in touchdowns with five this season.

King City is now 1-2 to start the season after beating Gonzales on Friday. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

King City responded when Martinez found Hernandez again to put a stop to the Spartans’ momentum, taking control of the game at 28-14.

The Mustangs didn’t look back as they kept the megaphone in King City, beating the Spartans with a final score of 35-14. The season-high 35 points was led by Martinez, who accounted for five touchdowns.

“Man, it has to be at the top, probably my favorite game I’ve played in,” Martinez said. “I had my longest rushing touchdowns last night. I also had another two big runs, and I threw for three touchdowns. This for sure has to sit at the very top.”

King City will host Stevenson on Friday, while Gonzales will travel to Soledad that night.

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Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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