Like many football teams, Los Altos High has seen its roster shrink dramatically over the pandemic – from approximately 42 to 22 players since summer conditioning, according to coach Dave DeGeronimo – and the Eagles’ lack of depth and experience were evident in Friday’s 41-0 loss to Homestead.
The visiting Mustangs suited up nearly twice as many players, including a Los Altos resident who only joined the team this year because of the pandemic but has assimilated quickly.
“I’m a basketball player, and I didn’t think we’d have a season (due to coronavirus),” said senior Jackson Faria, who last played organized football in eighth grade. “I was bored out of my mind and had a couple friends on the team, so I made the decision to play two weeks before the season started.”
In just his third game, Faria wreaked havoc on defense and special teams in Friday night’s SCVAL El Camino Division contest. The outside linebacker led Homestead with five tackles – including one for a loss – recorded a sack, made an interception and blocked a punt that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Faria’s interception terminated the Eagles’ opening drive. Coming just two plays after his 8-yard sack, Faria nabbed the ball at Homestead’s 39-yard line and returned it to the Los Altos 11.
“I tried to get to the end zone,” Faria said, “but I’m pretty slow and got caught there at the end.”
No matter – the Mustangs were in the end zone two plays later. Backed up to the 19 due to a penalty, Homestead took the lead on Nadim Zarour’s pass to tight end Ryan Markley.
The Mustangs’ lead grew to 20-0 by the end of the first quarter, thanks in part to enviable field position after a pair of three-and-out drives by the Eagles. Homestead tacked on three more touchdowns before halftime, the second courtesy of Faria on an improvised play as Los Altos punted from inside its 20.
“I was not supposed to rush,” admitted Faria, who was supposed to stay on the line and block for the return man. “But I noticed earlier in the game that the punter took a couple seconds (to boot the ball), so I made a move on a blocker and blocked it. The ball rolled into the end zone and I jumped on it.”
How did head coach Milo Lewis react?
“He gave me a little shake of the head,” Faria said, “but I think he was OK with it.”
The play was one of many miscues for the Eagles, down 41-0 at intermission.
“We talked at halftime about keeping our composure, because we came out and we moved the ball pretty well (on the first drive), but we made a ton of mistakes,” DeGeronimo said. “You can’t make mistakes against a well-coached team like Homestead.”
Although Los Altos failed to score in the second half, the coach added that his team played better than it did in the first. Not only did the Eagles keep the Mustangs out of the end zone, but they also put together a 10-play drive late in the fourth quarter.
“We were in a big hole, but we found something and started executing,” DeGeronimo said. “We started moving the ball.”
Receiver Cole Rafferty had a run of 23 yards and caught a 26-yard pass from Dre Caputo on that drive, and halfback Mingaang Park turned a screen pass into a 13-yard play that put Los Altos at Homestead’s 23. The Mustangs ended the threat two plays later on Derek Sheerer’s interception at the goal line.
Los Altos (1-2) is scheduled to visit Gunn (3-0) 7 p.m. Friday, while Homestead (2-1) hosts Cupertino (2-1) 7 p.m. Saturday.