The Merced High football team had no answer for Trey Nahhas and the Monterey Trail running game.
Nahhas bulldozed his way to 394 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 12 Mustangs upset No. 4 Merced 51-45 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinals on Friday night at Veterans Stadium.
“It all starts with the offensive line,” Nahhas said. “Their blocks open up holes. I trust my speed, but it all starts with them.”
There was an ugly scene after the game. Merced senior receiver Nick Camper punched a Merced Sun-Star photographer as the team was leaving the field. Camper talked with police but was not arrested.
“It’s tough because I love our seniors,” said Merced junior A.J. Stewart. “I wanted to keep playing for them, but if our seniors are acting like that, maybe we don’t deserve to keep playing.”
The Bears (9-3) couldn’t overcome mistakes on the field. Merced turned the ball over three times and drew costly personal fouls in the second half. Merced entered the game expecting a heavy dose of Nahhas, but the Mustangs (8-4) hurt the Bears with their passing game in the first half.
E.J. Viacrusis completed 5 of 7 passes for 138 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown to Jermaine Bell in the first half.
Monterey Trail took a 28-17 lead into intermission.
Merced received the second-half kickoff with a chance to close the gap on the Mustangs, but the mistakes continued.
The Bears struggled to control the kickoff and started the third quarter from their 12-yard line. The first-down snap then sailed over the head of quarterback Tyrone Williams, and Williams had to dive on top of it for a safety.
The Mustangs then received the free kick and drove down, with Nahhas scoring on a 3-yard run to extend the lead to 37-17 with 9:21 left in the third quarter.
“It’s the exact opposite of what you talk to your guys about at halftime,” Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. “It changes everything.”
The Bears battled back as Camper hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Williams to cut the lead to 37-24. The Merced defense forced a three-and-out, and the Bears threatened to score.
However, Andre Flury intercepted a Williams pass at the 1-yard line. One play later, Nahhas broke free for a 77-yard touchdown run, and the Mustangs had a 44-24 lead.
Williams threw touchdown passes to Jabar Byrd and Camper in the fourth quarter to pull Merced within 51-45 with 4:28 left, but the Mustangs ran out the clock.
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.