East County Sports

Matadors starting to ‘jell’ with J.D., defense




By Jim Lindgren

Special to EastCountySports.com


EL CAJON – After scoring only one touchdown in its first two games this summer, Mount Miguel was desperate for a breakout game.

From someone. Anyone.

Considering his size at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, inexperience as a sophomore and very limited supporting cast with only 25 teammates, Jacob (J.D.) Laverdiere hardly seemed like the ideal candidate to provide it.

Only time will tell, but these were indeed the kind of breakout numbers that just may kick start and salvage a season.

In only his third varsity game, Laverdiere threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers to lead Mount Miguel to a 25-13 win over Valhalla on Friday night.

“Those are definitely career highs,” said Laverdiere, his braces shining through an ear-to-ear smile after delivering the Matadors’ first win by completing 16 of 34 passes.

“J.D. is young, good and accurate,” said Erik Graham, one of only nine seniors on the roster and the recipient of a 6-yard TD pass that gave Mount Miguel a 12-7 lead early in the third quarter. “We have a lot of young receivers. We’re building a bond on offense, and we’re hoping to develop from there.”

“Second half, we fixed our little mistakes and accomplished a lot.”

Things didn’t start so well, however as Laverdiere was picked off twice – both times by Valhalla’s Jordan Arrollado – to end the Matadors’ first two possessions.

Fortunately for the Matadors and first-year coach Troy Starr, Laverdiere found his groove on the third possession.

It started with 7-yard completion to junior Dominic Morales. On the next play, Laverdiere found Jadd Mallard streaking free on a slant pattern that went for an 80-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 2:28 to play in the first quarter. Valhalla’s Ethan Ferkich blocked the PAT attempt.

After the first quarter, Mount Miguel (1-2) had an advantage in yards of 165-1.

Valhalla’s slow start mirrored its first two games in which it scored only three touchdowns in lopsided losses to University City (41-14) and West Hills (24-7). The Norsemen (0-3) went three-and-out on its first three possessions before finally getting their first first down early in the second quarter on a 22-yard run by Kegan Baker, who finished with 115 yards on 19 carries.

Valhalla’s fifth possession finally delivered some points as sophomore quarterback Luke Pillsbury found a wide-open Zach Larson for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 6:30 to play in the second quarter. Benito Gonzales’ PAT kick gave Valhalla a 7-6 lead it would cling to at halftime.

Similar to Mount Miguel, Valhalla is young and inexperienced under first-year coach Mike Kastan.

The Norsemen squandered two good chances to increase their lead, but both were turned away.

After Mount Miguel had to punt for the third straight time in the second quarter, Baker broke three tackles on a sweep left and scooted 52 yards for a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line. Kiare Worthy carried for 1 yard before Pillsbury passed to Worthy for a 6-yard gain to the 1-yard line. Baker was stuffed for no gain and Pillsbury’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

After a fourth straight Mount Miguel punt, Pillsbury threw to Karan Jones for 23 yards and then found Benito Gonzales for a 19-yard gain before Gonzales was hit near the goal line and Mallard recovered the fumble in the end zone.

“We had two great opportunities,” Kastan said. “We should have scored a couple more times in the first half.”

The third quarter for Valhalla was much like its first quarter with three straight three-and-out possessions.

After the first punt, Mount Miguel went up 12-7 on Graham’s 10-yard TD. The PAT kick hit the left goal post.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Matadors increased their lead to 18-7 when Laverdiere threw deep to Morales for a 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run. This time, the PAT kick sailed wide left.

“First half was rough,” Morales said. “I dropped a few balls, and I was mad.

“We came out that first drive (of the second half), and I caught that touchdown, and it really helped our momentum.”

Midway through the fourth quarter, Valhalla pulled to 18-13 when Pillsbury connected with Worthy on a 46-yard touchdown. The Norsemen went for a 2-point conversion pass but it fell incomplete.

Mount Miguel finished the scoring on a 3-yard pass from Laverdiere to Jaheim Allen with 3:50 to play after Morales had hauled in a 69-yard pass from Laverdiere.

Morales finished with 173 receiving yards on just four catches. Mallard had five receptions for 115 yards. Allen added three catches for 37 yards.

“Our receivers are good,” Laverdiere said. “Once I get the ball in their hands, we can make some big plays.”

Said Starr, “We hit some home runs. That’s for sure. I’m proud of the kids.”

For Valhalla, Pillsbury completed 12 of 28 passes for 154 yards. Worthy caught four balls for 56 yards. Jones also had four receptions for 47 yards.

“We had some good plays, some good chances,” Kastan said. “We just couldn’t sustain many drives.”

On defense, Mount Miguel’s Julius Ford and Ulices Monje both posted sacks, and Manu Maosi batted down a pass at the line.

“We ran a different defense tonight, a 3-3-5,” Maosi said. “Usually we run a 4-3, but we changed it up for this type of offense, and we performed really well.”

Said Monje, “We tried to fight hard and get our defense to make plays and stop them. We’ve been kind of upset for the past few weeks.”

Valhalla got sacks from Johnny Meram and Raymond Sanchez. Kyle Grygiel batted down two passes at the line and Allen Kalash one.

The Norsemen and Matadors have played each other every year since Valhalla opened in 1975, and Mount Miguel now owns a 27-16-2 series record.

Still looking for its first win of the season, the road does not get any easier for Valhalla. After a bye next week, the Norsemen play hosts to Eastlake and travel to Otay Ranch before opening Grossmont Hills League play against Grossmont, Helix and Steele Canyon.

Mount Miguel, which lost its first two games to Morse (39-0) and Chula Vista (20-7), plays host to Santa Fe Christian and Imperial the next two Fridays. After a bye, the Matadors open Grossmont Valley League play at Santana.

With seven sophomores and 10 juniors, Mount Miguel needs all the seasoning it can get. And there could be some fruit as well.

“The whole summer and during the start of the season, Coach (Starr) has been feeding us just peanut butter sandwiches with no jelly,” Maosi said. “He said when we get our first win, he’ll give us some jelly.”




Mount Miguel  0 6 6 13 – 25

Valhalla      0 7 0  6 – 13


MM – Jadd Mallard 80 pass from Jacob Laverdiere (kick blocked)

V – Zachary Larson 8 pass from Luke Pillsbury (Benito Gonzales kick)

MM – Erik Graham 6 pass from Jacob Laverdiere (kick failed)

MM – Dominic Morales 75 pass from Jacob Laverdiere (kick failed)

V – Kiare Worthy 46 pass from Luke Pillsbury (pass failed)

MM – Jaheim Allen 3 pass from Jacob Laverdiere (Chris Hernandez kick)

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