There were a lot of questions being asked before the Bulldogs and Dons kicked off the 2016-2017 football season on Friday night, but there would be even more after the final buzzer sounded.
The Aug. 26 loss to the Dons was a wash. Acalanes dominated in every facet of the game, and there was little doubt who the better team was well before the 40-7 loss quieted the unusually small crowd at Knowles Field.
If there was one play that could sum up the night, it was a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs had little to cheer about, but when they blocked Acalanes’ field goal attempt with 3:07 left on the clock they had something small to hang their hat on.
There was one problem – the whistle hadn’t pierced the jubilant yips of the Alhambra boys, buoyed by a well executed rush.
Acalanes’ special teams unit alertly scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown, flattening any excitement Alhambra could muster after such a lop-sided result.
It never looked like things would get off the mark for the Bulldogs on Friday night. They had a three and out on their first possession of the night, and then turned the ball over on their second possession.
They would turn the ball over five times in the first half alone, and struggled to get anything going on offense.
Coach Alan Hern made some changes throughout the game, including inserting sophomore Aaron Hern under center. Hern’s first pass resulted in a fumble by the receiver, and while the sophomore looked poised, his size ultimately failed him after he endured a big hit by the Acalanes lineman.
Hern landed awkwardly on the turf and went off with a broken collarbone.
Coach Hern was forced to re-insert Daymyn Blalock, but he could do little to restart the offense. And with no passing game to bolster the running attack, Daniel Boyd had little room to maneuver with the Dons keying on the run.
The lone bright spots on the night came from a receiving touchdown by Boyd. The junior was able to scamper in on a swing pass from Blalock and rumble into the end zone – and the play of the defensive line.
The linemen got in Acalanes quarterback Robby Rowell’s face, and forced the junior to make tougher throws than he would’ve liked.
Captain Tyler Clemons and Eddie Taylor spent most of the night harassing the quarterback, even after they lost a member of their line, Nick Haro, to an injury early in the second half.
Mason Yeager also contributed off the edge to provide pressure, but more importantly stuff the run game. Acalanes’ run game was almost non-existent. But with Rowell connecting with receiver Matt Burns – his favorite target on the night – they didn’t need to run the ball.
The inexperienced secondary that Hern had previously alluded to showed their youth, but also showed their determination. They battled despite the lopsided score until the final whistle, which will surely enhance their ability to improve.
The Bulldog boys will welcome San Marin on Friday night. The Mustangs from Novato also lost their opening ball game.
Both teams will look to get into the win column at Knowles Field. The two teams last met in the 2010 North Coast Section Playoffs where Alhambra was beaten by a score of 21-12.