By H. Scott Prosterman
Piedmont won its second straight league title, handing Alameda its first loss, 35-14, thanks to a 4th quarter offensive explosion after trailing 14-7.
Though held in check by the Hornets’ defense for much of the game, Gabe Watson scored three touchdowns on 72 yards of rushing.
Tied at 14-14, Piedmont used some trickery to take the lead, with Andrew Meredith throwing a halfback option pass to a wide open Lloyd Ashton for an 81-yard touchdown.
“We knew they were vulnerable to trick plays, and we knew we were going to have to throw the ball more,” explained coach James Holan. “We expected them to have an extra guy in the box to key on Gabe.”
The evening began with a balanced drive led by quarterback Miles Kim that included passes to Meredith and Ashton after a short kickoff at the 36. Watson carried his share of the load and some Hornet tacklers for a 14-yard TD at the 7:14 mark. The Hornets tied the score with 21 seconds remaining in the half. The defensive battle continued in the second half. With less than one minute left in the 3rd quarter, Alameda went ahead 14-7 on an 11-yard pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone.
Held scoreless in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Highlander offense came to life in the final quarter under Kim and Watson’s leadership. Kim connected with Nick Pacult for a 13-yard completion. The came the big play – a 63-yard pass-and-run to Pacult, setting up Kim’s 2-yard TD run to tie the score at 14-14 with 10:52 to go. Two minutes later Meredith connected with Ashton for the 81-yard TD and a 21-14 lead.
Then things got interesting.
Down by only one TD with 4:44 to play, the Hornets lined up for a 4th and 1 near midfield, but they lost five yards on a penalty. A 4th down pass attempt from their 45-yard line was broken up by cornerback Brandon Lew at the 20, which defensive coach Nick Safer called, “the biggest play of the year”.
Watson took a low snap at the 2:19 mark and sprinted through left tackle for an insurance touchdown to make it 28-14. Alameda failed to gain a 1st down, and Piedmont took possession at the Hornets’ 30 with 1:51 to play.
With Pacult in for Watson at running back, a clock killing off-tackle play resulted in a 30-yard TD run on a 3rd and long yardage situation, producing the final 35-14 score with one minute left.
Big game for PHS defense:
Piedmont’s defense came up big at the right times, yielding only two scores despite giving up 190 yards rushing and 274 total yards. Mason Willrich, Pacult, and Goyo Prospero all played an outstanding game. Gabe Watson also had a beautiful pass break up to close the 1st quarter, and younger brother Jacob was in on several key stops. Jake Mura also made some huge tackles, and Jack Wolcott was in top form on defense.
With Watson running the offense, Piedmont churned out yardage in six to nine yard chunks late in the game.
The Piedmont offense was helped by the return of left tackle Connor Addegio, who made a cameo in last week’s Senior Night win over San Lorenzo.
Despite the outcome, Alameda dominated Piedmont’s offensive line on runs. Watson was stuffed at the line on several occasions and sustained an unusual share of two and three yard losses. Kim played a fine game, completing an efficient 7 for 10 passes, good for 122 yards and one rushing touchdown.
Following the game, the coaches huddled up to share celebratory handshakes, hugs, backslaps and enjoy the moment of a 2nd straight WACC Championship under first-year head coach Holan.
Piedmont (8-2) will play Del Norte (4-6) at 7:00 p.m. this Saturday night, November 14 at Witter Field in the first round of the NCS Division 4 playoffs.