By Sean Lynch
Special to the Times
Few would fault Jaylen Tregle if he shied away from all numbers 40 for a little while.
The Contra Costa quarterback was hit early and often by Merced College’s Chris Munoz (number 47), Luke Jenkins (44) and Davon Johnson (45) on Saturday afternoon. The defensive trio supplied constant pressure from all over the field, combining for 8 of the Blue Devils’ 10 sacks.
The sustained pressure helped force four turnovers in another impressive defensive display, as Merced cruised into its bye week with a comfortable 21-2 road victory over the Comets.
The Crazy Blues extended their streak to 10-plus consecutive quarters without yielding a touchdown, going back to the second quarter of the Yuba game on Sept. 21. Despite the dominant performance, the Devils (3-2) were out gained by Contra Costa (1-3) 216 yards to 185.
The one thing the Merced offense did do well was take advantage of short fields provided by its defense. The first of those came with just under 5 minutes to play in the opening quarter.
A fumble handed the Devils the ball at the Comet 19-yard line. Quarterback Osby Green cashed the chance in just three plays later, keeping on a read-option for a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
Green doubled the Merced College lead about 5 minutes before the break, taking advantage of another Comets fumble at their own 12. Green ran it in from 1 yard out to give the Devils a 14-0 lead at intermission.
Contra Costa’s only points came via special teams as Merced launched a snap over punter Anthony Caballero’s head. After a wild scramble, the ball was eventually knocked out the back of the end zone for a safety early in the third quarter.
The Comets never mounted a comeback bid, however, mainly thanks to Merced’s unrelenting pass rush. Munoz (team-high nine tackles) led the way with 4 sacks, while Jenkins added 3.5 and Viliami Makoni 2. Munoz and Jenkins are both tied for second in the state with 7.5 sacks on the season.
Merced put the game away about midway through the fourth quarter with Christian Quiarte punching it in from 6 yards out to make it a 21-2 final.
The Devils will use the bye week to try and get healthy and prepare for the meat of their conference schedule. They’ll be on the road when they return to action, squaring off with Monterey Peninsula on Oct. 19.