By GERARDO RECINOS
Basically anything the Bulldogs did on Friday night could have been classified as a step in the right direction, but it’s clear they’re going to need to figure things out ASAP.
Their 17-14 loss to San Marin on Sept. 2 did, however, show some progress on defense, and offensively they looked comfortable enough to take some risks – something they didn’t do in the loss to Acalanes.
While against the Dons, the Bulldogs looked shaky in pretty much every aspect of play. Against the Mustangs from San Marin, there were instances that alluded to strengths the team will have going forward this season.
Their pass-rushing in particular looked strong, and helped out a secondary that was victimized badly against the Dons.
Not that the team was flawless from the first whistle on Friday.
The Mustangs drove down the field and scored on their first possession with little fight from the Bulldogs. Running back Jamal Changuex was the work horse on the opening drive. He carried the ball six times for 22 yards. But the key play of the drive, and in fact the whole game, came on 4th and 13 in the first quarter.
San Marin dialed up a gutsy fake punt play when they could’ve punted from the Alhambra 39-yard line to pin the Bulldogs back.
Instead, wide receiver Mitchell Crowe connected with tight end Joey Reyff for 20 yards. That, and a 40-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Colin Hickey to Gavin Graybeal, put the Bulldogs in a 14-0 hole.
Daymyn Blalock struggled in the first half, but his defense allowed the two interceptions he threw to slide by, harassing the Alhambra senior’s opposite number.
Lenny Castro and Jeremy Abraham each had a sack on the quarterback in the first quarter alone, but Castro’s best contribution came on special teams.
The senior broke through the line and blocked a punt to give Alhambra the ball with 1:18 seconds just inside San Marin territory.
Blalock made his throw of the season so far when he connected with junior tight end Zach Schuler for 39 yards on the fly. The quarterback would evade a couple of tacklers to skip into the end zone for his first touchdown run of the season.
The Bulldogs had some momentum going. Even Blalock’s third interception on the night didn’t faze them. The defense got the Bulldogs the ball back and allowed the quarterback to redeem himself. Blalock connected with senior Jackson Norried, and the receiver did the rest.
Norried made a couple of potential tacklers miss, and got a crucial block from running back Daniel Boyd to even things up at 14-14.
San Marin marched the ball down the field on the ensuing possession, but got a stroke of luck on a contentious flag for a face mask against the Bulldogs. When asked who the flag was on, the referees called the number of a player who didn’t make the tackle.
That play kept the Mustangs in the range of their kicker, Payam Ravanfar, who drilled a 23-yard field goal that would be the deciding factor in the game.
Alhambra had three chances to take the lead for good in the fourth quarter, but all three times they turned the ball over without making the Mustangs sweat too much.
The loss puts the Bulldogs at 0-2 to start the season, with Washington-Fremont coming to visit before the Dogs go on a road trip that sees them take on two former Diablo Foothill Athletic League foes in Las Lomas and Miramonte before starting the league season at Ygnacio Valley-Concord on Oct. 7 after a bye week.