Friday August 25 started with a thorough email break down of our opponent by Dr. Michael Michlitsch. We learned about the history of San Marin High School, the recent success of their football team (D5 NCS Champs in 2021 and 2022), as well as their award winning Robotics team and the world’s youngest high school and college graduate. After enjoying the return of the good doctor’s writings it was time for the annual TD Club Breakfast at Metro. A big thank you to Bill Boselli for all of his efforts. The community, players, parents, supporters and coaches all came together throughout the day in anticipation of another exciting season.
That evening was a beautiful night for the high school football season to get started in Novato. The Don’s Nation traveled well and packed the visiting stands. The boys came out in their sleek white uniforms against the Mustangs in their dark green and gold trimmed jerseys. From the opening kickoff it was apparent that San Marin had a big time kicker. He boomed it for the first of several touchbacks to start the contest.
The Dons opening drive was stalled by an uncharacteristic penalty that called back a 23 yard pass to Wide Receiver Mason Zirkel from Quarterback Sully Bailey. The Dons were forced to punt the ball to San Marin. The Mustangs put together a modest drive before settling for a 41 yard field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
Acalanes responded with a quality offensive drive that resulted with Sully Bailey finding Wide Receiver Trevor Rodgers in the back on the end zone for a touchdown! That put the Dons up 7-3.
The defense did their thing, led by linebackers Jack Giorgianni, Colin Malmquist and Jake Boselli and the line, anchored by Chase Caicedo, Brady Morrow, Deonte Littlejohn and Andrew Tresser, held strong. The smothering defenders forced a poor throw that was picked off by Cornerback Gavin Bender and the Dons were in business again! Gavin had an excellent day with 9 tackles to go with his pick.
Bailey led another Acalanes drive that culminated with Sully finding Wide Receiver Henry Souza over the middle for a touchdown! Dons 14, Mustangs 3. The offensive line held off a ferocious San Marin rush with stout play from Henry Hagel, JD Orear, Trevor Carrillo, Drew Mckenzie and Andrew Tresser.
Both scoring drives featured big plays by Niko White. He had 5 catches for 104 yards including a 48 yarder. His solid play helped fuel the Dons in the 1st half.
On the next possession the Don’s defense was tested. Safety Everett Glass (6 tackles for the game) continued to make big plays but the Mustangs were able to come up with a couple big plays of their own that moved the ball towards the Acalanes goal line. As time was expiring San Marin threw for a touchdown on 3rd down with 5 yards to go, to cut the deficit to Dons 14-10 at half time.
The weather started to change and so did the momentum of the game. San Marin got the ball to start the 2nd half and they looked like a different team. They started to have success with the run and a mix of short passes to score and take a 17-14 lead.
The Dons struggled to stay on track in the 3rd quarter. A rash of penalties and a couple of turnovers frustrated the boys in the 2nd half. It was one step forward and another two back for a while. The Dons gave up a second touchdown in the quarter after a turn over to make the score Mustangs 24 Dons 14
Sully Bailey was scrambling from the Mustang rush most of the half. After a mad dash he finally found Mason Zirkel in the back of the end zone, only to have it called back due to another Acalanes penalty. One step forward and two back.
Sully then threw a dart over the middle to lightning fast Wide Receiver Paul Kuhner for an acrobatic touchdown and the Dons were back in business, cutting the San Marin lead to 24-20! Kuhner was all over the field. Paul returned kick offs and punts, played a solid Safety with 7 tackles, and was a consistent, dynamic offensive contributor.
The game ultimately came down to Special Teams. Lars Rau, the San Marin kicker, was simply fantastic. What a weapon. He recorded several touchbacks on kick offs, skillfully punted away from our explosive returners (Paul Kuhner, Trevor Rodgers and Niko White), was 3-3 on extra points and was 2-2 on field goals from 41 and 32 yards.
His 32 yard kick pushed the San Marin lead to 27-20 in the 4th quarter. Jack Giorgianni (12 tackles) was a one man wrecking crew on the Mustangs final drive, sacking the San Marin QB deep in his own territory to force a punt and give the Dons one last shot. Unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.
Acalanes beat San Marin 21-14 last year in Lafayette and lost to them 27-20 on Friday in Novato. That is a combined score of 41-41 over the two games. These are the two premier teams in Division 4 and seem to be very evenly matched. There is a good chance that they could meet again in the NCS Playoffs.
The Dons take on powerhouse San Ramon Valley High School this Friday in the home opener. Get your gear ready and grab those tickets in advance. I can’t wait to read what Dr. Mike has to say this week! Are you ready for some football?! Go Dons!