Crook steals the show in Royal victory over DP

Coaches are known for going deep into their playbooks during rivalry football games, throwing fake punts, fake field goals, trick plays and secret weapons at their all-too-familiar foes.

San Marcos unveiled a surprise Friday night during its Channel League clash with crosstown rival Dos Pueblos – it unleashed its passing game.

Junior quarterback James Crook posted season-high numbers for completions, yards and touchdowns, then received help from a stingy Royals defense, as San Marcos edged the Chargers 24-17 in an overtime thriller Friday at Valley Stadium.

San Marcos (3-4, 1-1), which entered the game completing just 35.2 percent of its passes, befuddled Dos Pueblos (2-5, 0-2) with Crook’s short-range passing attack. He finished 16-for-21 with 157 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Crook completed half of his passes to 6-foot-4 tight end Max Cavalier, who caught both touchdown passes during the Royals’ 17-point second quarter.

“You’ve got to give credit to (Crook); he was making his reads and completing his throws, and that’s all we ask him to do,” said San Marcos coach Dare Holdren. “And (Cavalier) was catching everything out there. I don’t think we dropped a ball all night.

“But DP came back and fought hard. (Coach Jeff Uyesaka) and his guys took us to overtime. It was a great high school football game.”

The Crooks-to-Cavalier connection helped the Royals overcome an early deficit and take a 17-10 lead into halftime. The duo scored on pass plays of 10 and 8 yards to give San Marcos a 14-10 lead. Linebacker Kevin Blum later intercepted a Chargers pass to set up kicker Alvaro Garcia’s 37-yard field goal as the half expired.

San Marcos tailback Cody Clark compiled 61 first-half rushing yards and finished with 78, but Uyesaka expected a large output from the Royals’ workhorse. It was the effort of Crook, who entered the game with 16 completions in his last five games combined, that caught the Chargers off guard.

“Our plan was to stop the run and force them to pass, but they’ve obviously been practicing on their passing game,” Uyesaka said. “Of the three games I’ve seen them play, this was definitely their best game. We knew they’d throw to (Cavalier), but we didn’t know if the snap, the route, the pass and the protection would all come together for them at the same time. It did, and they did a good job.”

The teams battled to a stalemate in the third quarter, but Dos Pueblos was able to break through in the fourth with a drive that consumed nearly seven minutes. Starting on their own 31, the Chargers moved the ball down the field on tough runs by Anthony Houston and key pass completions by quarterback Zach Boytis. Brennan Eccles and Joseph Valencia each caught first-down passes to keep the dive alive before Houston scored on a 5-yard run with 3:43 left in regulation. Branden Tangle, who booted a 37-yard field goal earlier, added the extra point to tie the game at 17-17.

Houston led the Chargers with 76 yards on 21 carries. Dane Limosnero carried the load for DP in the first half, compiling 65 yards on 12 rushes, but he suffered a deep thigh bruise and didn’t play in the second half. Shane Taylor scored DP’s first-quarter touchdown, a 2-yard plunge, on his only carry of the game. Boytis finished 11-of-18 for 153 yards and one interception.

DP’s defense gave San Marcos a scare in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Defensive end Michael Mendez hit Crook as he threw on a second-down play, and Cory Micheel grabbed the interception, putting the Chargers on the Royals’ 42-yard line.

“We had thrown a lot to (Cavalier), so we were trying to go outside for something different,” Crook said. “But as soon as I turned, (Mendez) hit me and they got that interception. But my defense came through for me. The ‘D’ is always there for me.”

The Royals stopped DP’s drive at the 28-yard line. Uyesaka said he elected to pass on fourth down because a 45-yard field goal was out of his team’s kicking range due to injuries. The fourth-down pass was broken up, and San Marcos settled for the overtime period.

With both teams’ offenses getting a shot at the end zone from the 25-yard line, San Marcos went to its bread and butter. Crook hit Cavalier on a 20-yard pass play – the longest of the night for the Royals – to give the Royals a first-and-goal at the 5. Three rushes and a pass interference penalty later, fullback Manny Hernandez plunged in from 1 yard out and Leon added the extra point to give San Marcos a 24-17 lead.

DP’s chance to tie the game ended on its third play as San Marcos forced a fumble, which was recovered by defensive back Kirk Renga, to secure the victory.

“To end a game like that on a big hit and fumble, we’re freakin’ fired up,” Holdren said. “Our offense did its job all night long, and our defense caused the turnover to win it. It was a great game.”

Uyesaka said his squad now looks to play a spoiler role in the Channel League.

“We have Ventura next week after two rivalry games, and we’re a little hurt right now,” Uyesaka said. “But these kids aren’t the types to give up. It’s time to come back and enjoy the last three weeks of football. Maybe we can play the spoiler and help out our local teams.”

(Photos taken by Roy Mata/PresidioPics)

San Marcos 24, Dos Pueblos 17 OT

Channel League

Dos Pueblos    7     3    0    7    0 — 17

San Marcos    0    17    0    0    7 — 24


First quarter

DP — Taylor 1 run (Tangle kick), 2:48.

Second quarter

SM — Cavalier 10 pass from Crook (Leon kick), 10:12.

DP — Tangle FG 33, 8:16.

SM — Cavalier 8 pass from Crook (Leon kick), 2:51.

Fourth quarter

DP — Houston 5 run (Tangle kick), 3:43.


SM — Hernandez 1 run (Leon kick).

TEAM STATS             DP            SM

First downs               16            14

Rushes-yards      40-160    30-81

Passing yards           153         157

Comp-Att-Int      11-18-1    16-21-1

Sacks-yards lost     1-9           0-0

Punts-avg.             2-33         2-39.5

Fumbles-lost          2-1          0-0

Penalties-yards      3-15        4-30


RUSHING — Dos Pueblos: Houston 21-76, Limosnero 12-65, Boytis 5-16, Parsons 1-2, Taylor 1-1. San Marcos: Clark 25-78, Hernandez 4-4, Crook 1-(minus 1).

PASSING — Dos Pueblos: Boytis 11-18-1-153. San Marcos: Crook 16-21-1-157.

RECEIVING — Dos Pueblos: Eccles 3-43, Brown 2-15, McGaughey 2-70, Valencia 2-19, Tangle 1-5, Houston 1-1. San Marcos: Cavalier 8-94, Day 3-35, Kirkwood 2-16, Nichols 6-6, Miller 4-4, Clark 1-(minus 4).


TEAM RECORDS — Dos Pueblos 2-5, 0-2; San Marcos 3-4, 1-1.


  1. Crook has become an overnight STUD…… With such meteoric success……. could he be on the juice?? The question will be answered in 2 weeks…
    The Dons will test his blood via the old fashion Blitz….. Cant wait for the test results.