Alhambra sputters against Rancho

Alhambra senior wide receiver Damon Leonard goes up to win a ball in the air in the Bulldogs' 55-19 loss to the Rancho Cotate Cougars on Sept. 4, 2015. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra senior wide receiver Damon Leonard goes up to win a ball in the air in the Bulldogs’ 55-19 loss to the Rancho Cotate Cougars on Sept. 4, 2015. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

Martinez Tribune

As the clock wound down and the celebration drew quiet after the Alhambra Bulldogs’ win over the College Park Falcons last Friday night, Coach Alan Hern spoke only of Rancho Cotate.

He was adamant that his players would need to play a clean game against a team that was expected to challenge for the section title. What he got was far from that, and as a result the Bulldogs left Rohnert Park with their tails between their legs after getting walloped 55-19.

After the game, Hern said that he knew the Cougars were the real deal and lauded their athleticism as well as their overall team chemistry, which showed from their screen game and overall control of their offense.

“We knew they had a good offense, and they’re very experienced,” said Hern. “We had players (Dante Abono and Josh Abraham) go down and basically had to replace them with sophomores who were deer in headlights. You could see our inexperience.”

Both teams scored on their first possession on Friday night (Sept. 4), with Elliott connecting with Josh Ramirez from 27 yards out less than three minutes after Mefferd connected with Jaelen Ward on a slant from eight yards out. For all intents and purposes it looked like we were in for an old-fashioned shoot out.

However, it was clear through the repeated emphasis of the screens they were running that Rancho worked together as a better unit, simply due to the amount of time they’ve all been together.

The electric duo of Gunner Mefferd and Chris Taylor-Yamanoha looked especially frightening. But more important was the contribution they got from running back Moziah Ward.

The diminutive tailback was elusive and quick, seemingly shedding tacklers with every move he made. He broke tackles for fun, and more times than not he left Alhambra defenders in the dust to the tune of over 200 rushing yards.

Alhambra got a valiant effort from John McCart in the running game, but similar to their defense, there was still a lack of execution that would ultimately doom them.

There were too many dropped passes in key situations, and an offense like the Cougars’ feasted off of it.

Rancho scored on their first three possessions before having to punt, but they came back and on their fifth, scored on a well timed draw play on fourth down to go up 28-6.

Another Alhambra possession, another crucial dropped pass, and another Rancho touchdown all came only a minute and 23 seconds after the game’s fourth touchdown, so that by halftime Rancho had built up a 35-6 lead.

In the second half, Elliott scored using his legs, and then connected with sophomore Daniel Boyd on a swing pass to give Alhambra some small success to hang their hat on, but it was nowhere near enough to catch up to the machine that was the Cougar offense.

“Zach hung in there and he fought, and he worked at things that we did in practice,” Hern said. “We knew this would be the toughest opponent we would have in non-league [games] and if things went well, we would be alright.

“It’s hard to match their experience with the guys we have right now,” he said.

The Bulldogs will visit Armijo-Fairfield on Friday, Sept. 11, before coming home on Sept. 18 to host Washington-Fremont as they round out their non-league portion of the schedule.

About Gerardo Recinos

Gerardo Recinos is a journalist currently living in Concord, Calif. He is a recent graduate of San Francisco State University, with a degree in Journalism (History minor). Gerardo covers sports throughout Martinez and Pleasant Hill. It's his lifelong mission to get people in the U.S. to stop calling football "soccer," and to call American football "handegg."

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