By GERARDO RECINOS
For the 110th time Alhambra High School celebrated their Homecoming last week. They played their 62nd football game and came out the victors over Mt. Diablo-Concord.
It seems appropriate that the oldest school in Contra Costa County played against the second-best (Mt. Diablo was founded in 1901, while Alhambra was founded in 1897). The Bulldogs pitched a second-half shutout on the way to a 45-18 win over the Red Devils.
Coming into the match up the two teams were on very different ends of the spectrum.
Mt. Diablo was reeling. With only a single win on the season, the Red Devils are a long way from their last North Coast Section appearance in 2009. The Bulldogs were rebounding from a decisive loss to Berean Christian, but have been given new life with two games left in a suddenly crowded Diablo Athletic League Foothill Conference.
A bizarre loss for Berean on a blocked field goal puts College Park up top with the only 3-0 record, while the Bulldogs, Northgate-Walnut Creek and Berean-Walnut Creek all with 2-1 league records.
Those results make it a two-game season, a comforting sight for Coach Alan Hern, who praised the Red Devils as a team who is close to turning it around.
Turning it around sometimes means being bold, and Mt. Diablo was ready to take some risks. Their first four kickoffs were onside kicks. They recovered two of them.
Alhambra’s first two drives stalled, but they were able to get a field goal from Nicki Rucki to put points on the board. Mt. Diablo didn’t stall. Junior quarterback Fernando Perez scored on a one-yard plunge to get the Devils on the board first. Then the signal-caller hit receiver Hodari King from 53 yards out to answer back a connection between Daymyn Blalock and Trent Greene from 24 yards out.
“We told the team earlier in the week while watching film, they have a lot of good players,” Hern said. The coach noted that they couldn’t keep up with Bulldogs in terms of conditioning because, “They just don’t have a lot of guys.”
Not that you could see that in the first half. The Red Devils put up 18 points, but couldn’t find a way to keep Austin Edwards out of the end zone. The senior, who has stepped in for Daniel Boyd, found the end zone three times on the night, they first coming with 6:11 in the second quarter.
That score was the last the Bulldogs would need, but not the last they would get.
Because the defense was in fine form coming out of the gates in the second half, the offense had plenty of chances to keep scoring.
Coming out of the locker room, Hern told the team they needed to be better. “I told them, I don’t want them to get another onside kick, and I want the score to stay where it is.”
The Dogs came through for their coach on both fronts. Spencer Schulhauser had two interceptions on the night, including one he made nearly on his back between two receivers. But Hern couldn’t have possibly expected what he saw next.
Linebacker has been a spot Hern has started to see a lot of improvement from. Junior Mason Yeager stepped up in a way that lit up the entire crowd.
The linebacker intercepted Perez’ pass and took it 68 yards for a touchdown, shifting gears and being able to coast the last 15 yards thanks to a key block by Jeremy Abraham.
The pick-six came after a 30-yard touchdown by Mr.YAC (yards after catch) Jackson Norried broke a couple of tackles before rumbling into the end zone.
After the loss against Berean, Hern said he knew the boys saw how much they still had in front of them, and that there was always desire to be a league champion. However that day he said the team was no longer in control of that destiny.
With a home game and finale showdown against College Park looming, a whole lot has changed for the better. The biggest being Alhambra now has control.