Like in any race, it's not how one starts but how one finishes. On Friday night, Gunn got to the football finish line first, thanks to a three-touchdown outburst in the third quarter that sparked a 48-7 thumping of visiting Monta Vista on homecoming night.
For 24 minutes, Gunn was locked into a tight battle with Monta Vista. In fact, the Titans did not look sharp in the first half as they seemed to be more distracted by the homecoming festivities. That changed when Maceo Parks and Josh Jackson started making big plays.
Both Parks and Josh Jackson scored two touchdowns for Gunn. The last time the Titans had four victories was in 2003, when they finished 6-4.
"Parks and Jackson had great games," Gunn coach Bob Sykes told gunntitans.com. "Parks, though, had his game of the year as he made an impact on both sides of the ball."
Jackson and Parks had touchdown runs in the third quarter of 48 and 64 yards, respectively, that were sandwiched around an interception by Jon Zeglin that was returned for a TD. That turned a 14-7 game into a 34-14 contest just five minutes into the third quarter.
After a first half where Gunn had problems getting untracked as quarterback Anthony Cannon was under pressure and Gunn never could get a sustained offensive flow, the second half didn't start much better as a long kickoff return by Parks was negated when he fumbled at Monta Vista's 41.
The next play, though, Casey Jackson made an interception and returned it to Gunn's 45 and from there on it was all Gunn as the five-minute offensive explosion coupled by a strong Gunn defense, gave the Titans the win.
"The game was actually a lot closer than the score indicated," said Sykes. "Monta Vista is well coached and in terms of time possession they probably had the ball more, but on this night we had the big plays."
After his second long touchdown, Parks did not play anymore the rest of the night and Josh Jackson had no more carries after that either. Parks rushed for 119 yards on his two touchdowns while Jackson had 107 yards on his two scores.
"There was no point having them run the ball anymore," said Sykes. "I wanted to get other guys in and they contributed, too."
Contribute they did as Matt Mertz on only his third carry of the game broke through for a 59-yard score in midway in the fourth and moments Elias Baker scored on a 40-yard fumble recovery to wrap up the scoring.
While Parks was devastating on offense, he was equally strong on defense. In the first minute of the game, Monta Vista got a long kickoff return and a couple of plays later were poised to score until Gunn forced a fumble that Parks recovered at Gunn's two and returned it 39 yards. On the first play from scrimmage, Josh Jackson went 59 yards for the score.
Monta Vista came right back and scored on a one-yard run by Wesley Oberhelman with 5:29 left in the first quarter and the score stayed that way until Parks scored on a 55-yard jaunt to give Gunn a 14-7 lead after Paul Blanchette's extra point.
Gunn almost scored again at the end of the half when Josh Jackson blocked a 38-yard field-goal attempt and returned it 40 yards before being tackled at Monta Vista's 35 at the end of the first half.
Monta Vista played shorthanded due to the flu, missing a reported 10 players that included the Matadors' starting quarterback. Nonetheless, this was Gunn's homecoming game and the Titans made the most of the stage.
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