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.
Playing before a large, enthusiastic crowd, Piedmont’s football team dominated Arroyo 48-0 in the Homecoming game at Witter Field last Friday night, October 16. The Highlanders simply played great in every phase of the game, starting with Andrew Meredith’s dramatic 63-yard kickoff return to open the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, after an Arroyo three-and-out, running back Gabe Watson broke a tackle in the backfield for 13 yards. On the next play Watson ran around right end from the 18, and circled back to score at the left pylon, giving the Highlanders a 7-0 lead at the 10:51 mark.
Kicker Josh Landheer showed off his big leg nailing the kickoff through the end zone. On Arroyo’s next play from scrimmage, Watson, as defensive back, intercepted a pass at the 43 and returned it to the Dons’ 21. Quarterback Miles Kim lofted a beautiful pass to receiver Andrew Meredith in the corner of the end zone, where Meredith outjumped two defenders in tight coverage to haul in the pass for a touchdown and 14-0 lead with 9:45 left in the quarter.
It was the first of three touchdowns he would score on the evening.
A penalty on the PAT attempt put the ball back at the 25-yard line, but Landheer nailed it through the uprights.
Piedmont ‘s interior defense led by Spencer Chan, Geoffrey Burge and Alex Robinson held Arroyo to another three-and-out, setting up more Highlander offensive highlights.
Watson led a drive, taking the ball from Kim and rushing to the 10-yard line. Arroyo held, but Landheer connected on a 21-yard field goal for a17-0 lead at the 3:03 mark. By game’s end, Landheer accounted for 12 of the Highlander points.
Linebacker Mason Willrich led Piedmont’s defense, along with Chan and linebacker Nick Pacult, who finished with seven tackles. They consistently stuffed any runs up the middle. Cornerback Brandon Lew led the team with eight tackles.
A poor Arroyo punt gave the Highlanders possession at their 48-yard line with 1:23 in the quarter. On a 3rd down, Kim found receiver Lloyd Ashton with a swing pass on the right, for the first of three consecutive receptions for first downs.
“Lloyd came up big in that 3rd and 4 situation, stepping in for Frank Kossak who’s a little banged up,” said coach James Holan.
The first play of the next quarter had Kim taking a huge hit as he released the ball, but being able to complete a 24-yard pass to Ashton, followed by another pass for 19 yards. Then Kim hit Meredith for an 18-yard TD with another well-thrown ball, allowing Meredith to run under the ball as he crossed the goal line. With 10:20 left in the half, Piedmont led 24-0.
Chan stuffed runs up the middle on two straight plays setting up a 4th and 6 for Arroyo. Another bad snap on a punt led to a 1st down for Piedmont on Arroyo’s 9-yard line. But a series of penalties precluded a touchdown. Landheer’s second FG of the half from 38 yards gave the Highlanders a 27-0 lead.
Linebacker Jacob Watson, back in action after a shoulder injury, played a strong game, with five tackles and constant pressure on the quarterback pressure. His play contributed to a pass break-up by his brother at the 6:34 mark.
Yet another bad snap by Arroyo resulted in the Highlanders gaining possession at Arroyo’s 13-yard line. After an 8-yard run by Watson, Piedmont was intercepted by the Dons.
With 1:30 to go in the half, Kim’s pass to Meredith resulted in a pass interference penalty, and on the next play Kim connected with Meredith for a 42-yard TD over the middle to put the Highlanders up 34-0.
After Homecoming festivities at halftime, with Meredith selected as Homecoming Prince, Arroyo took possession for a quick three-and-out, giving Piedmont the ball at their own 48. Watson took a handoff for 13 yards, and then Kim’s hard count drew an encroachment penalty for a 1st and 5. A series of short-yardage plays set up Watson’s second rushing TD, giving the Highlanders a 41-0 lead with 5:05 to go in the game. Exactly one minute later, and after another bad snap, linebacker Jake Mura, picked up an Arroyo fumble and returned it for a touchdown for the final score of 48-0.
Watson led Piedmont with 115 yards of Piedmont’s 141 yards total, and scored 2 TD’s, and Kim was efficient as always, completing 8 for 11 passes for and 129 yards and three touchdowns, all to Meredith. Meredith caught 3 passes for 81 yards, Ashton caught 3 passes for 50 yards.
Arroyo was held to 86 yards rushing and 61 passing and only six first downs in the game. The game was Piedmont’s first shutout victory of the season, with the 2nd team contributing to the win. Cornerbacks Willis Bird and Everett Ellis also had timely interceptions in the 2nd half.
After the game, Defensive Coordinator Nick Safir praised the 2nd team for their role in the shutout.
“You guys all stepped up and showed you can play varsity football tonight,” singling out sophomore Cole Kingston.
Home field crowd
Despite the Homecoming festivities, it was a typical late-arriving crowd.
“I want to issue a challenge to the community to show up for our last home game on Senior Night (Friday, October 30 vs. San Lorenzo),” said coach Holan. “We’ve come so far from where we were a few years ago, but we can’t be satisfied. If every kid at the rally [Friday afternoon on campus] had come to the Homecoming game, it would have been unique. Hopefully they’ll show up for Senior Night.”
Piedmont (5-2) travels to Hayward this Saturday, October 26, for a rare day game, a 1:45 p.m. kickoff against Mt. Eden. The JV game is at 11:00 a.m.
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