Gregori quarterback Bobby Avina completed 16 of 20 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Jaguars to a 35-14 non-league victory over Merced on Friday at Don Lanphear Stadium.
Two of Avina’s scoring tosses came during a three-minute, 21-point onslaught as Gregori snapped a scoreless tie early in the second quarter. His final scoring pass of the night came with just 20.7 seconds remaining in the first half that gave his squad a 28-0 lead heading into the halftime break.
“That’s just something we were practicing the whole entire week,” said Avina, who missed much of last season with an injury to his throwing shoulder. “We ran two-minute drills for conditioning like crazy … getting to the ball, playing fast, playing hard. We worked hard for it. We wanted it bad.”
The Jaguars were poised to open the scoring late in the first quarter, marching 78 yards on 13 plays to the Bears’ 1-yard line. But Avina pulled out from under center too early and the ball hit the ground. Merced pounced on it and seized momentum away from the hosts.
But four plays later, Marcello Longstreth intercepted Merced’s Dhameer Warren to give the Jags possession at the Merced 23.
Avina did the rest, hooking up with tight end Gabe Sanchez on the first play after the turnover with 11:16 to play in the first half.
Merced then went three and out on its next possession and mishandled the snap on the punt attempt. Gregori took over the Bears’ 44 and scored three plays later when Mason Medrano blasted in from the 3, just 2 minutes, 28 seconds after the initial score.
Warren fumbled on Merced’s next play from scrimmage and Jace Tessaro was there to pounce on the loose ball.
Again, Avina wasted little time and went for broke on the first play after the turnover. He found Longstreth down the middle of the field for a 41-yard scoring strike to make it 21-0, just 38 seconds after the Gregori’s previous TD.
Later in the half, Avina hooked up with Brandon Azevedo on a 25-yard scoring play to make it 28-0 at the break.
“We were just able to find a way to make plays,” said Gregori coach Jason McCoy. “We just have a bunch of playmakers and they were able to make plays when we needed them.”
The loss is the first for Merced at the hands of a Modesto City School since a 13-3 setback to Modesto in 2004, snapping a string of 15 consecutive victories. Back then, the Modesto schools were part of the Central California Conference along with Merced.
“We need to protect the football,” said Merced coach Rob Scheidt, now in his 22nd year guiding the Bears. “I’d like to see what happens if we do that. That’s the bottom line for us.”
Gregori fumbled the second-half kickoff and Merced took over on the Jags’ 20, eventually moving to the 10. But Isaac Zuk picked off Wallace – one of three second-half interceptions for Gregori’s defense – to halt the threat.
Merced got back into the game with 14 unanswered points in the third quarter, getting a 7-yard TD run from Andre Barnett and a 5-yard scoring strike from Wallace to Desmond Thompson.
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