King City’s 33-26 win against North Monterey County on Oct. 14 keeps them in the race for the Cypress Division title. (Jason Gallardo/Staff)

KING CITY — Down 26-7 at halftime, the King City Mustangs were watching their title hopes and playoffs slip away for the second straight year, but head coach Mac Villanueva knew if his team communicated better, they would have a chance to get back in the game.

“At halftime, I told the boys we just need to communicate on defense,” Villanueva said. “Make that 26 points stick and we’ll come back to score 21.”

After beating Watsonville on their homecoming, the Mustangs traveled to face the North Monterey County Condors as they honored a student who died.

Riding that wave of emotion, the Condors used that jump on the Mustangs early, putting them down 13 points in the first quarter. Coming into the game, the Condors had only scored seven points in their last three games.

King City stopped the Condors’ scoring streak when Isaac Benavides got into the end zone. But the Condors kept coming, scoring twice before the half and taking a 26-7 lead into halftime.

The most points the Mustangs’ defense had given up all season had been 28.

According to Villanueva, there was a lot of miscommunication between the coach and players. Although King City faced its most significant deficit of the season, there was no panic in the coaching staff.

“I never felt panic,” Villanueva said. “I knew we could score on them and stop them.”

In the second half, the Mustangs found their rhythm. In the third quarter, Benavides got into the end zone for the second time, cutting into the Condor lead 26-14.

King City was able to fix their issue and hold the Condors scoreless in the second half. The Mustangs had a season-high four interceptions in the game, two by Adrian Garcia and one each by Jace Espino and Adam Garcia-Loa.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Mustangs were still down 26-14. They quickly cut the score to a one-position game when quarterback JJey Martinez found Garcia-Loa for this sixth touchdown of the season, making it 26-20.

Next was the defense’s turn to get in on the comeback. Espino picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown to tie the game at 26 each.

After trailing 26-7, the Mustangs came all the way back to tie the game, but now they needed one more drive to complete the comeback. Once again, Martinez found Raul Garcia for the go ahead, bringing the final score to 33-26.

Martinez threw for 201 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 147 yards.

With a 2-1 league record, the win has kept King City in the race for the Cypress Division title. Next, the Mustangs will face St. Francis, who is 3-0 in the league and 7-0 overall.

“The biggest thing with them is that they don’t make mistakes,” Villanueva said. “We got to play better. If we play the same way we did on Friday, a good team like St. Francis will bury you.”

King City will travel to St. Francis on Saturday, with game time at 12:30 p.m.

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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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