By Ryan Owens, Online Sports Editor
The game of football has continued to evolve in of favor spectacular offensive displays and ridiculous passing numbers.
Yet nothing close to an offensive explosion transpired in Kentfield on Saturday, as the Acalanes football team saw their historic season come to an end after suffering a 7-0 loss to Marin Catholic in a defensive masterpiece.
The Dons defense came ready to play, forcing a three and out on the Wildcats first possession. But the offense gave the ball right back to Marin Catholic after junior quarterback Brady Huchingson threw his fourth interception of the season.
The Wildcats drove inside the Dons 15 yard line, but the defense tightened up, forcing the Wildcats to kick a field goal that was missed. On their next possession, Acalanes got into Marin Catholic territory thanks to a 40 yard pitch and catch from Huchingson to senior receiver Lucas Eppinger, but the drive stalled.
Marin Catholic drove all the way to the Acalanes 27 until junior Joey Carillo came up with a huge sack on 4th down. The first quarter ended with double zeros on the scoreboard.
The Dons began the second quarter with a quality drive with another long pass to Eppinger and physical runs, but two costly sacks on 2nd and 3rd down led to a punt.
A massive line for the Wildcats made the Dons a one dimensional passing team.
“They had a big strong front 7 which made running the ball difficult,” senior Carson Burril said.
The Acalanes defense once again bent but did not break, as junior Graham Oh intercepted a pass inside the Dons 10 yard line on 4th down. But after a couple of first downs, Huchingson overthrew Eppinger over the middle into the waiting arms of the Wildcats’ safety.
That interception would prove costly, as Marin Catholic busted open a 31 yard run for the only score of the contest, putting the Wildcats up 7-0.
After the Dons punted on their first drive to open the half, Marin Catholic drove deep into Acalanes territory but faced 4th and 1 from the 6. Senior Mikey O’Donnell made sure the Wildcats would only score seven points, scooping up a fumble and giving the ball back to the offense.
After another Acalanes punt, the defense forced an unusual 4th and 38 for Marin Catholic, leading to a Wildcat punt. After both teams again traded punts, the Dons had one final chance to tie or take the lead.
Acalanes found their way to the Marin Catholic 27, but penalties against the Dons moved the offense back to the 48 yard line. The Wildcats gave Acalanes numerous chances with penalties of their own, but a backbreaking sack on 3rd and 16 all but ended the game.
Despite the brutal loss to end the Dons memorable season, O’Donnell sees no shame in how his team performed throughout the year.
“I think we had a very good season but unfortunately couldn’t get it done. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for the way we battled against not only Marin Catholic, but the entire season as well.”
Putting on the Clamps
Since giving up 42 points in a loss to Las Lomas on Oct. 11, the Dons allowed just 35 total points in their last five games. The stifling unit shut down a Marin Catholic team that had averaged 38 points through their first 11 games.
It was an excellent season for Acalanes football. The Dons won their first league championship since 1980, and dominated an “overconfident” team from Moraga by beating them at their own game. Nine wins ties the program best in the last 15 years.
Acalanes football seems to be turning a corner, with 22 wins over the last three seasons. An undefeated JV team comes up to join a talented group of seniors next year.
“The program is in very good hands for the next couple of years and will be back in NCS fighting for a title,” O’Donnell said.
Here We Go Again
The loss to Marin Catholic, a private school, in the North Coast Section (NCS) semifinals is a familiar sight for Dons fans. Two years ago, Acalanes fell to Bishop O’Dowd 35-21 in the same game. Marin Catholic will play Cardinal Newman, another private school, for the championship this week.