JV WIN: A Band of Brothers, the Dons Defense Comes Together to Face Down the Cougars, 15-14

“One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time”, Rocky Balboa, Creed

It was a heavyweight fight last Friday night, when the Acalanes JV Dons met the Campolindo JV Cougars at Campolindo’s home field. For most of the players it was a chance for redemption after a rough outing last year on the same field where they faced off as freshmen. Due to the quirkiness of the schedule, they’ll end up playing at Campo three of the four times they will meet over the course of their H.S. Football careers, so they had to learn how to win in enemy territory. But this wasn’t just any opponent, these are our “friendly neighbors”, our “distant cousins”, who we teamed up with in Little League, had classes with at Stanley, shared huddles with in MOL, and CYO, so it wasn’t just another game, this was deeply personal.

Campo won the opening kick-off but deferred, so Acalanes got the ball first. After driving all the way down to the Campo 35-yard line, the drive stalled after a fourth down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Campo took over and immediately incurred a procedure penalty. This was a harbinger of things to come as Campo finished with 10 penalties for 55 yards (almost all for offsides), while Acalanes only had 2 for 15 yards. A spectacular one-handed Campo catch (despite blanket coverage by CB Ellis Burger) netted Campo a first down on the Don’s 40, and some momentum, but that’s when the Don’s defense said “No Más”. DT Marcus Julian broke through and stuffed a run attempt on 1st down, LB Ben Foox repeated the feat on 2nd, and then DE Justin Zegarowski & DT Zach “Rac” Robb sacked the Cougar QB for a loss on 3rd, to force the punt.

The momentum was back with the Don’s now and they quickly worked their way downfield. QB Kyle Bielawski ran for five, then tossed a pass to WR Ethan “Bake” Torres for another 10. A quick out to WR Jake “Shake” Takeuchi netted 5, followed up by a first down scamper by RB Toby Schwing. With the Campo defense staggering, Kyle unleashed a 25-yard haymaker down the right sideline to Shake Takeuchi and the Dons were rolling. The Cougars were down but not out however, and another spectacular play, this time a leaping finger-tip interception in the end zone, ended the Don’s drive.

The teams traded possessions for the rest of the first half with both offenses throwing blows and neither defense allowing anything to connect. Acalanes had moved the ball better than Campolindo up to that point, but the score at the end of the 1st was still 0-0.

Campo started out with the ball in the 2nd half and the Don’s defense picked up where it had left off. Stops by DE Ty Worthington, LB Miller Smith, Justin and Zach, had the Cougars in trouble with a 3rd and long from their own 15. That’s when lightning struck, a quick slant just over the out-stretched hands of the Dons defenders, connected with a Cougar WR in stride and he sprinted 85 yards for the first big blow. Campo 6, Acalanes 0. In a bit of foreshadowing, the XP was missed.

The Dons were now against the ropes for the first time after 20+ minutes of trading blows. This was a big turning point in the game.

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and still keep going forward.” Rocky Balboa, Rocky Balboa

On 1st down Toby was stopped for no gain. On 2nd down Kyle took a QB draw up the middle for 12 yards and a first down. Toby took the rock next for a gain of 8, and Kyle followed up with a short burst for the 1st down. It’s at this point that the Campo D was introduced to a Cougar nightmare called “32 Trap”.

On the 32 Trap, OTs Marcus Julian and Zach Robb turn and seal the DEs outside, RG Nathan Kim fires out on the MLB, LG Victor Nicolacakis pulls right to kick out the right-side DT, and C Justin Zegarowski slants to pick up the DT on the left. Toby follows Victor through the hole and runs over any Cougar defenders left standing. The Dons continually pounded Campo with the play for the rest of the game. It didn’t matter that they knew it was coming, it didn’t matter that Cougar defenders were calling out “Trap”, they couldn’t stop it, and Toby and the Dons O-line hammered them again and again.

32 Its A TRAP! Guards Nathan Kim and Victor Nicolacakis cleared the way for RB Tobu Schwing

First down and Kyle runs for 2 yards. 32 Trap for 3 yards. 32 Trap again for another 3. Fourth and 2, and what do you do? 32 Trap right down their throat and this time Toby freight trains a safety and drags three more Cougars into the End Zone for a 12-yard TD. Huchingson’s XP makes it 7-6 Dons.

The Cougars were down now but not out, as this was a championship level fight. After SS Coco Gannon stoned a kick-off return at the 20, the Cougars exploded up the middle with a 30-yard blast into Don’s territory. Two more runs and a couple of pass completions against a Don’s D now back on its heels and Campo had the ball inside the 12. Two more runs around right end results in a Campo TD, and a RPO roll out right converted for two points to give Campo the lead at 14-7.

It was up to the Campo D now to try and stop what they knew was coming… and come it did. RB Ben Foox gave Toby a break and ran 32 Trap for 7. Toby returned to run it again for a 1st down. After an incompletion, the Dons were hit with one of their few penalties and were faced with 2nd and 15. A 14 yard out to Ethan Torres gave the Dons a short 3rd and one, which set up, you guessed it, 32 Trap for 20 all the way down to the Campo 22-yard line. The Campo D now were desperate and buckled down for the next few plays. A QB draw for no gain, an incomplete pass left a 3rd and 10, after which the Cougars finally stopped 32 Trap for only 1 yard. A clutch pass and catch by Kyle to WR Trevor Rogers for 12 yards netted a key first down, and another 32 Trap got the Dons to the two. The Dons brought in the heavy formation and after getting stopped on 1st down, Kyle faked the handoff and out sprinted the Cougar defense to the right pylon for the TD, Campo 14, Dons 13. All that was left was the decision to go for the tie or the win. With momentum on their side, the Dons rolled the dice and with Kyle rolling right, found LB/TE George Churchill in the back of the end zone for the go ahead two-point conversion, Dons lead 15-14.

QB Kyle Bielawski finds TE George Churchill for the two point conversion

With a lot of time left on the clock, Campo wasn’t done. After an exchange of possessions, Campo hit two long passes to get down to the Acalanes 20-yard line with less than a minute left. However, Campo went to the well once too often and Coco made them pay with his second interception of the day in the end zone to seal the win. All that was left was for Kyle to kneel down and run out the clock. Final score Dons 15, Campo 14.

Overall an outstanding, hard-fought, tough win. Both Kyle and Toby had rushing TDs, Toby averaged 6.5 yards a carry on 11 carries. CB Ellis Burger, SS Coco Gannon and FS Max Thomas had 4 solo tackles each. LB Miller Smith had 3 solo, 4 assists and 1.5 TFLs, and of course Coco had two interceptions including the game sealing one in the end zone with less than a minute left.

Next week at Benicia, who led Campo 7-0 in the 1st before losing 27-14. Go Dons!

Thank you to Jeff Julian, Sports Writer and Proud Dons Dad