FREMONT — Ottawa Hills was right where they wanted to be coming into the season. However the result wasn’t what they had worked towards all year, falling to Fremont St. Joe’s Central Catholic 27-3 in the opening round of the Division VI playoffs.
“We thought we could get back to this game,” Ottawa Hills coach Chris Hardman said. “Our goal all year was to improve ourselves to where we would be able to win this game. Tonight we were the second best team and we won’t hang our heads on it.”
The game started well for the Green Bears as SJCC receiver Alex Veleba fumbled the opening kickoff. Tommy Rudolph fell on the ball for Ottawa Hills at the 35-yard line. After seven plays, Michael Geiger nailed a 30-yard field goal to give the Green Bears the first points of the game with 7:39 left in the first quarter.
“We did move the ball a little bit, but that needed to be a touchdown,” Hardman said. “When they fumble the kickoff and we move the ball and we don’t turn it into a touchdown, that’s on us.”
But SJCC fought off some early miscues and dominated the rest of the game, especially through the air. Senior quarterback Zach Yeckley was 18-30 for 205 yards and three touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown as well.
Yeckley capped off a 14 play drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak to put SJCC up 7-3 with 9:11 remaining in the second quarter.
He then found Veleba in the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass, giving SJCC a 13-3 advantage with 1:19 remaining in the first half.
In the third quarter, Yeckley added two more scores, on a 4-yard pass to Jordan Sessler and closed the scoring with a 46-yard touchdown strike to Veleba.
Sessler caught nine passes for 109 yards and one touchdown, while Valeba hauled in six passes for 98 yards and two scores.
After scoring the first three points of the game, Ottawa Hills struggled to move the ball at all, totaling only 129 yards of total offense.
“Defensively we played great tonight,” SJCC coach Scott Knisely said. “Our defense has played better each and every week and you can tell that it’s gotten a lot better. It’s nice to have that.”
Ottawa Hills finishes the season 7-4. After a second place finish in the TAAC and a trip to the playoffs, this marks the last game in the career of 18 seniors on the Green Bear roster.
“We had a lot of resolve,” Ottawa Hills senior Will Longthorne said. “These 18 seniors, all of us are really down right now, but even when we were down and out of the game we were playing hard, so that means a lot.”