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Alhambra football advances in NCS playoffs

Alhambra running back Jonathan McCart celebrates the first of his two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 40-14 win over the De Anza Dons on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 at Knowles Field in Martinez. The win moves the Bulldogs into the second round of the North Coast Section Playoffs. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)
Alhambra running back Jonathan McCart celebrates the first of his two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 40-14 win over the De Anza Dons on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Knowles Field in Martinez. The win moves the Bulldogs into the second round of the North Coast Section Playoffs. (GERARDO RECINOS / Martinez Tribune)

By GERARDO RECINOS
Martinez Tribune

In what is likely the final game this season at Knowles Field, the Alhambra High School Varsity Football Team beat out the De Anza Dons in a tough first round match up.

The Bulldogs 40-14 win on Friday, Nov. 13, was pretty convincing once the fired up Alhambra boys took control of their emotions and played sound football.

“I really thought the referee was atrocious in this game, and that put us in terrible situations where they stopped our drives, more than we stopped out drives,” Coach Alan Hern said.

Alhambra got out to a nice lead to open the ball game. They scored in their first possession on an 11-yard touchdown by Jonathan McCart, who scored twice on Friday night.

Another senior scoring on the ground followed up his touchdown. This time it was quarterback Zach Elliott who scored on a draw play from 19 yards out.

Elliott’s touchdown was set up by a 60-yard reception from senior Josh Abraham. Elliott rolled out to his right and hit Abraham on the fly despite the underthrown ball.

Abraham left the field under his own power on the tackle and was out for the rest of the game.

De Anza’s opening touchdown came on a one-yard run from junior tailback Rico Tolefree, who had an excellent game and really challenged the Bulldogs.

Damon Leonard ignited the Alhambra crowd by taking the resulting kick-off 82 yards to the house. Leonard mishandled the ball on his initial touch, but re-routed his course and went across the field untouched.

The poor officiating to which Hern alluded to took its toll on a normally level-headed Hern in the second half.

“The momentum definitely swung away from us and we had to regain that at halftime,” said Hern. “I wasn’t mad at them (the players). We can’t control what the referee is going to do.”

The Bulldogs’ unease with the refereeing started on a double personal foul penalty that moved them back 35 yards in on fell swoop. At one point, the Bulldogs lined up for a third down and 45 to go.

Because of the field position, De Anza scored on the very next possession, but Alhambra made the adjustments Coach Hern told them to make at halftime.

The changes and the fired up defense played against the Dons, and the referees, as Hern put it.

A fired up defense pulled out three takeaways in the second half, with an interception from senior Jeremy Therssen and one from sophomore Mason Yaeger, as well as a fumble recovery by senior Dante Abono.

From that point on, the Bulldogs moved the ball across the field on the ground with ease and with authority.

Elliott scored on another draw play from nine yards out, while touchdowns from McCart and junior varsity call up Austin Edwards all but sealed the deal for Alhambra and punched their ticked into the next round of the playoffs.

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 7-4 overall. The Bulldogs will take on the winner of the Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland and Piner-Santa Rosa game.

In the most recent match up against O’Dowd in 2009, the Bulldogs beat the Dragons 35-21 in coach Dave Silveira’s last game at the helm of the Bulldogs.

Hern has been the head coach since.

The Bulldogs will play on Nov. 20 or Nov. 21. Results will be posted on the North Coast Section website at cifncs.org.

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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