By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra’s boys don’t really like to play defense, it seems, but they survived a second-half onslaught from Clayton Valley Charter-Concord to escape with a 19-17 win on Wednesday night.
Their Oct. 26 win really showed two different sides to the team. One where they can command the game and control the pace. And one where they can sit back absorb pressure.
Right off the bat Alhambra got into the type of scoring frenzy that’s been their modus operandi this season. Dylan Hammond assisted two goals to Tony Moore before 40 seconds had even come off the clock. Then Nico Taliaferro scored the third just outside of a minute into the game.
The Eagles were blitzed but got back into the game by converting a 5-meter. Still, the Dogs looked sharp. Offensively they moved the ball into their shooters hands with ease, and shrugged off defenders.
Hammond in particular looked like he over-matched nearly every player in pool with his six goals on the night. He and Taliaferro were the leading scorers on the night, with Luke Brown right behind him with three. Most of Brown’s goals came from hole set, when the Dogs looked to isolate the number 10 and let him do his thing.
By the end of the first quarter the Dogs were up 9-4, with Justin Davis scoring the ninth on a kickoff drawn on their last possession. Davis fired his shot in with only a second on the clock.
With goal scorers for Alhambra being marked a bit more heavily by the Eagles, the scorers turned providers. Moore assisted Brown’s second goal, which left the 2-meter player all alone to lob the keeper from close range.
The Alhambra onslaught was ruthless. After a shot from Hammond was saved by the Clayton keeper, the rebound fell to Moore, who buried an empty-netter. The Bulldogs turned on the style points before the half, ended.
Senior Aaron Sullivan scored on a skipping shot that beat the keeper, and then Hammond scored once more at the buzzer with a screamer into the far post.
Clayton Valley was reeling, so in the second half they adjusted their play on offense and fed their horse inside two meters.
The comeback was on and the crowd could sense it. Shouts of, “keep chipping away ‘CV’” could became more frequent as the Eagles crept their way back into the game.
Hanging on for dear life, the Bulldogs clung to their lead, despite being outscored 12-5 in the second half. Key efforts early in the half from Taliaferro to score on a deflected shot, as well as on a kickoff, were huge.
Then when Davis scored his second after a triple pump fake that sent the keeper the wrong way, the Eagles knew their climb would be too steep.
Clayton didn’t quit, but they also never got within two goals thanks to some solid play when it mattered on offense, and in spite of the lackadaisical defensive efforts.
The win sets up a grudge match tonight (Oct. 28) with Northgate, the reigning North Coast Section champions. Northgate has beaten Alhambra in their last two meetings. Previously the Bulldogs swept two contests from the Broncos in 2013, the year they were NCS champions.
Seeding for North Coast Section playoffs will be released on Sunday, Oct. 30.