On a night when everything was dressed in a blanket of blue and gold, and everyone looked their best, the product on the field was anything but attractive.
When you look at Alhambra’s 14-13 win over Dublin on Friday night, it’ll be a game that you cringe at when you see the box score, but smile at it when you make the check in the win column.
After last week’s loss to Campolindo, Coach Alan Hern stressed how important the final three games of the season were. During his week of practice he reiterated to his team what needed to be done.
“I think we have to learn how to be more intense and have a sense of urgency,” Hern said of his players’ attitudes on the field, emphasizing the need for a little fire from within to play football the way it’s meant to be played. “They played the way I wanted them to play, with passion and urgency, and for the guy next to them.”
Those were things he didn’t see in the games against Acalanes and Campolindo.
There was shakiness on offense; senior quarterback Zach Elliott was sacked three times in the first quarter alone.
“We knew we would get hard rushed on the outside, so we could step up into the pocket,” Hern said of the type of pressure Dublin presented his offensive front. “I said a couple of times, ‘If you don’t see what you want, you have alleys you can go out the front side,’ and he did a couple of times.
“There were still some times where he was reluctant to throw,” Hern said of Elliott. Without Jonathan McCart being able to take his usual burden of 20 carries in the ball game, Elliott was forced to drop back more than usual.
He was stripped of the ball in the third quarter, but showed his athleticism, strength and ability to keep a play alive in the second quarter. Elliott shrugged off a pass rusher and made a throw on the run to Damon Leonard from 36 yards out to open the scoring for the night. The touchdown pass came on a fourth down – only two plays after Elliott was sacked for the third time on the night.
A highlight reel interception from Dante Abono lit up the Homecoming crowd at a jam-packed Knowles Field. Abono’s first pick of the season set up first and goal for the Bulldogs, but Alhambra would be stopped thanks to a heroic stop by Dublin at the one-yard line.
Elliott scampered in from 13 yards out for his second touchdown of the night, but was held quiet throughout the second half by Dublin, who not only shut down the Alhambra signal caller, but forced Nicki Rucki to punt four times in the second half.
Despite being pinned back deep, Rucki always managed to give the Alhambra defense just enough breathing room. Perhaps most importantly, the junior punter also drew high praise from her coach.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt once more on their first possession of the fourth quarter, and then allowed running back John Son to punch the ball in from six yards out.
The new rule in the NFL that moved PATs back 13 yards has made it so extra points aren’t as automatic as they once were, but in high school that has never been the case. Special teams usually don’t win you too many games, but they can very well cost you some. Friday night they debunked that notion.
Leading the world in best Fridays ever, the senior class’s homecoming king, Joey Miller, broke through the line on the extra point and got his hands on the kick to lead Alhambra into a nerve-wracking 5:43 left of football with the lead, and not a tie.
As he’s done multiple times this season, Josh Ramirez stepped up to make a play, despite a nagging injury. Evret Korb’s pass intended for 6-foot-4 Steven Houston was picked off by Ramirez, who is listed at 5-foot-8. Garrett Arreaga, who also had an interception earlier in the game, as well as a sack, aided Ramirez with pressure on the quarterback.
With the win, Alhambra improves to 4-4 and sets up a dream scenario where if they win out, they would likely host a playoff game at Knowles Field in the opening round of the North Coast Section playoffs.