By GERARDO RECINOS
A formula for the amount of yardage flagged by officials is still in the works so we can’t quantify it quite yet, but make no mistake – it had an effect on the Bulldogs on Friday night.
For the opening 30 minutes of the Oct. 2 football game against the Acalanes Dons, we were dealing with a shootout. Both teams knew the importance of executing every play properly, and we were at 14-13 in favor of Acalanes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the hosts went home with a 34-13 win.
“We really have to get beyond being the ‘almost team,’” said Alhambra High School Football Coach Alan Hern after the game. “We have a lot of these moments where we’re almost good enough to make the play and win the game, and we’re not doing it.”
Hern likened his team’s form at the moment to a new project being started every week. So far, that would put that tally at three successful projects, and three that have been failures.
Alhambra went down early, as the Dons leapt to a 14-0 lead. The Dons scored on a bootleg by senior Jake Berry who found tight end Matt Bostwick in the end zone from 36 yards out. The Bulldogs were caught through the air after Acalanes ran eight running plays to start their opening drive before airing it out.
Their second touchdown came on a 30-yard run from senior Nathan Edwards.
Unable to put together anything through the air, the Bulldogs relied on senior running back Jonathan McCart to once again carry the load on his shoulders. He was the security blanket of the offense, until he wasn’t.
McCart ran for 136 yards on 15 carries in just about a half of play before going down with an injury and having to be helped off the field.
Alhambra had, to their credit, marched down the field with time expiring in the half. Senior quarterback Zach Elliott linked up with fellow senior Josh Ramirez to get his team on the board before the half.
But even then, with all the penalties and mental mistakes, it was clear they couldn’t go on like that.
Elliott connected with senior running back Matt Beck on a swing pass from eight yards out, and despite a missed extra point, you got the feeling it was all knotted up.
Everything was in favor of the Bulldogs at this point, 13 unanswered points, and then good pressure from the quarterback’s blind side by senior Dante Abono forced an errant throw and an interception by Ramirez.
The Bulldogs had the ball on the Dons’ 23-yard line, and that was the last time they would look threatening all game.
On second and five inside the Acalanes red zone, Matt Burns intercepted Elliott’s pass. That would eventually lead to a 1-yard plunge into the end zone by Edwards.
The climb was becoming tougher for Alhambra.
Less then two minutes later, Edwards struck again from 85 yards out. The Bulldogs were reeling. Four turnovers in the second half, and more yellow flags than anyone could count maimed any sort of Bulldog comeback.
“We had too many penalties on key plays in the game,” Hern said. “Decision making at times was poor, and it just reflects poorly on all of us.”
In an attempt to surprise their opponent, Alhambra ran a sweep trick play that was drawn up to be a pass play, but was picked off by a defensive back that stayed on his assignment, and was rewarded for doing so.
A dropped pass and a pick six later, Acalanes was up 34-13 and it was all but done for Alhambra.
A quick bunch walked off the field on Friday night, having listened to their coach in one of their longer team talks this season.
When asked what he told his players, Hern said he specifically challenged the seniors to step up and lead the team.
“I told our seniors, I challenged our seniors, I said ‘Look, this is your team. There are 24 seniors on the team and I haven’t really seen you guys take charge of the team and be really assertive.’
“’And at some point you have to – this is your year,’” Hern said. “We can’t talk about unrealized potential anymore, we have to do it.”