Life without Acalanes Football we feel aimless, lost, and adrift– like a quarterback with no center, nachos without cheese or Beyonce without Jay-Z

Life without Acalanes Football  we feel aimless, lost, and adrift– like a quarterback with no center, nachos without cheese or Beyonce without Jay-Z

But the countdown has begun…

No Friday night lights?  No chants, no cheers, no superstitions?  No standing up for the kick-off and no high fives after every touchdown?  No team meals. No checking the weather on Monday to prepare for whatever climates we will sit in come on Friday. No Dons shirts,  no Acalanes Football hats.  No looking for parking in the parking lot. No snack shack with the smell of BBQ and popcorn in the air.  No blue #1  foam fingers. No Stanley kids hanging on the fences, watching the Big Dons play. We are left to find a way to entertain ourselves during the fall instead of having a built-in plan in place. We wait…we wait…we hope…we wait…. to hear the pre-game chant from Coach Burnsed telling his team, ‘It’s a great day to be a Don!’   

But the countdown has begun for the first scrimmage game in December with a big blue circle on December 30. We will continue to be strong, and resilient. We will eagerly await the sound of the whistle, the smell of the BBQ in the air, the knock of the shoulder pads, and the roar of the crowd. On this day, we will have our boys in their uniforms on. On this day, the Dons will return, and the Boys of Blue will be back on the field. We love Dons Football so much! In this week we will fluff up our blue pom-poms, pull out the folded up booster club bleacher chairs in the garage and heck, we might even dry clean our favorite Acalanes shirt to have it crisp, clean and ready to go! Look at your watches, take a look at your iphone…count it down to December 30. When Acalanes football returns, we will appreciate it more than ever….because everyday …IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BE A DON!

Video: Dons Mom are BLUE-tiful!

Football gives them the experience of working as a team and of what it means to depend on the people around them and to feel the thrill of the win and the heartbreak of defeat—life lessons you learn best when you live them yourself. It’s exhilarating, fun and awesome to watch our boys play their hearts out. When you debrief after a game, you listen and teach as only a number-one mom-fan can do. Through sports and your guidance, you’re teaching your children the importance of being a team player, playing and acting selflessly.  Dons Moms are their kid’s biggest fan, and the truth is, you should be! And your Don knows it. That is how Dons Moms roll!

I not only miss the game, and the determination that our kids show, but I really miss my fellow Moms! – Liz Oh

Our football community can’t imagine a Fall without football, we are suffering from a case of culture shock with covid taking away football and trying to figure out what to do  on a Fall Friday Night?! For now the football  lights do not shine, the Dons hungry to play games and the moms crave to cheer on their Dons. I miss feeling close to my son—he knows I’m out there watching the game and supporting him, and it makes me feel like we have a connection, shared Laura Bergman. I miss the cool Friday nights in the stands and the energy of crowds keeping me warm. I miss seeing my son rise up and conquer goals with his teammates, his friends at his side, added in Ami Rowland. It is so true, Don Moms are  missing the energy, spirit in the stands on Friday Nights, the feeling of community and the thrill of a Don’s victory. 

We love you to the end zone and back-GO DONS!

Anyone can be a football mom, but ACALANES FOOTBALL MOMS take it to a high level. We asked a few Don Moms what it takes to be  a REAL Football Mom:

A “real” football mom cheers on the team in the stands, understands the game, and makes sure that their son’s uniform is clean or as clean as can be before the next football game –Angela White 

A ‘real’ football mom is to maintain a balance of them while staying grounded and not losing sight of the importance of academics-Gilly Malmquist 

A ‘real’ football mom yells louder than the ref’s whistle, loves when the other team’s quarterback is sacked for a lost of 15 yards, hugs and five highs when the announcer yells TOUCHDOWN ACALANES and Dons sweat is her favorite perfume on a Friday night!  –Jane Smith 

A “real” football mom is one who isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself in a blue wig for the sake of team spirit! -Jennifer Michlitsch

A ‘real’ football mom knows the rules of the game and comes dressed to games with ACA swag! –Anna Epppinger

A ‘real’  football mom is Passionate (ie air horns at the Marin Catholic game),  fun loving, and Always there for hugs (win or lose)-Liz Oh

A ‘real’ football mom wants the best for our boys and we support them no matter what -Laura Bergman

FIERCENESS.  FIRE.  FEROCITY.  PASSION. Absolute LOVE for our DONS sons!  These are the descriptors that comprise the captivating TEAM SPIRIT of ALL Acalanes DONS MOMS!   Our DONS PRIDE WILL NEVER FADE OR DIE!Gail Pearson


and hit them HARD!

A ‘real’ football mom has equal parts support, love, fear, and tolerance for smelly equipment-Ann Huchingson

A ‘real’ football mom loves the kids first and foremost and loves our school and community-Brenda Rossi 

 A ‘real’ football mom supports her son 100% whether that is yelling her head off, making sure his uniform is clean, listening to him retell each play, or reminding him it is always about the game and the team , not whether you win or lose. I am so proud of my DON! –Marianne Brent

A ‘real’ football mom has friendships that are  made in the bleachers, that  are irreplaceable. The closeness, our collective cheers, and the pride we all feel for our boys on the field-Sarah Carrillo

A ‘real’ Football Mom realizes that no matter how much bleach you use in your laundry, your son’s “white” pants will always be grey forever-Melissa Murphy

A ‘real’ football mom has a multifaceted job.  Our role is to at times lead the charge (rides, home, schedules, meals, family stuff) but most of the time our function is in the backdrop. Being a support system is my goal and here’s how I do it: Always cheer on the team whether they’re winning or losing, talk about the positives, and have fun- Dolorez Dumas-Aris

Varsity Coach Burnsed: The Football Legend

Varsity Coach Burnsed: The Football Legend

In 2017 when Coach Burnsed joined the Dons family, AHS quarterback Robby Rowell (now a quarterback for the California Bears) stated, “Coach Burnsed is a legend around Lamorinda”.

When you have over 40 years of coaching football, you have a coach with knowledge, a level-headed approach and experience. Our Acalanes varsity coach has all that and more. Throw in other adjectives like passionate, focused, positive, friendly, approachable and cooler than ‘Joe Cool’ that is Floyd Burnsed.

There are many qualities that encapsulate Coach Burnsed, he is a calm but inspiring leader who can help us keep our heads straight in a crazy game, and focus on the task at hand, #14 Graham Oh, 2019 & 2020 Varsity Running Back & Middle Linebacker

Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling. Graham Oh has that figured out, as he takes down a Vintage Crusher.

A long-time Vallejo resident and football coach, Burnsed established himself as one of the top high school coaches in the nation by compiling a 154-62-2 record while winning 10 league championships and four North Coast Section championships. Burnsed was named Contra Costa County “Coach of the Year” three times, 1983 Champion “Coach of the Year”, the San Francisco 49ers 1996 “Coach of the Year”, the San Francisco 49ers 2019 “Coach of the Week”, and the North Coast Section “Coach of the Year” in 2000. He was inducted into the Miramonte Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.

Absolutely-A LEGEND!

Last year in 2019, SF 49ers PREP selects Floyd Burnsed of Acalanes High School as the  Coach of the Week 

When the Friday Night Lights illuminate across 94549, everyone convenes at Acalanes for the event of the week, Varsity football! Burnsed and his Dons pour it all out on the field in an effort to prevail.  Don fans pack the stands to support and cheer on student-athletes. There’s a genuine love and desire to see the team and players do well.

 I knew Coach Burnsed believed in me when I got my first start of the season, #8 Brady Huchingson, 2019 & 2020 Quarterback

Acalanes hasn’t missed a beat with (then junior), now senior Brady Huchingson at quarterback in the 2019 season. After last year’s standout quarterback Nick Kresnak, a University of Washington baseball commit, opted not to return for his senior season, the Dons turned to Huchingson. He proved to be a quick study, having completed 67.3 percent of his passes this season while mastering the position.

Acalanes football has always been about building a solid foundation for a young person’s life, based on principles and experiences that can only be taught through the game. It’s about cultivating genuine relationships between players, coaches and a community of fans and that is what Coach Burnsed does so very well.

There’s nothing like Acalanes football!


But this year as covid dominates our lives, classrooms are quiet, hallways vacant, our football bleachers sit empty and the excitement of Fright Night Lights is put on hold as our community misses the blue magic on our football field. We asked Coach Burnsed what did you do last Friday night? I was watching two high school football games on ESPN, wishing that our players could’ve experienced the same thing. Yet, the covid pandemic  does not stop Burnsed’s  coaching or developing his Dons.  The pandemic  has taught Burnsed how important it is to have a strong, efficient varsity coaching staff:  We are in groups of 12 players and coaches have to stay with one group. It has been great to have a staff that is willing to put in the time to ensure our players have a great experience. I’ve also learned that we have to be able to cope, and live with, things that are beyond our control.



Our first Dons football game is four months away. The California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for high school athletics in the state, announced  in July a modified schedule for its sports due to the covid pandemic.  Coach Burnsed has taken advantage of this situation for better coaching with his staff, Burnsed shares, fortunately football is a sport in which a great deal of practice is spent in position groups.  We are able to really teach a lot of technique to each position. I think each player has benefited greatly from the practices and has been a great release for them with everything going on.

Coach Burnsed  goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the Dons  are prepared for Friday nights, with countless hours of film study and schematics instruction to simulate real-time game situations. Game knowledge and skills development is one of the essential parts of the game. Though the understanding of the game and expertise can be gathered through playing and observing skills developed through perseverance and arduous practice, and then Burnsed puts it all out on the field. What is happening in Burnsed’s head before the kick off?  I am thinking about the game plan, trying to anticipate how the game will unfold.  Our opening plays are scripted so I replay those in my mind a few times. The Dons might be on the field  for two hours every Friday night, but Burnsed is working with an around-the-clock effort.

My favorite Burnsed quote is “Hurry Hurry Hurry!” #5 Niko Cortessis, 2019 & 2020 Varsity Wide Receiver & Linebacker

Football is a highly competitive sport that requires a lot of physical and mental endurance. Niko Cortessis develops skills on and off the field with a competitive mindset. He is anxious to start the 2020-21 football season!

Many coaches serve as educators, mentors and more importantly, positive influences on many players, this is one of the strong attributes to Coach Burnsed. His vision in leading the program is to prepare athletes for the field, in the classroom, and as young adults. High school and football not only serve as learning experiences and opportunities to improve, they should also create enjoyable and memorable moments for each athlete. Coach Burnsed is proud of each young man who plays for the Dons. When asked what makes a great football player Burnsed replied, First of all, a good football player has to be coachable, believe in the system and care about his teammates.  After that, we look for dedication to the sport, athletic ability and his work ethic to become a better athlete.

Beat Campo Video: Acalanes took charge in every quarter of this game in 2019. Cougars struggled to catch the Dons, but could not. Don’s victory over the Cougars, 17- 7. Pregame planning shared by a Varsity player: My favorite pregame ritual that Coach Burnsed did for us is when he put together the video before our Campo game with a combination of graduated seniors and famous pro football players, motivating us to Beat Campo!

It’s a GREAT Day to be a DON!

Congrats to Our Seniors: It’s Kick Off Time!

Congrats to Our Seniors: It’s Kick Off Time!

Are You Ready For Some Football Graduation?  

We know you are Football Seniors! You leave your mark as  2019 DAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS on the Acalanes Field Forever!

It is time for you to tackle new goals, new dreams and new victories!

Dear Seniors, You are in the process of finishing a course you began years ago when your parents enrolled you in kindergarten to begin your educational journey.  Your journey has included growth in many areas.  The academic challenges met, the social skills developed, and the physical growth seen, are all a part of the bigger picture of the educational process.


You participated in Acalanes football  for a variety of reasons.  You may have loved the challenge.  It could be you liked the camaraderie of being on a champion team.  Perhaps you were highly skilled and received a lot of recognition for your efforts.  Maybe being on a team was just fun and thrilling, but whatever the case, you participated and were subject to learning all of the discipline and principles that being involved in football teaches. Football is more than just a game; it teaches lessons that the players carry with them long after they’ve hung up their cleats. Teamwork, discipline, perseverance, goal-setting, time management, selflessness, motivation, handling success and moving on from failure top the long list of lessons. Acalanes football also gives each athlete special memories, lifelong friends and coaches who truly care about each one of you.


As a graduating senior athlete, you have been challenged to set your goals high, stretch yourself, and to be industrious in all that you do.  You have also been taught that football  is a preparation for life and what you learn from being on a team is a microcosm of life.  The things your coaches taught you about life are about to begin making sense.  You will soon see what they meant, and you will be grateful.


Acalanes football has  played an important role in your educational process. Coaches, teachers, and parents have finished their task of training you.  Take what you have learned from all of them and make a smooth transition into “the rest of your life”.  We wish you the best! Your football family will be cheering for you!

-Dons Love from Your Acalanes Football Family

Once a Don, Always a Don!

Good Luck Dons of 2020!

Dons Win League Title with Win over Alhambra

Dons Win League Title with Win over Alhambra

In front of a packed Senior Night stadium at Acalanes, the Dons rolled to a 56-7 victory over Alhambra, finishing league play with a 3-1 record and most importantly a share (with Campolindo and Las Lomas) of the league title – the Dons first football title in 40 years!  It was a particularly special night for the team’s seniors, who began playing in the Dons program as freshmen when Coach Floyd Burnsed came to Acalanes.

Junior quarterback Brady Huchingson was outstanding all night, completing 7 of 10 passes for 280 yards and five touchdowns (that would be an NFL passing rating of 152.1).  Huchingson added a rushing touchdown to finish with six TDs.

Brady Huchingson was on target all night

Senior defensive back Nick Giorgianni was around the ball all night, recording two interceptions.  His first pick started the Dons scoring, returning the interception 34 yards for a touchdown.  Giorgianni had a third interception that was called back due to a penalty. 

Nick Giorgianni returning an interception

Senior WR/CB Nick Pearson had big plays on both sides of the ball.  Pearson caught a Huchingson pass at the 50 yard line and ran it home for a 75-yard touchdown.  Later, he had an interception at the 10 yard line to stop an Alhambra drive.

Nick Pearson wins the fight for the ball and takes it to the end zone

Four senior Dons receivers had touchdowns.  Along with Pearson’s TD, Jack Muren had two TDs (9 and 71 yards), Lucas Eppinger had a 87-yd touchdown (with most of those coming after the catch as he weaved his way through the Alhambra defense) and Ryan Reilly had a 24-yd TD reception, beating an Alhambra DB at the 10 yard line to get to the end zone.

The Dons defensive highlights included interceptions by Jack Miles and Carson Gragg, and a sack for a safety by linebacker Niko Cortessis.  Other standouts were seniors Michael Roux and Mike O’Donnell, and juniors Graham Oh and Joey Carillo who each had multiple tackles.  Dons captain John Kalil was a force on the line all night.

Niko Cortessis gets the safety

Additional game photos are available here:

The Dons (8-2) await the NCS Playoff seedings which will be announced on Sunday November 10.  The first-round playoff game will be Friday, November 15.

Dons Hold Off Mats to Stay in Title Hunt

Dons Hold Off Mats to Stay in Title Hunt

The Dons held off Miramonte and their high-powered offense 17-14 on Friday night to remain in the hunt for a share of the league title.   

Miramonte got their Homecoming Night fans feeling good early, jumping out to a 7-0 lead following a 5-yard TD run by their outstanding senior quarterback Matt Meredith.

Brady Huchingson got the Dons on the board in the 2nd quarter with an 8-yard TD run, but Meredith gave the Mats the halftime lead with a 20-yard TD pass to receiver Tanner Zwahlen.

The Acalanes defense stepped up and shut out the Mats in the second half enabling the Dons to secure the win with two second half scores: a 33-yd field goal by Hunter Ridley in the third quarter and a 15-yard TD reception by Jack Muren in the fourth.

Jack Muren with a juggling reception.

Senior linebacker Mike O’Donnell was outstanding all night, recording eight solo tackles and assisting on five.  O’Donnell had two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss and caused a Miramonte fumble. 

Mike O’Donnell with a tackle.

The entire Dons defense stepped up, tallying 5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss against the quick Miramonte offensive backfield, with 16 different players recording tackles.  Notable standouts were juniors Niko Cortessis, Graham Oh and Joey Carillo who each had multiple tackles and big plays, and senior Tommy Thrasher who had 10 total tackles.

Ryan Tresser taking down the Mats’ Reed Callister

Junior Dane Jenssen had a strong game at running back, with 77 yards on 14 carries.

Additional game photos are available here:

The Dons (7-2) host Alhambra on Friday night at 7:00.  The Senior Night ceremony will take place right before the Varsity game at approximately 6:30.

A Great Night to be a Don!

A Great Night to be a Don!

It’s always a great day to be a Don, and that was absolutely the case Friday night at the packed Acalanes field when the Varsity Dons played one of their best games of the year and beat Campolindo 17-7. 

Football is a team sport and every Don contributed to the win, but there were a few plays that really stood out:

THE CATCH AND RUN:  On 2nd and 10 from the 3-yard line, Brady Huchingson connected with a wide-open Jack Muren for a 97-yard TD reception.  Muren’s “yards after catch” were substantial, as he caught the ball at the 35-yard line and then used his Dons track speed to separate himself from the Campolindo defenders. 

Jack Muren taking it to the house.

THE KICK(S):  Hunter Ridley had an outstanding night, booming kickoffs into the end zone and a perfect performance on field goals and PATs, but the moment to remember was his clutch 56-yard punt (“The Punt”) in the 4th quarter that pinned Campolindo deep in their own territory.  There has been no time in recent Dons history where a punt mattered so much, and Ridley delivered.

Hunter Ridley watches a 34-yd field goal to put the Dons up 10-0

THE RECOVERY:  Another special teams play was key to the Dons’ win.  Late in the 4th quarter after Campolindo scored and had a bit of momentum, Niko Cortessis made a leaping, athletic recovery of a well-placed Campolindo onside kick.  Cortessis also had a big night on defense, with multiple sacks and tackles for loss.

THE PICKS:  Tommy Thrasher shut down two 4th quarter Campolindo drives by intercepting passes by the Cougars’ D1-commit quarterback (UC Davis) Grant Harper.  Thrasher also had a fumble recovery on the 2-yard line to stop another Campolindo drive.

Tommy Thrasher returning one of his two interceptions

THE DEFENSIVE STAND:  In the final minutes, with Campolindo moving the ball downfield, the Dons defense shut down the Cougars with big plays from defensive backs Luke Miles and Lucas Eppinger, and a game-ending defensive stop by lineman Joey Carrillo.

Mike O’Donnell had a big game on defense, with five solo tackles.  Nick Pearson also had five tackles.  The Dons’ offensive line was tremendous all night, powering a running game that came up with important yards at key moments.  Great play from Carson Burrill, Teo Barakos, Brayden Clarkson, JJ Sterner, Taylor Clark and two-way powerhouse, senior captain John Kalil.

The Dons offensive line delivered all night

Game photos are here:

The Dons visit Miramonte on Friday night to face the Mats.  Game time is 7:00.

Dons’ Streak Ends at Las Lomas

Dons’ Streak Ends at Las Lomas

The Dons opened league play at Las Lomas Friday night, facing a powerful Knights team that featured Oregon State-commit Isaiah Newell (considered by many the top running back in the Bay Area) and athletic two-way player Elijah Lash.  Unfortunately, the Dons were unable to continue their three-game winning streak, as Las Lomas prevailed 42-21.

Highlights for the Dons included two TD runs by Jake Delaney (one was an exciting 71-yard run down the sideline) and Jack Muren’s return to the lineup after being sidelined by injury – Muren finished with 12 receptions. 

Jack Muren returned to action

On the defensive side, Luke Miles had a pick-six interception, and nineteen different Dons had tackles.  The Dons run defense was led by Tommy Thrasher and Joey Carillo, while Mike O’Donnell recovered a fumble.

Luke Miles with a Pick Six

Additional game photos are available here:

The Dons host Campolindo on Friday night.  Game time is 7:00 at Acalanes.

Dons Roll Past El Cerrito 44-12

Dons Roll Past El Cerrito 44-12

The Dons traveled to El Cerrito High School on Friday night for a rematch of last year’s 32-30 loss to the Gauchos.  This year the Dons emerged victorious, jumping out to a large early lead and cruising to a 44-12 victory.

The Dons got on the scoreboard early, forcing a quick Gaucho punt that was both blocked and recovered (at the one-yard line) by junior Joey Carrillo.  Quarterback Brady Huchingson took the ball in for a touchdown and there was no turning back by the Dons, as they led 27-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Joey Carrillo covers his own blocked punt

Lucas Eppinger had a huge game at receiver for the Dons.  The senior finished with five receptions for 169 yards and three touchdowns, including TDs of 26, 20 and 68 yards.  Huchingson added a touchdown throw to senior Ryan Reilly to finish with four touchdown passes in only seven pass attempts.

Lucas Eppinger with one of his three TD receptions

The Dons were aggressive all night on defense, with a forced fumble by Mike O’Donnell and interceptions by Joe Evans and O’Donnell (a 37-yard “pick six” in the third quarter).

Mike O’Donnell with a Pick Six

A season-high twenty different Dons had tackles.  Carson Gragg had three solo tackles and a sack, while Luke Miles, Tommy Thrasher, and Niko Cortessis all had multiple tackles and pressured the Gaucho backs all night.

Dons punter/kicker Hunter Ridley nailed a 42-yard field goal that would have been good from 50+ yards.

Additional game photos are available here and on the Dons Football website:

The Dons (4-1) host Oakland High on Friday night.  Game time is 7:00 at Acalanes.

Dons Tally Eight TDs to Beat Berkeley

Dons Tally Eight TDs to Beat Berkeley

In front of a packed house at Acalanes, the Dons put on an offensive show and beat the Berkeley High Yellowjackets 57-28.  The game was tied 14-14 at the end of the first quarter, but the Dons scored 22 points in the second quarter and never looked back.  The Dons scored eight touchdowns, with six on the ground and two in the air.

Offensive standouts were quarterback Brady Huchingson with 325 yards passing and four touchdowns (two passing and two rushing), running back Jake Delaney who had 263 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, wide receiver Lucas Eppinger with five receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and wide receiver Ryan Reilly with a career-high 14 receptions for 126 yards. 

Nic Rossi with the ball.

The Dons defense held the Yellowjackets to just 135 yards of total offense, and completely stopped the Berkeley rushing attack, limiting the Yellowjackets to negative 37 yards on the ground. 

Luke Miles tackles a Berkeley receiver.

Seventeen different Dons had tackles, and seven different Dons had tackles for loss.  Joe Evans and Michael Roux led the Dons defense with three tackles each, while John Kalil and Carson Burrill each tallied a sack.  Luke Miles had a defensive highlight with an interception and 55-yard return.

Mike O’Donnell and Tommy Thrasher wrap up a Yellowjacket

Additional game photos are available here:

The Dons travel to El Cerrito on Friday night for a rematch of last year’s 32-30 loss to the Gauchos.