Lions Hold Off Mustangs in 90th Turkey Day Championship

Nelson Throws 3 TD’s and Runs for 2 More in Lions 17th Championship Win

Galileo V 14-20 34
Lincoln V 16-14 30

Galileo prevailed in another nail-biter against Lincoln, the AAA defending champs. In the regular season tilt, the Lions stopped the Mustangs on a 2-point conversion for a heart-stopping Homecoming victory, 34-33. This rematch proved eerily similar. While senior quarterback, Kyle Nelson rang up 3 passing TD’s and ran for 2 more, Galileo’s defense allowed the Mustangs to chew up yards and time behind their potent 2-power backs. Down 14-16 at the half, the Lions open the third quarter with a score on a bubble pass from Nelson to Dontell Jackson for 80 yards to take the lead for the first time, 20-16. Jackson wowed the crowd with his speed by outrunning 3 defenders.

After trading another touchdown each, Galileo’s linebacker, Lala Haro made the play of the season in the fourth quarter-caught up on the line of scrimmage with a blitz assignment, Haro saw the Mustangs quarterback take off to the left side of the field after tossing the ball to the running back going to the right. Haro instinctively released to cover the quarterback on a throwback route. When the ball was released, the quarterback was wide open but when the ball arrived, Haro watched the ball sail over his shoulders and he was able to out-catch the quarterback and return the ball 81-yards to the Mustangs’ 1 before getting knocked out of bounds. Nelson punched it in on a sneak and the Lions were up 10 and ready to celebrate. The Mustangs weren’t done as they struck quickly for the games final score then sent the Lions’ high-octane offense punting in 4 plays with a little over 2 minutes remaining.  Deep in their territory, Nelson punted a perfect snap from Charlie Kwok to the 50-yard line. After a quick first down, the game ended abruptly for Lincoln; on a key second down play for the Mustangs and 1 minute on the clock, Galileo’s middle linebacker, Jamari Hilliard-Vasquez jarred the ball loose with a big hit on the Mustangs’ quarterback who kept the ball on an option play because defensive end, Kris Balarezo took away his pitching option. Defensive tackle, Joey Winterstein scooped up the ball and ran 10 yards before being dragged down as the Lions and all it’s faithful celebrated. Prior to the game-ending hit, Hillard-Vasquez left part of his breakfast on the field (if anyone has a photo of it, please send it to us via the contact page).

Nelson who capped a record season with 8 of 11 passing for 242 yards and the 3 scores in this game, finished the season with 47 passing TD’s and only 4 interceptions. He also added 11 TD’s on the ground. Dontell Jackson led all receivers with 3 catches for 125 yards. Fellow receivers, Isaac Armstrong and Todd Holland added 102 yards collectively. Holland had the offensive play of the game when he scored on a 62-yard pass with the help of Armstrong who knocked off a would-be tackler clinging onto the back of Holland’s jersey. Armstrong also had his own spotlight, scoring on a 13-yard pass in the third quarter to give the Lions a 28-24 lead. Ronzel Fox returned from an elbow injury sustained 3 games ago to post 24 yards on 7 carries-3 of those runs were tackle-breaking runs worthy of a highlight reel.

While the Mustangs’ offense chugged and chugged all game, Galileo’s defense made 1 crucial stop in the red zone in the first half and then the Haro interception to turn the tide which was brilliantly followed by the game ending force fumble by Hilliard-the 2 turnovers were the difference in the game. With 27 tackles this game, Hilliard-Vasquez concluded a 197-tackle season with a punctuation that will echo for many years to come on that game-ending play. Outside backers, Terrell Jeffery and Haro added their own exclamation marks with 23 and 16 tackles respectively. Defensive ends, Kris Balarezo and Armstrong tallied 12 and 7 tackles each. In a game with Lincoln barely passing, the Lions’ defensive backs accounted for 23 tackles, led by Rodney Morgan’s 9 with 1 pass defended. In the trench, junior defensive tackles, Jose Gato and Victor Ortiz registered 7 and 5 tackles.

Haro’s interception gave Galileo a new season-record with 20 team interceptions and they also caused 16 fumbles and recovered 21. These defensive stats look even better considering that the Lions only tossed 5 interceptions (1 on a 2-point conversion by Phillip Tran and 4 by Nelson) and coughed up the ball 5 times (including special teams) but only lost 2 fumbles (1 on a botched punt snap). That’s an astounding 41 takeaways against 7 giveaways. The Turkey Day Championship was the culmination of a recipe for success the Lions repeated often this season; score points quickly, apply the “bend but don’t break” defense by not allowing big plays, don’t turn the ball over, score some more points, wait for the other team to break, then apply pressure by scoring more points. This 2013 championship team will be remembered for their defense that showed up when they had to and for their high-scoring offense that might not be equaled for a long, long time.

TDay Game MVP: Kyle Nelson
GetSportsFocus Playermaker of the Game: Lala Haro (interception)


  • MVP: Kyle Nelson
  • Defensive MVP: Jamari Hilliard-Vasquez
  • Offensive MVP: Dontell Jackson
  • Offensive Play of the Game: Todd Holland’s 62-yard TD assisted by Isaac Armstrong’s block
  • Defensive Play of the Game: Lala Haro’s interception and 81-yard run back
  • Special Teams Play of the Game: Joshua Lu’s touchdown-saving tackle with an assist from kicker, Yanek Hakobyan right before the half when Lincoln returned the kick from their 1 to Galileo’s 44.
  • Quote of the Game: “It’s our time defense! We gotta’ make it happen! We need to step up!” – Isaac Armstrong.

Click here for the MaxPreps article (same as SFGate but has photos)

Click here for the same article on SFGate written by MaxPreps guru, Mitch Stephens.

Photos by ever-reliable R. Schnitzer & lion-faithful Jennifer Huynh