By Kevin Askeland
Although the Carmel Padres haven’t tried on “The Shoe” in over five years, it still fits quite comfortably. This year’s model even came with a matching crown.
The Padres (8-1) defeated rival Pacific Grove 49-7 on Saturday in the annual “Shoe” game for the first time in six seasons and also captured the Mission Trail Athletic League championship for the first time in 25 years, finishing with a perfect 6-0 mark.
“This has been a long time coming,” said a soaking head coach Craig Johnston, who received the traditional Gatorade bath just before the final buzzer. “This is for all of those players who worked hard in the past but didn’t quite win it all.”
The loss dropped Pacific Grove to 4-5-1 on the season. Beset with injuries to key skill players throughout the season, the Breakers even moved standout offensive tackle Bill Tyndall into the backfield against the Padres. Although Tyndall scored a touchdown, Pacific Grove was unable to keep up with the high-flying Padres. The loss ended Pacific Grove’s five-year dominance in “The Shoe Game” and also ended the Breakers’ run of five straight MTAL championships.
The final horn signaled the end of the game and the beginning of pandemonium and sheer joy on the part of the Padres and their faithful fans. Members of the student section stormed the field to congratulate their schoolmates while the players took turns holding “The Shoe” and running with it around the field. The final gesture of celebration came when the players lifted Johnston onto their shoulders and carried him off of the field.
The most poignant moment, however, may have come midway through the fourth quarter. With the Padres well ahead of the Breakers, Johnston came down from his perch in the press box where he was calling plays to join his team on the sideline. On his way to the field, he stopped to give his son Ken a long hug.
Ken is the third of Craig Johnston’s three sons to star at Carmel. Older brothers Pat and Phil both made their mark at Carmel, Pat as a quarterback and Phil as a receiver. Both earned multiple all-league honors and went on to play at their father’s alma mater, Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.
Ken, however, takes a special place in Carmel history. Already the school’s all-time leading passer, the youngest Johnston ranks as the No. 1 passer in Monterey County history for career yardage, touchdowns, attempts and completions. In his third full season as the Padre quarterback, Johnston has unofficially thrown for 90 touchdowns and 7,680 yards on 529 completions in 886 attempts.
Against Pacific Grove, Johnston completed 18 of 26 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for a pair of scores and led the Padre rushing attack with 53 yards on eight carries.
For the season, Johnston has thrown for 33 touchdowns, thus breaking his own school record for TD passes in a season. He has also thrown for 2,400 yards and completed 156 of 239 passes.
Carmel needed little time to take the lead. On the sixth play of the game, Johnston hooked up with Dylan Hopkins on a swing pass out of the backfield. Hopkins got around the outside and scooted down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown just two minutes into the game.
Andrew Melendrez got Carmel into scoring position later in the quarter when he weaved his way through the Pacific Grove defense on a 56-yard punt return to the 20-yard line. Johnston carried on two straight plays, gaining 5 yards and then carrying several Breaker defenders into the end zone on a 15-yard run for the score.
The Breakers put together their only scoring drive of the game on the ensuing series and used a little bit of trickery to keep the march alive. On fourth down near midfield, Andrew Sublett took the snap on a fake punt, broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage and rumbled 32 yards to the Carmel 6. Three plays later, Tyndall, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound offensive tackle converted to fullback for the Carmel game, bulled into the end zone to cut Carmel’s lead to 14-7.
It only took Carmel four plays to answer. Four straight completions by Johnston moved the ball 60 yards with Melendrez catching a 33-yard pass for the touchdown. The touchdown was the 13th of the season for Melendrez, who leads the Padres in receiving with 47 catches for 818 yards on the season.
Pacific Grove was unable to get anything going in the second half. The Breakers were mired deep in their own territory for most of the remainder of the game, crossing midfield only on the final play of the game.
Meanwhile Carmel tacked on four more touchdowns to run away with the game. Johnston found Hopkins on 15-yard scoring toss midway through the third period. After Pacific Grove failed to convert on a fake punt from its own 30, Carmel scored on one play with Johnston throwing 38 yards to Hopkins for his third touchdown catch of the day.
Johnston also had a 12-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Kendrick Allen had a 35-yard scoring run with 4:25 left. Andrew Franks kicked his seventh extra point for a 49-7 final score.
The Padres now await their seed for the Central Coast Section playoffs, which get underway next week. Seeding is expected to be completed today.