The lights shut off at Miramonte’s football field late on Friday night, and six players lingered. Completely silent, their actions said so much; they knew their football careers were over.
Those six players represent what the Alhambra football program was and will be in the future, much more than the 55-20 North Coast Section playoff loss on Nov. 11 will. Those six players were the only six of an already small senior class who went through the program from freshmen to seniors.
“This summer we were at passing league in Vacaville and I looked around and asked, ‘How many of you guys have played varsity football before?’” Coach Alan Hern’s question got a resounding zero from the players present, but that theme was consistent throughout the season – this team was young.
A score line from a September clash between the Bulldogs and Matadors doesn’t show much change from the team that got beaten on Friday night, but make no mistake – it was a different team.
“We weren’t totally ready for Acalanes the first game, and then we got better,” Hern said of the steady improvement throughout the season. “We played a pretty good team tonight (Nov. 11) and played them pretty even for a long time.”
In the first game of the season Alhambra turned the ball over five times in the first half alone, and while they would also turn the ball over five times in their playoff loss, there was a difference.
Blalock’s throws in the opener were often off his back foot, and didn’t look comfortable. On Friday night he was beaten by well-disguised coverage, and a linebacker like Casey McGonigle, who spied him all night.
For about two-and-a-half quarters we looked in store for a shootout. Daymyn Blalock was matching the highly vaunted Miramonte offense led by senior signal-caller Tim Tague. Blalock slashed the Matadors with his quick feet and darting moves, but also completed some passes.
Senior Jackson Norried scored less than a minute into the game, taking a 70-yard bubble screen to the house to ignite the Alhambra crowd, which looked larger than the complacent Matador crowd.
Tague threw three touchdown passes in the first half, all to a different receiver, and Blalock matched all but one in the first half, despite defensive efforts from captain Tyler Clemons, who had a pair of sacks on the night and an interception by Jet Noland that set the Bulldogs up with a chance to answer back.
Hern’s themes of youth and inexperience would, however, make an appearance late in the game, as the more seasoned Tague continued to pick apart the secondary.
Tague threw for another pair of touchdown passes in the second half, and handed off to a pair of different runners (Peter Stehr and Jason Pacaur) while also running one in himself.
At the time it happened, Blalock’s 43-yard touchdown run looked like it could be the spark to ignite the team. But it fell way short, as Miramonte played 16 minutes of stifling defense and took the ball away three times before punching their ticket for a date with Marin Catholic on Saturday afternoon.
After the game Hern was complimentary of his seniors, but couldn’t help but keep an eye on the future.
“We had (underclassmen) guys in key positions, we had a sophomore play in every snap at center (JT Griffin) directing the offense, we had (sophomore) Wyatt Hammer playing almost every snap at the back end,” Hern said. “A lot of the defense you saw out there is going to be back. And the group coming up from the JVs are talented and have had a lot of success.”
“We’re looking forward to it next year,” he said, walking off the field in the dark.