Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
With blockers out front, San Mateo’s Watson Filikitonga, left, looks for running room during the Bearcats’ 34-21 win over Capuchino. Filikitonga’s two, 60-yard touchdown runs proved to be the difference for San Mateo.
Peninsula Athletic League fans may not know too much about San Mateo running back Watson Filikitonga. But something that appears to be very obvious right off the bat is the No. 22 has a great sense of timing.
Twice, the Bearcats were in need a big play against a scrappy Capuchino football team Friday night in a Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division showdown.
And twice, Filikitonga answered that call.
Behind two 60-yard runs, one in the first quarter and the latter in the fourth, Filikitonga carried San Mateo to a 34-21 win over the Mustangs. The fun runs came at huge times when momentum could have swung either way. Luckily for the Bearcats, Filikitonga rose to the occasion.
“I just saw the hole and ran through it,” Filikitonga said of his touchdowns that head coach Jeff Scheller confirmed were on the same play call and thus looked eerily similar. “But the thing is, when I score, I just don’t score for myself. I take my teammates with me. That’s the most important thing. Both touchdowns came at the right time.”
“They knew they really needed to pick up the workload,” Scheller said of his running backs and an offensive line that has felt the loss of superstar Line Latu, who suffered an arm injury during practice. “Watson really rose to the occasion today. The guys had been calling for that play. We felt like we needed to get the ball to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible and Watson did a great job of exploding through it.”
Filikitonga’s first score was big because it came after Capuchino shocked the Bearcats on a long Anthony Pellegrini touchdown pass less than a minute into the game.
With the Mustang sideline fired up, Filikitonga responded by taking the ball off left tackle, finding some daylight and sprinting 60 yards to the end zone to make it 7-6 less than three minutes into the game.
Still riding that momentum, San Mateo took its first lead on a 2-yard run by Finau Hafoka, who was fresh off a big performance in the Bearcats’ league-opening win against Half Moon Bay.
But Capuchino showed it was down for a fight. Pellegrini gave San Mateo fits the entire night, extending plays with his legs and getting the ball out to players like Khaled Ereikat, Chris Kosta and Juan Rodriguez.
With 7:32 left in the half, Pellegrini found Rodriguez for a 29-yard touchdown strike. Then, after San Mateo retook the lead following a 12-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with a Jason Gonzalez TD run, Pellegrini marched his Mustangs down the field with under a minute and half to go and finished the drive with his legs from four yards out to give Capuchino a 21-20 lead heading into recess.
The second half is when San Mateo used big plays to forge ahead and put the game away.
With the teams going scoreless in the third quarter, a big interception by Austin Perez was the game-changer. Perez picked the ball off, ran down the far sideline some 37 yards before fumbling the ball into the end zone. Luckily for him, his teammates were there to pounce on the loose ball and give the Bearcats a 27-20 lead.
San Mateo knew the game wasn’t over, especially with Pellegrini at the helm for Capuchino. But the Bearcats responded by thwarting two Mustang drives before Filikitonga’s second 60-yard run iced the game for the Bearcats.
“My guys played their asses off,” said Capuchino head coach Josh Horton. “But that’s just football. There were those two long runs and that interception. You have to give it up to [San Mateo], they’re a good team. But my guys played their asses off. I could not be more proud.”