The Gustine Reds, after coming off a tough 26-7 loss to their rivals Orestimba two weeks ago and losing the grand prize of ‘The Chief,’ were still able to advance and receive a playoff berth Friday against the host and number seven seed Liberty Ranch Hawks (7-3 overall; 3-2 SVC). Unfortunately, it would end with a 42-19 loss for the Reds.
The Gustine Reds last appearance in the playoffs was in the 2018-2019 season when they faced off against Millennium winning 28-27 and advanced to the quarterfinals but lost to Denair, 39-18, in the second round.
The Reds and Hawks had a back and forth battle in the first half and closed it with a close 21-13 score at the half. It was looking great for the Reds, but as the second half came around the Hawks began to dominate and penalties began to overshadow Gustine. Scoring only once in the fourth quarter while Liberty Ranch put up three more scores sealed it for Gustine.
The Reds concluded their season with a record of 3-7 overall and 3-4 in the Southern Athletic League.
Liberty Ranch came into the game with a quick rushing touchdown score making it 7-0. The Reds would answer right back with a rushing score of their own when senior quarterback Gio Quezada rolled out from the pocket, on a quarterback keeper and took it straight to the endzone and ended the first quarter with an even score of 7-7.
The Hawks would score twice in the second quarter on two rushing touchdowns. Gustine had excellent ball movement when Quezada hit Gio Torres on a long pass, and later running back Danny Hernandez used his great running power to get the Reds in scoring position. But they were unable to punch it into the endzone, settling for two made field goals, taking them into the half with a close score of 21-13.
“In that first half we did excellent and did every thing we needed to do and played how we needed,” said head coach Ronnie LaBry. “We did our assignments and got after them.”
In the second half LaBry shared that the Reds began to fall apart due to penalties, mishaps on offense and defense, along with the Hawks offense wearing out the Reds defense and controlling the entire second half.
“They wore us out and we were missing a lot of tackles due to arm tackling and there were some plays they didn’t run in the first half that they did in the second and it was just throwing us off,” said LaBry. “Also penalties hurt us bad and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The Hawks would score three touchdowns in the second half, one in the third and two in the fourth. Gustine would see their last and final score of the season coming in the fourth quarter when Quezada would once again score on a long 50-yard rushing touchdown in the final three minutes. But it would not be enough for a Reds come back. The Hawks would prevail with a 42-19 victory over Gustine ending their 21-22 season.
“Overall I believe my team executed great because we had over 300 yards rushing, but it was the penalties that got us and I believe without those mishaps we would be right in there with Liberty Ranch competing,” said LaBry. “But that’s football and how things can happen.
“It was also a weird year,” LaBry said. “Our linemen were very inexperienced and we had to work with what we had. It was a tough year but I do know they gave everything every game, especially in that playoff game.”