Football: About Being Perfect

Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there, it’s not about winning. It’s about you, and your relationship to your family, yourself, and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye, and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything you could – there wasn’t one more thing you could have done. Can you live in that moment? As best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart. With joy in your heart. If you can do that, then you’re perfect.

Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights

It certainly wasn’t a classically perfect night last Friday when our Acalanes Football team succumbed to our neighbors to the south in a hard-hitting old-fashioned 3 yards and a cloud of dust football game, but no one can question the grit and determination with which they competed.

Give the Cougars from Campolindo credit, they came out with a purpose after being shut out the week before and didn’t make very many mistakes throughout the 48-minute contest. However, the Dons were certainly impacted by a series of early injuries to key players that made their road to victory much much more difficult. After missing two games because of a non-football-related injury, DE Tyler Worthington made an immediate impact in his return, shedding a blocker and making a huge hit on the Campo RB for no gain on the first play of the game. Alas, it was also on that play that he sustained an injury that kept him out of the rest of the game, and an already thin D-line was missing one of its best players. Despite that set back the Dons Defense competed hard on the first Campo possession, putting the Cougars in a 3rd and 8, a 4th and 2, and a 3rd and 12 on the drive. Unfortunately, Campo was able to convert in each of those situations and finish with a short run for a TD, Campo 7, Dons 0.

With the high-powered Acalanes offense ready to take the ball for the first time, the crowd and the team were fired up to match the Cougar’s score, and it didn’t take long. After a short run by RB Evan Malmquist, QB Luke Souza hit WR Trevor Rogers on a seam route across the middle for a 41 yard gain all the way down into Campo territory. On the very next play, Souza went deep down the sideline to WR Will Berrien on a 36-yard fly pattern and into the end zone. Campo 7, Acalanes 7. However, it was not all smiles after the short TD drive. On the very first Malmquist run, a Campo player rolled into LG Tyler Murphy’s ankle and the impact sidelined him for the rest of the game. Noah Yeager came in to replace Murphy initially and later switched places with RT Michael Kuhner. They both did a valiant job in holding the line to keep the offense moving, but an offensive line is like a well-tuned machine, move parts around, especially in the middle of a hard-hitting rivalry game and you’re at an immediate disadvantage. Asking Kuhner to play LG in the middle of a game after spending the season at RT is a bit like handing a guitar to the drummer in the middle of a concert. That, in addition to LT Anthony Ortale and RG Marcus Julian having to make up for both Tyler Worthington and Tyler Murphy’s absence on the D-line, had the Don’s O and D-lines in a really tough situation.

C Victor Nikolakakis, RG Marcus Julian, RT Noah Yeager, RG Michael Kuhner, and LT Anthony Ortale open a hole for RB Evan Malmquist

After tying the score, the Don’s defense rose to the occasion and made the first big stop on the day, with LB Sam Hafner contributing a huge sack on 3rd down to force the Cougars to punt. Even though Acalanes was now short-handed, that didn’t stop the Dons from buckling down and putting together a huge 85-yard drive all the way down to the Campo 5 yard line. After two short runs and a Cougar offsides, got the ball to the 1, an unfortunate illegal motion penalty moved the Dons back to the six-yard line and they were unable to get the ball into the end zone on 3rd down. The subsequent FG attempt was then blocked by the Cougars, and the loss of those two key players early may have been a contributing factor.

After the Dons failed to score on their long drive, Campolindo was able to move quickly down the other way, and although kept out of the end zone by Acalanes, did convert their FG attempt and at the half, it was Campo 10, Dons 7.

The Dons started with the ball coming out of the break and immediately hit a big play with Souza finding WR Dante Montgomery on a nifty play-action pass up the seam for 23 yards to midfield. That’s where the Cougar defense stiffened, and Acalanes needed to convert a 4th and 5 to keep the drive going, a similar situation to where Campo had been earlier in the game. The line held, Souza stepped up in the pocket and just missed Montgomery on what would have been a huge gain down the left sideline. That’s how it went for the Dons most of the night. Big plays in key moments were just a bit off-line.

After giving the ball back to the Cougars at midfield, Campo began to drive again, sticking predominately with the run game. When the Dons defense was able to stuff the run and hold Campo to a third and eight, the Cougars were able to complete a quick pass to the slot receiver to convert the first down. With a first and goal at the ten, the Don’s backs were against the wall. Three runs by the Cougars were turned back by an inspired Acalanes D. Then on fourth down from the one, the D again held on a Campo QB sneak… but… were called for offsides. With another try from even closer, a valiant Dons effort was strong but not quite enough and it was now Campo 17, Acalanes 7.

Acalanes was far from done and even with missing players and a few tough calls, there was still a lot of game left. The reconstituted line was starting to mesh and give Malmquist some room. Souza was also bidding time in the pocket and able to find Malmquist as an outlet when no one else was open. After a couple of strong Malmquist runs brought the Dons into Campo territory, Souza lobbed a perfect ball into the outstretched arms of Montgomery in the middle of the defense, the two Campo safeties collided with each other, and Montgomery cruised into the end zone for a score. Campo 17, Dons 14.

Dante Dashes into the End Zone

It was now that Acalanes needed a stop, but unfortunately, a short kick had Campo starting at their 45-yard line. After a couple of strong plays and a penalty put the Cougars in 2nd and 15, a reverse caught the Dons by surprise and 23 yards later Campo was in the red zone. Sticking to the run, the Cougars were able to punch in another TD and now it was Campo 24, Acalanes 14, with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The comeback magic that had brought Acalanes back against Rancho Cotate for the win, and Damonte Ranch and Las Lomas for one-point losses, wasn’t there this time, and the time ran out on the Dons, leaving the score Campo 24, Acalanes 14.

Not the ideal league start for the Dons, but there is a lot of Football left, starting with the leagues’ top-ranked team, Benicia, coming into our house this Friday. They most likely are thinking they’ll get a win, but the Panthers will be facing a fired-up Dons team ready to get back on the winning track. A big victory this week will do a lot to erase the bad feelings after the first two league games. It’s a three-game drive to the playoffs starting this week and the Dons will be up to the challenge!