The boys headed to Southern California last Friday to take on the Birmingham Patriots in the Division 3AA State Championship on Saturday and won 35-22 in a contested, epic battle!  As the sign says, they were there to win, and they did!

This team accomplished what no team in the long history of Acalanes High School has ever accomplished in football.  They won a state championship and are now the undisputed greatest team in the history of the program!

Here are a few accomplishments from the season…

  • They defeated 3 undefeated teams (at the time of the games) during the season…Miramonte, Las Lomas and San Marin in the NCS Championship game
  • They were Co DAL Champions
  • The combined record of the 15 opponents they faced was 104 wins and 55 losses
  • The 4 year combined record for the Seniors is 35 wins and 10 losses (2020-2023)
  • Their Junior/Senior record is 21 wins and 6 losses (most 2 year total wins in school history)
  • They are now ranked #5 overall in the North Coast rankings and #6 overall in the SF Metro (MaxPreps)
  • NCS Football ChampionsFirst time in school history!
  • Nor Cal Football ChampionsFirst time in school history !!
  • State Football ChampionsFirst time in school history!!!
  • Check out this video for a complete season summary

The Dons Nation turned out big at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo on Saturday.

You could feel the excitement in the air as the captains walked towards the center of the field. Paul Kuhner, Henry Hagel, Sully Bailey and Jack Giorgianni had that look in their eye before the coin was flipped.

The game was on local TV in LA, so the stadium was filled with media from all over the state.

Birmingham got good field position from the opening kickoff and marched the rest of the way into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.  The boys shook it off and came right back on offense to score on a 28 yard TD pass from Sully Bailey to Trevor Rogers to tie the contest at 7-7.

The Patriots stormed back with another score to end the first quarter.  After an Acalanes punt they scored another touchdown and a two point conversion to take a 21-7 lead with just over a minute remaining before halftime.  Fortunately Sully Bailey and the Dons offensive line were up to the task.  The “Maserati” offense kicked in again!

With 3 seconds remaining running back Jack Giorgianni busted through a couple of defenders to score on a 4th down from the one yard line to cut the Pats lead to 21-14 at halftime.

The Dons got the opening kickoff of the 2nd half and methodically moved the ball down the field again.  This time Sully found Henry Souza for the catch of the year in the back of the end zone!  Henry hauled it in and Santi Vignoles kicked the extra point to tie the game at 21-21.  Santi was 5-5 on extra points for the contest and an impressive 36-36 for the season.

Here is where the Acalanes defense absolutely took over the battle.  The D did not give up a point in the 2nd half.  Defenders like Brady Morrow, Deonte Littlejohn, Jake Boselli, Drew McKenzie and Chase Caicedo could not be stopped.

Everett Glass led all tackles with 11, followed by Collin Malmquist and Jack Giorgianni with 9.  Deonte Littlejohn, Dylan Murphy, Drew McKenzie and Aiden Yates all registered a sack.

Birmingham did mount a solid 3rd quarter drive, only to be thwarted by an outstanding play by Gavin Bender in the end zone on 4th down. He skillfully swatted the ball away and gave the rock back to the offense.

Facing a third down and long, Bailey dropped back but could not find an open receiver.  He tucked the ball and tried to run for the first down.  Unfortunately two Patriot defenders absolutely blew up Sully and left him rolling around in pain near mid field.  The Dons opted to punt.  A rare bad snap created a strange play that resulted in a Patriots safety and gave them a 23-21 lead.

After another defensive stop the Dons got the ball back.  Jake Boselli played another solid game defensively, but his injured shoulder prevented him from warming up to replace an injured Bailey at QB.  Coach Burnsed tapped Freshman QB Tyler Winkles to start throwing on the sidelines.  Just when it looked like Tyler would go in, Sully limped back on the field towards the huddle.  He promptly threw a 60 yard bomb to Trevor Rogers, followed by a 33 yard TD pass to Trevor to give the Dons their first lead of the afternoon, at 28-23!

Trevor Rogers had an outstanding game with 7 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Niko White also added 7 catches for 63 yards to the Dons attack.

The Patriots mounted another drive as they tried to take the lead back in the 4th Quarter.  They have won 4 LA Metro Championships in a row.  They were not going to go down quietly.  That’s when pressure from Drew McKenzie and Collin Malmquist caused the Brimingham QB to throw his first interception of the season!  Paul Kuhner grabbed the wayward pass and returned it 57 yards deep into Patriots territory.

The Pats did get the ball back after an uncharacteristic Acalanes turnover, but Aiden Yates and the Dons Defense would have none of it.  The stopped another 4th Quarter Birmingham drive.

The Dons now had to run the clock out and the game was theirs.  On a 4th down, with 31 seconds left, the coaches decided to go for it from the 10.  The offensive line kept doing their thing.  Sully dropped back and found Paul Kuhner on a post pattern for the score!  Collect the hymnbooks.  Mass is over!!!  The boys took an insurmountable 35-23 lead with just seconds left.  The Patriots had no answer as the final seconds ticked away.

This was a complete team win!  Sully Bailey threw for almost 300 yards on one leg.  Jack Giorgianni has been banged up for a month but he found a way to stay on the field, score a touchdown and make big tackles after big tackles.  Kuhner, Rogers, White, Miller and Souza made big runs and catches all afternoon and the DEFENSE was top notch, as usual!  Brady Morrow caught a deflected pass and ran it for 7 yards, making offensive lineman around the world smile. The coaches made all the right calls and the title was theirs!

The celebration was on!  The Acalanes Dons are State Champions!