Gervais improves to 2-0 after 46-20 victory over Gaston
It's been more than two decades since the last time the Gervais football program opened the season with back-to-back victories.
The players who accomplished the feat on Friday after defeating the Gaston Greyhounds 46-20 weren't even born the last time the Cougars were 2-0. Nonetheless, they were more than happy to revel in the strong start to the season.
Gervais football has long struggled to put together a competitive program, but that doesn't mean much to head coach Tracy Jackson. For him, football is football, and high school kids are high school kids. Give them confidence and a system to work with, and they'll take care of the rest.
"They're the same as the kids on the other side of the field. I think sometimes adults try to do too much, and it gets thicker or harder and more frustrating," Jackson said. "We had some pretty good players, and they were good before I got here. It's a matter of simplifying things and being consistent."
Behind another big performance in the ground game, the Cougars racked up 417 rushing yards and built a 38-0 lead over the Greyhounds before pulling back and bringing in reserves to get some late-game experience in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Gervais' home opener.
"I want us to look good, but I want us to be respected," Jackson said. "I've been on the other end of that.
"Three or four kids, it was their first high school game," he continued. "A couple of them, it was their first football game period."
Xadan Ramon and Damian Tavera did the majority of the work on the ground, following behind the linemen to pound the Greyhounds into submission. Ramon finished with a game-high 248 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, while Tavera carried the ball 15 times for 126 yards and a score.
But it was Fabian Santos who got the ball rolling first, taking a two-yard dive up the middle to put the Cougars on top 6-0 in their opening drive of the first quarter. Tavera came down with an interception on Gaston's next drive, and the Cougars went back to work.
Using a 47-yard scamper up the left side of the field by Ramon to put the Cougars into scoring position, Santos plowed forward for a five-yard touchdown two plays later. Santos finished the game with 11 carries for 25 yards and two touchdowns.
"They were cutting our center all night, so the things we wanted to do with him, we struggled with," Jackson said.
But while the Greyhounds were able to keep Santos in relative check, Ramon and Tavera carved them up from the outside. On the next drive, the pair combined for a 54-yard drive that Tavera punctuated with his lone touchdown of the night to put the Cougars up 22-0.
Another stalled Gaston drive led to the most exciting play of the night when Gervais got the ball back, as Santos exploded up the sideline for a 66-yard touchdown run that made it 30-0 midway through the second quarter.
Jackson credits Gervais' success partly to a limited playbook, sprinkling in a few successful plays and practicing them over and over until the linemen and ball carriers work perfectly in tandem.
"We will try to keep the (play) list short, but there will be a tweak here and there," Jackson said. "Because we try to keep the list short, it's been more handlable for them. They've really worked at it. They're really good kids, and they were good kids before I got her, and they've really worked at it."
Skyler Kempton added 18 yards on six carries to round out the numbers.
The No. 5 Cougars (2-0) now set their sights on another unexpected unbeaten team, the No. 2 Culver Bulldogs (2-0) in a Friday night road game. With the junior varsity game scheduled for Monday, and just a few days of practice, Gervais is focusing on the task at hand.
"There's not a lot of time to spend celebrating," Jackson said. "It's kind of nice to start without a lot of expectations. Now the expectations are going to increase if we continue to have success, but that's a little down the road."
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