Football fans in Martinez were smiling Friday night, and will probably carry that smile with them all week, because at Alhambra, it’s always a sight worth a smile when you beat College Park.
The 46-42 win not only catapulted the Bulldogs into the North Coast Section playoffs, it also stopped College Park from claiming a share of the Diablo Athletic league title.
It was like killing two Falcons with one stone.
“We don’t make it easy,” coach Alan Hern said after the shootout victory, referencing the 16-point deficit the Bulldogs had to overturn into order to get the win.
But when they needed to they made stops and got takeaways, and after a slow first half on offense, the Bulldogs scored in bunches.
A pair of Daymyn Blalock touchdown runs were all the offense the Bulldogs could get in the first half, while College Park scored three times, including an 86-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown on a well-placed fade route connection between quarterback Ryan McClure and receiver Jacob Sprung.
After a week of less than exciting offense play in the loss to Northgate, the offense slipped into gear quickly in the second half.
An interception by junior Zach Schuler on the first play of the second half set the tone for the defensive side of the ball, and sparked the offensive start with a short field.
61 seconds had come off the clock when Austin Edwards rumbled into the end zone from eight yards out.
The Falcons scored twice to respond to Edwards’ touchdown, and both came from turnovers. Both of the College Park touchdowns came from the men Hern described as the Falcons’ danger-men.
College Park punched their first touchdown of the second half in on a nine-yard run by junior Eli Dempsey, and the second was hauled in by senior Antoine Robinson.
“I thought we were going to have a hard time stopping (Dempsey) and (Robinson), and Robinson got loose on us a lot, he was a big difference maker,” Hern said. “We turned the ball over five times and that hurt us, we really stopped ourselves more than anything.”
Alhambra only punted twice on the night, which both times in the first half as the offense started to run instead of spinning it’s wheels.
Hern made a point of running the ball with his quarterback Blalock. His third running touchdown from 11 yards out brought the Bulldogs within 10 points.
Blalock and Edwards on the ground tired out the Falcon defense which spent more time on the field in the second half than the offense did. With less time on the field, the Falcon offense made more mistakes.
Jordan Dent made a big interception as the secondary shifted around to accommodate for an injury suffered by sophomore safety Wyatt Hammer. Fellow sophomore Henry Turner played well in an emergency shift.
Dent’s interception set up a 33-yard strike from Blalock to Spencer Schulhauser to bring the deficit to only three points.
Early in the match senior Dillon Lee was called on two pass interference calls, but the defensive back made a change and a big pass defense on fourth down and 11 forced a big turnover.
That set up the play of the night, and the most and the most exciting 100 seconds of the season.
Blalock connected with senior Thomas McDonald on a quick bubble screen, and McDonald took it 90 yards into the end zone to give Alhambra their first lead of the night.
But College Park took back the lead after only 43 seconds, with Robinson pulling down a 51-yard pass.
But it was Alhambra that delivered the knockout blow.
Only 50 seconds after McClure and Robinson connected for the second time on the night, Blalock ran in his fourth touchdown of the night from 69 yards for the eventual winning score.
The only problem was there were still five agonizing minutes on the clock.
A big interception by Lee looked like it would seal the deal, but Alhambra couldn’t get the first down they needed to burn off the remaining time on the clock. Schuler’s second interception of the night with 1:26 on the clock nearly did the same.
A strange officiating decision took away a third down and College Park forced a big fumble, that ultimately didn’t factor into the result, but it made the Bulldog fans sweat.
The win got the Bulldogs to the magic 5-5 mark that allowed them to get a number 12 seed in the playoffs, which sees them meet up with Miramonte on Friday, Nov. 11 on the road.
Hern was wary of getting a team like Miramonte that passes the ball well, but says the improvement in the side would make the match up interesting.
“We’re a different team than we were then,” Hern said of the previous match up with the Matadors.