Coming off an exciting come-from-behind win against King City, the Carmel High football team now faces archrival Pacific Grove at 7:30 p.m. Friday in P.G. to determine whether there will be one, two or even three Mission Trail Athletic League co-champions. The game carries even more weight for CHS, as it may make or break their CCS playoff hopes.
After a heart-breaking loss in last year’s Shoe Game, the Carmel High football team (6-3, 5-1) came out ready to play. After facing a tough non-league schedule to begin the season, the Padres began their quest to take back the league title.
After routing league opponents Greenfield, Stevenson, Marina and Gonzales by an average 32 points, the Padres stumbled against Soledad, falling 9-3 to the Aztecs on Oct. 30 in Soledad. The Padres rebounded back to beat King City 45-35 on Nov. 6, thanks to monster rushing games from Daniel Higman (264 yards) and Covossay Windham (259 yards).
The Padres now face Pacific Grove (8-1, 6-0), who come in riding a 13-game win streak in the MTAL, looking to defend their league title on their home turf.
“It’s going to be a great game with two great teams going at it,” senior defensive lineman Rostin Ahmadi says. “The team who wants it more shall rise up and be victorious.”
In addition to executing the game plan and avoiding breakdowns, rivalry games require special focus and attention.
“Number one is not getting super emotional about it,” Carmel coach Golden Anderson says. “Another thing in a game like this is usually turnovers…. The other team is going to capitalize on them.”
The Padres have given the ball to junior quarterback Jonathan Hugo and charged him to run and manage the high flying offense. Despite having to sit out last year after transferring from Monte Vista Christian, Hugo has smoothly fit into this role. Averaging over 200 yards passing and multiple touchdowns per game, Hugo has more than stepped up to the task.
But the Padres present more than just an aerial attack. Second year starter and junior running back Covossay Windham has averaged around 150 rush yards per game, including a 320-yard and five-touchdown performance against Atherton’s Sacred Heart Prep.
Additionally, senior receiver and tight end John Stivers has picked up right where he left off, leading the team in receiving with over 40 catches and over 700 yards in nine games. Currently recruited by Division-I schools such as Harvard, Brown and UC Davis, Stivers credits the offensive success to the developing chemistry and communication.
“It’s something we’ve had to work on, just coming to practice and working.” Stivers says. “We lost a lot of talent with the senior class, but that’s something we have to adjust to every year.”
While the Padres have found their usual success on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has held their own turf against their opponents this season. Lead by senior linemen Ahmadi and Freddy Cordrey, they have limited league opponents to just under 19 points per game.
The secondary, anchored by Noah Boerlin, William Lund and Higman, has also provided support to the Padres’ system. Combining for six interceptions and numerous fumble recoveries, the trio pose a serious obstacle to opposing quarterbacks.
Despite the magnitude of the Shoe Game, the team is preparing as normal for the showdown.
“We go week by week not worrying about anything ahead until the time comes,” Ahmadi adds.
Perhaps the most important quality of the team, however, is the ability to focus on their jobs and only control what they can.
“This year has gone well because we have put more focus on ourselves and not let the opponents affect our play,” captain and receiver Sam Snowden says.
Currently, Pacific Grove High School has held the Shoe 34 times, compared to Carmel’s 33. In order to bring the Shoe back home, it will take more than just executing the game plan.
“We need students and fans to come support us. Especially for an away game, the crowd gets us fired up and helps us play our best,” says junior wide receiver Stevan Enriquez. “Be loud and show P.G. why we’re the best.”
Coach Anderson echos Enriquez’s thoughts and sees the larger implications of the game.
“I think it’s important because it’s a big deal for the community,” Anderson says. “Not just that it’s a football game, but the Shoe trophy represents Carmel and our community versus Pacific Grove and their community. It’s kind of bragging rights for everybody, not just the football players.”
All stats according to MaxPreps and John Devine of The Monterey Herald.