By Ryan Owens, Online Sports Editor
A sea of blue and pink engulfed the south side of the Acalanes football field Friday night as the sweet sound of an “ACA-LAN-ES” chant was bellowed by hundreds of happy Dons.
Meanwhile, the Red “C” had fallen silent.
High school football analysts around the Bay Area predicted high scoring, lopsided affairs in favor of Campolindo for the game. Talk surrounding the game centered mostly around how dominant Campolindo had been, and not if Acalanes could win, but if they could keep the game close.
Needless to say, The Dons showed up. Acalanes dismantled the school in Moraga, owning every aspect of the game in a 17-7 victory.
“It feels like a dream come true. We’ve worked so hard for this and I’m so glad I’m able to share this experience with all my teammates,” senior linebacker Tommy Thrasher said.
After both teams opening drives resulted in punts, The Dons found themselves in a difficult situation, facing 2nd and 10 from their own 3 yard line. Senior wide receiver Jack Muren proceeded to embarrass a Campo cornerback on a streak route, catching a perfect pass from junior quarterback Brady Huchingson en route to a 97 yard touchdown. The 7-0 lead would not be relinquished for the remainder of the contest.
Early in the second quarter, the Cougars were driving deep in Acalanes territory until a fumble was recovered by Thrasher at the 4 yard line. A stalled Dons drive ended in a punt to their own 43.
A Campo passing touchdown was negated by a penalty, and junior Joey Carillo sacked the Cougar’s quarterback on 3rd down. One more drive for each team went nowhere, and the Dons went to the locker room up 7-0.
The Acalanes defense forced four punts and one turnover in the first half. An aggressive defensive strategy put the Campo offense on their heels all night.
“The key for our defense was all of our stunts we ran with the defensive line and linebackers. Being able to run all sorts of blitzes kept their offense on their toes,” Thrasher said.
The Cougars came out of the break with an inspiring drive that went negative one yard and punted to the Dons. Acalanes drove inside the Campo 20 yard line, but settled for a Hunter Ridley 35 yard field goal that extended the Dons lead to 10.
After the defense induced another Campo punt, the offense looked to add to the lead from the Cougar 6 yard line, but they could not convert on 4th and goal. The Dons entered the fourth quarter with a 10-0 lead, the defense having shut out the Cougars for 36 straight minutes.
Two plays into the quarter, Thrasher picked off a pass well behind the Campo receiver, setting the Dons up 20 yards from the endzone. Acalanes faced 4th and 4 from the 10 yard line, and Coach Floyd Burnsed looked to put the game away, opting to keep his offense on the field.
“I thought it was a risky move, but I believed our offense would make a play,” senior lineman Carson Burril said.
Burnsed’s gutsy call paid off, as Huchingson found Muren over the middle for a momentous touchdown, giving the Dons a 17-0 lead.
Campo’s quarterback tried to make something happen on their next possession, but threw a pass to a wide open Thrasher. After a failed 4th down conversion for Acalanes, the Cougars scored their only points of the night with help from a lucky long pass and a penalty. With one minute remaining, Carillo blew up a run play on 4th down and sealed the win.
The story of this game was a relentless Dons defense. What was thought to be an exceptional rushing attack for Campo was held to a measly 58 yards. The Cougars were a combined 0-10 on 3rd and 4th down, illustrating unrivaled defensive intensity.
Thrasher was a game breaker on defense, collecting eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. Huchingson was 10-18 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns to lead the offense.
For the seniors, this win will certainly leave a mark on what was a string of excellent showings against the school from Moraga.
“It really feels great to go out on a high note against Campo,” Burril said.
Do Your Research
I guess Campolindo did not read my article earlier in the week when I said the Dons defense has gone seven straight games with an interception. Make that eight straight.
Welcome Back Jack
In the two games since returning from injury, Jack Muren has hauled in 15 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns. His speed opens up an entirely new dimension for the Dons offense.
Acalanes travels to Orinda next week to face a 5-3 Miramonte squad. The Dons dropped a close game last year to the Mats in a 46-34 barnburner.