For the fifth time this year, the Galileo Lions finished a game with a running clock.
Unlike the previous four occasions, they were on the right side of high school football’s mercy rule.
Nate Chynoweth threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth on Friday afternoon as the Lions saved their best for last, concluding their season with a 32-0 win over the Burton Pumas in a battle of winless teams.
“I let him call his own plays, and a lot of the plays he called, I called in my head,” head coach Nick Naudain said after his players doused him with water and Gatorade. “Today was fun for him. You could see he was playing around.”
In a season where the Lions made more headlines for forfeiting a game rather than for on-field achievements, two constants have been present: Chynoweth’s ability to make plays on the run and Naudain’s infectious energy.
“Every practice is fun, and he appreciates all of us,” running back Jeovany Diaz said. “The conditioning may suck, but he makes it really fun.”
Naudain’s exuberance and unbridled positivity helped keep Galileo (1-9, 1-5 Academic Athletic Association) afloat throughout the sort of season that breaks most teams.
It all finally paid off on Friday afternoon, with the Lions racing out to a 20-0 lead before the end of the first quarter. Burton (0-7, 0-6) turned the ball over on downs to start the game, and the hosts needed just three plays to capitalize as Chynoweth connected with Diaz for a 20-yard pickup on a swing pass, then scrambled for a 28-yard score.
Onside kicks have been a constant for the Lions this year, yielding mixed results. Friday’s generated excellent returns, with Ezekiel White recovering Miles Echevarri’s kickoff to set Galileo up for a second score. Chynoweth hit Chase Recio for a 28-yard pickup to put his team in the red zone, and after a holding penalty pushed the Lions back, he hit Biruk Samson on a fourth-and-17 for a 24-yard touchdown. Frank Tiscareno then came up with a second onside kick recovery, and Chynoweth scrambled for a 20-yard pickup before throwing another touchdown on fourth down, this one a 12-yard strike to Echevarri. Chynoweth also ran for the two-point conversion to make it 20-0.
In all, Chynoweth completed nine of his 17 passes for 185 yards. Echevarri caught a second touchdown on an 18-yard pass early in the second quarter after Recio hauled in a deep bomb for a 34-yard pickup to take the Lions into enemy territory. Recio was Galileo’s leading receiver, with four catches for 100 yards.
Joshua Shaw’s 32-yard touchdown run on a double reverse made it 32-0 with 8:39 left in the first half. Though the Lions never reached the official 35-point margin needed for a running clock, much of the second half was played with one via a gentleman’s agreement after penalties had turned the first half into a 90-minute marathon.
Robby Alvarez caught three passes for 79 yards to lead the Pumas, who finished winless for a second straight season. They’ve lost 15 consecutive games, dating back to a Nov. 15, 2019,loss to Lowell that kept them out of the playoffs. Alvarez returned an interception 60 yards in the third quarter, but Tiscareno recovered a bad snap on the following play. It was Galileo’s second takeaway; White intercepted a pass late in the first half.
While Burton hasn’t had tangible on-field success over the past two years, there were underlying signs of progress. The Pumas graduate just three seniors, though that does include Rodrigo Bermudez, who threw for 84 yards, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
Perhaps the most important thing the Pumas did this season was reinvigorate the fire within head coach Duane Breaux, who’s now coached the team for eight seasons.
“I’m dumb enough to come back,” he joked.
Breaux, who commutes from Oakley and also coaches the school’s basketball and track teams, was contemplating stepping aside after the season, but has committed to staying, citing a desire to see the 15 freshmen on the roster continue to develop.
“This is promising,” Breaux said. “I was thinking they might die off, but they’ve been there for every practice and every lunchtime meeting.”
Likewise, the Lions will return most of their roster next year. Chynoweth, Recio and Samson are only juniors.
“We’re hoping to have the transformation that Washington had,” Chynoweth said, referring to an Eagles team that finished the regular season 8-2 after winning just two total games over the prior two seasons.
Much of that development will need to come through offseason conditioning, which Naudain referred to in his postgame speech, noting that weight training begins in two weeks.
“Our strength came from the returning guys who got in the weight room, so now they see how real it is,” he said.
On Friday, though, the focus was entirely on the present.
“We got to give the seniors something to remember,” Chynoweth said.