By Jeremy Balan
There is a new king in the Academic Athletic Association, at least for now.
Mission is now sitting alone alone at the top of the league after the visiting Bears beat Galileo 42-20 on Friday.
Mission’s (5-3, 5-0) defense has been its strength all season, but it was the Mission offense, led by bruising running back Devanta Gaines, that put up a season-high 42 points.
“It feels good, but we have bigger plans,” said Mission head coach Joe Albano. “I didn’t picture this from happening at all [from the start of the season], but it’s happening. I knew my kids could be this capable.”
Gaines finished with 180 yards on 27 carries, but 116 of those yards came in the second half along with three touchdowns.
“We wanted to beat the defending champs and we showed we could do it,” Gaines said. “We didn’t have a season last year, so we’re the underdogs. I think we sent a message.”
Galileo (5-3, 4-1) actually outgained Mission 355-319, but three key Galileo turnovers often provided Mission with good field position.
“One thing we wanted to stop was the big plays and they made a lot of big plays,” said Galileo head coach Mark Huynh. “It was deflating. Those big plays killed us.”
The final score may also be slightly deceiving. After facing an 26-7 early third-quarter deficit, the Lions rallied back to cut the lead to 26-20 after a score from quarterback Jonathan Lu and a 45-yard touchdown run from wingback David Milburn.
Galileo even had the ball at the Mission 38-yard line early the fourth quarter, with all the momentum on its side and the lead in sight, but a Milburn fumble that was recovered by the Bears stalled the drive.
The Lions would get the ball back again after a Mission punt, but turned the ball over on downs on their next possession.
“We had a chance twice,” Huynh said. “To have the opportunity to take the lead or tie the game was all we wanted. To see them come back and do that, if they can stay positive, we’ll be all right.”
That’s when Gaines put the game away.
He took the first play following the turnover on downs 36 yards for a touchdown run. Then, after an interception by Travis Price-Moku, he struck again on the first play after the turnover, this time from 22 yards out.
The final score was decisive, but one can’t help but wonder what the game would have looked like if Galileo senior running back Quincy Nelson was on the field.
Nelson ran for over 1,600 yards prior to injuring his knee in last week’s game against Marshall. The Galileo offense was not stagnant, but lacked the big-play punch Nelson has provided all year.
“I know for sure there were a few runs out there where he would have bounced off people,” Huynh said. “We have guys that can make plays, they just need to have the confidence.”
G: 6:37 — William Kay 8-yard run (Haroon Mohammed kick good)
M: 4:03 — Jaleel Stancil 8-yard run (Conversion failed)
M: 11:56 — Davon Hargraves 3-yard run (Conversion failed)
M: 8:18 — Algeron Malbrough 16-yard reception from Hargraves (Devonta Gaines run on conversion)
M: 7:07 — Gaines 14-yard run (Conversion failed)
G: 3:34 — Jonathan Lu 4-yard run (Mohammed kick good)
G: 0:00 — David Milburn 45-yard run (Mohammed kick blocked)
M: 3:00 — Gaines 36-yard run (Gaines run on conversion)
M: 2:13 — Gaines 22-yard run (Malbrough pass from Hargraves on conversion)