By GERARDO RECINOS
Big players can take over big games and in their game against Berean Christian Friday night, the Bulldogs saw up close that they can also live up to the hype.
Four-star rated Rivals.com recruit Isaiah Hodgins and the Eagles hosted the Bulldogs at Clayton Valley Charter and beat them 56-36 in a fiery battle between two teams with playoff aspirations.
“He’s difficult to deal with because he is a big body, he takes up a lot of space and uses his body well,” Hern said of the senior Hodgins who burned the Bulldogs in every aspect of the game.
From the second play on you could tell there was no love lost. Hodgins made a big block on his receiver from the corner back position, and it wasn’t the only time he would figure into the game on the defensive side of the ball.
But where he truly hurt the Dogs was as expected. Hodgins caught 11 passes for a whopping 243 yards. Of those 11 catches five went for touchdowns.
Four of the former Washington State commits touchdown grabs came in the first half, when the Bulldogs were without their starting quarterback, as well as their starting running back Daniel Boyd.
Boyd broke his foot in the win over Ygnacio the week prior, but Daymyn Blalock was available to play in the second half.
Both of their understudies had seen time on the field, and Austin Edwards made good use of his carries, and he will see the bulk of the load on the ground for the rest of the season. Nicki Rucki added a field-goal from a career long 33 yards out to cap the first-half scoring.
He scored to initially give the Bulldogs the lead before Chandler Davis connected with the aforementioned Hodgins four separate times from 10, 15, 45 and 14 yards out.
After the game Hern said he felt the boys were resilient enough to play even with the Eagles in the second half, noting that spotting them an 18-point lead doomed them.
With Blalock in the ball game the offensive unit regained soon of the rhythm it had established in their last four games. They drove down the field 62 yards on their first possession, with a 36-yard pass to Trent Greene setting up the Bulldogs in Eagle territory. Greene controlled the ball with his right hand and brought it down despite hitting the ground hard. That set up a one-yard scramble from Blalock for a touchdown.
Berean’s Johnny Grillos matched that effort when he punched it in from 1-yard out for the Eagles less than three minutes later.
Alhambra scored on the following possession when Blalock connected with Zach Schuler, and then once more on a screen to Jackson Norried to set things up with 9:09 at 35-30 in favor of Berean.
Then it all fell apart. The Bulldogs wasted a booming kick from Rucki that pinned the Eagles back inside their own 15-yard line. Eagles running back Nicholas Gaitan ran for a gain of 22 on a drive that covered 85 yards in 2:41. The drive was capped off by a leaping touchdown grab by who Hodgins.
Not content to only make his mark on the offensive side, Hodgins took Blalock’s second pass of the next drive and intercepted it, and took it 82-yard in the other direction for a touchdown.
Chaos had descended, with the lead out of reach, the two teams started to get chippy, and the chirping could be heard from the Berean sideline.
There were four personal foul penalties in the fourth quarter alone, and from the rumblings on the sidelines post handshake on the field it was clear words were exchanged.
Hern was not visibly upset after the game, but did assert that he wasn’t happy with the level of sportsmanship the Eagles and their coaching staff exhibited in their victory.
After the game, Berean’s head coach James Hodgins let his opinion be known. In a since deleted tweet the former Super Bowl winner with the Rams said “I never understood (sic) coaches that cant show good sportsmanship! Did you really think you had a chance? Common(sic) man! Watch film! #AlhambraHS”
Both teams have three games left on the season, and both figure to be atop the Diablo Athletic League along with Northgate-Walnut Creek, with Berean Christian holding all the cards with a 2-0 league record.