Close football games often hinge on special-teams play, and Oakland High's Maurice Green proved that in the visiting Wildcats' 25-20 victory over Mt. Eden on Friday.
Green blocked a punt with less than five minutes remaining in the game, setting up Oakland's go-ahead touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Kevin Iem to Devonte Blackston with 3:30 to go. Iem scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on a 10-yard run with 1:36 left.
"It was a game turner for us," said Oakland coach Jayce Goree about Green's blocked punt. "Our kids played hard."
Oakland (2-0) had trailed from the first offensive play, an 80-yard run by Mt. Eden's Devante McGowan. He finished with a game-high 170 yards rushing.
But the Wildcats didn't let Mt. Eden's lead get past seven points at any part of the game, The Monarchs (2-2) held a 14-13 lead at halftime and the end of the third quarter.
Blackston's touchdown grab put Oakland in front, and Iem's 10-yard scoring run gave the Wildcats a 25-14 lead.
Mt. Eden backup quarterback Giovanni Remmen raced to a 69-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds remaining, but Oakland controlled the onside kick and Iem knelt to run out the clock. Tyler Reynolds had a team-high 106 yards rushing for the Wildcats.
Mt. Eden starting quarterback Guadelupe Rico was attended by paramedics on the field after an apparent injury during a sack with 2:25 to play. He was taken by ambulance to Kaiser Hospital-Hayward, Monarchs coach Paul Perenon said.
"He was moving everything when he left (the field)," Perenon said. "He was moving his feet, he was moving his hands."
Oakland 25, Mt. Eden 20
Oakland 7 6 0 12-- 25
Mt. Eden 14 0 0 6-- 20
ME -- McGowan 80 run (Estaban kick)
O -- Iem 3 run (Sanchez kick)
ME -- Fat 19 pass from Rico (Estaban kick)
O -- Sanchez 10 pass from Iem (kick failed)
O -- Blackston 9 pass from Iem (pass failed)
O -- Iem 10 run (run failed)
ME -- Remmen 69 run (run failed)
Rushing: O -- Reynolds 14-105, Iem 22-42, Pittman 1-17, Blackston 5-16, Custard 3-9. Totals 45-189. ME -- McGowan 21-170, Remmen 1-69, Sibley 1-9, Gindlesberger 1-0, Thomas 3-(-4), Rico 3-(-14). Totals 30-230. Passing: O -- Iem 7-9-0-77. ME -- Rico 3-10-0-39. Receiving: O -- Sanchez 3-27, Booker 2-38, Blackston 2-12. Totals 7-77. ME -- Fat 1-19, Gindlesberger 1-13, Keeling Jr. 1-7. Totals 3-39. Fumbles/lost: O -- 3/1; ME -- 1/0. Records: Oakland 2-0, Mt. Eden 2-2.