Scotts Valley sophomore Eli Velez isn’t used to the spotlight quite yet and has seen action on the field on just a few occasions.
But no moment was bigger for the young running back, who recorded a pair of critical first down runs to help lift the Falcons past Monte Vista Christian in Friday’s 7-0 win in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division action.
“It means a lot, I’m a sophomore. I know when I get the ball I have to do stuff,” he said. “When they called me up, I gotta do my job and I did my job, and that was it. I got the first down.”
Velez finished with 86 yards rushing on 12 carries to help Scotts Valley improve to 2-2 in PCAL Mission Division play and stay in the hunt for the Central Coast Section playoffs.
Scotts Valley coach Louie Walters said his up-and-coming running back has worked hard to deserve his carries.
“That’s what we talked about, deserving stuff whether it’s an offensive lineman,” Walters said. “We’re really proud of the progress [Velez has] made.”
Velez is following the footsteps of his older brother Isiah, who also made an impact as a sophomore, and had a monstrous senior year with 1,598 yards rushing on 150 carries and 15 touchdowns in 2021.
“We brought [Eli] along slowly but he is really contributing to this team in big moments and that was a big moment,” Walters said. “He’s got good vision, he sees the field well. He’s a Velez. He’s got a sister, I hope she plays.”
Velez is becoming part of a three-headed rush attack that includes juniors Niko Iles and Brady Siechen.
Iles finished with 87 yards rushing on 15 carries, while Siechen was held to four yards rushing on one carry against a stifling Mustangs defense.
Scotts Valley was held to 191 yards of total offense and lost one fumble on the team’s second drive in the first half.
Falcons quarterback Cole Leonard completed 0-of-2 pass attempts but he scored the game’s lone touchdown, a 1-yard sneak into the end zone with 6:46 left in the opening stanza.
“Monte Vista has a lot of heart, they played hard, we played hard,” Velez said. “Our defense was lights out, we gotta give it to our defense.”
The Mustangs made three different trips into the red zone, including a potential drive in the fourth that could have sent the game into overtime.
“That’s a good team win, we bend but we don’t break,” Walters said. “We had them in the red zone a couple of times and we stopped them.”
Velez gave a shout out to defensive back Blake LaRiviere, defensive lineman Marshall Dodge and Iles, who also plays at linebacker, for doing a good job at all levels on defense.
Velez said they stuck to the assignment and followed each Mustangs player if they motioned anywhere.
He mentioned MVC began clicking in the run game toward the end but the Falcons defense adjusted to it and held them out of the end zone.
“The offense, we started good in the first quarter and then after that we started declining,” Velez said. “Fourth quarter, our defense did it all for us basically and we just finished it.”
LaRiviere, who is an ace Falcons baseball player, had a key interception in the second half that stalled one of seven drives for the Mustangs.
Dodge, who’s never played football in his life, was disruptive throughout the game.
The 6-foot, 5-inch, 230-pound lineman put pressure on MVC sophomore quarterback Dominic Pierini and was stuffing the run lanes.
“He’s just been dominating,” Walters said.
The Mustangs were on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that took them down to Scotts Valley’s 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
“I was thinking overtime it is, we’ll have to fight more,” Velez said.
However, the Falcons’ defense held its ground on the goal-line stance including a big sack by Iles on a third-and-goal play that pushed MVC back to the Falcons’ 18-yard line.
Pierini was sacked twice to end the game. He completed 12-of-18 pass attempts for 111 yards and one interception in the second half.
“That was a big loss and for it to come all the way down, 7-0, and to leave all those points on the field like, you feel it deep in the bottom of your gut and it hurts,” MVC coach JB Williams said.
Velez said they’re a young team and there’s still a lot of little mistakes that kill them in the end, including a couple of huge runs that got called back on Friday due to penalties.
Walters echoed Velez’s statement saying they continue to make the same mistakes they’ve been making the entire season.
Offensively, they can orchestrate a good drive, yet, they can’t seem to finish.
“That’s the youth in our team, they’re getting better every week, they work hard and at the end of the day we’re 6-2,” Walters said.
After a pair of tough losses to Soquel and Monterey to begin league action, it seems like the Falcons have taken flight at the right moment.
“The kids are winning, we just need to keep getting better,” Walters said.
Velez said they talked about treating Friday night’s game as a playoff game because one more loss means they can’t extend the year after the regular season finale.
“This was a big win, we needed this win to go to the playoffs and we need the next two, also,” Velez said. “This will decide if our seniors get to play [deep into] next month or not.”
The Falcons (6-2, 2-2) will host back-to-back home games for the first time this season starting with Seaside (4-3, 2-1) on Oct. 29, followed by the regular season finale against North Salinas on Nov. 5. Both games are slated to kickoff at 2pm.