SAN MATEO — Capuchino’s Isaac Nishimoto found a way to calm the nerves he had before his varsity debut Friday night.
He ran fast and far.
In a season opener delayed seven months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the junior returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.
Nishimoto crossed the goal line two more times before the game ended as Capuchino defeated host San Mateo 35-14 to avenge a narrow loss to the Bearcats in 2019.
“I was just thinking I’ve got to do my job,” Nishimoto said. “My teammates are up in front, sacrificing their bodies for me. I’ve got to make the most out of it.”
It was a collective effort for Capuchino.
Justin Verna ran for two touchdowns and Amber Bussani was 5 for 5 on extra-point attempts, earning praise for her performance in a postgame address by the coaches.
Clearly, Capuchino didn’t spend the unprecedented 15-month off-season sitting around. The Mustangs were crisp from the start.
“I’ve got to give it up to the coaching staff,” head coach Jay Oca said. “It’s those guys. We all work hard, making sure our guys prepare. We’re very focused. We have high expectations, high standards, and it showed tonight.”
It certainly did when Nishimoto caught the kickoff at the 16-yard line and followed a pack of blockers along the left sideline. When things opened up, Nishimoto was gone.
Eleven seconds into the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division game, Capuchino led 7-0.
San Mateo responded immediately as Marco Martin capped a three-play series with a 31-yard touchdown run to even score 7-7.
But on this night, most of the big plays belonged to Capuchino.
Verna’s 8-yard touchdown run made it 14-7 and his 1-yard plunge extended the lead to 21-7 with still 1:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Nishimoto’s 15-yard touchdown catch from Devin Meyer in the third quarter and 2-yard run early in the final quarter finished the scoring for Capuchino. Nishimoto ran for 139 yards in 15 carries and caught two passes for 46 yards.
“He’s a special kid,” Oca said. “He’s electric. We’ve been working on him. He was rough around the edges when he first came into the program. It took some time, and this is the end result right here.”
Dane Anderson scored on a 17-yard keeper midway through the fourth quarter to account for San Mateo’s final touchdown.
“Cap’s a really good team, physical, more physical than I anticipated,” San Mateo coach Jeff Scheller said. “But I just said you’ve got to learn. A lot of times when you watch film in games like this where it just feels really bad, it’s usually just one or two things.”
With players limited to four guest passes for family members, the stands were mostly empty. There was no band and no snack shacks, either.
But Anderson, even in defeat, called it a great experience.
“It felt really good being out here,” he said. “We’ve been conditioning since early June. We’ve been waiting and we’ve been waiting. To finally get out here, it felt awesome, man. To finally get in pads and compete, it felt really good.”