Piedmont rebounded strongly from its stinging 2-point loss a week earlier to McClymonds, beating Hayward 28-14 in its opening game of the league season on Friday, October 9 at Witter Field. Piedmont sophomore Sylvia Sibal¬ warmed up the crowd with a stirring rendition of the national anthem.
And then came football.
Nick Pacult put the Highlanders on the scoreboard at 8:31 with a 19-yard inside handoff into the end zone. Though designed as a sweep to the right, he cut upfield behind a trap block between tackle and end for the score.
At cornerback, Andrew Meredith began the 2nd quarter in dramatic fashion, intercepting a Hayward pass. Piedmont’s offense went to work immediately, with Kim launching a 40-yard TD pass to Meredith for a 14-0 lead.
Meredith scored a second touchdown after breaking up a Hayward pass late in the second half. With 1:24 left in the 2nd quarter, Kim connected once again to Meredith for a 43-yard touchdown catch and a comfortable 21-0 lead at the half.
Linebacker Pacult came up with a timely interception to stop Hayward’s first drive in the second half. Jacob Watson set up Pacult’s interception with a hit on the Hayward quarterback as he released the ball.
“It was a weird play because when the quarterback started rolling out I wasn’t sure which coverage, but when I saw Jacob about to hit him I hung back and it came right to me,” Pacult said. But after a nearly flawless 1st half, costly mistakes characterized the game after intermission. The 2nd half brought showed glimpses of a Piedmont team that had given up touchdowns on turnovers to Moreau and McClymonds. Suddenly there were two consecutive lost fumbles on first downs, both leading to Hayward scores and only 50 seconds apart, narrowing the score to 21-14 with 6:06 left in the 3rd quarter.
Holan had Gabe Watson run the offense from the wildcat in the last quarter.
Watson showed leadership on offense and defense. He gained 159 yards on 17 carries with a TD, and caught a beautiful 38-yard pass from Kim.
One of the game’s most unusual plays occurred in the 4th quarter when Watson gained 15 yards on a strong carry, only to have the ball jarred loose into the hands of center Willrich, who gained another 10 yards. Watson carried the team on offense and defense in the final quarter, flawlessly running the wildcat, and ending the Farmers’ last drive with a dazzling interception return that ended with a classic hook slide.
Prior to that Watson put the game out of reach for Hayward with a dazzling 36-yard TD run, in which he broke two tackles while changing directions.
Kim was a picture of efficiency, throwing only five passes and completing all for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He showed versatility playing under center and rolling out in both directions.
The kicking and punting of Josh Landheer played a big role in the game. He consistently sent his kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback, he had a punt over 50 yards, and narrowly missed a 43-yard field goal. Holan and defensive coordinator Nick Safir frequently shift lineman before the snap to set up stunts and take advantage of mismatches.
“Christian Turner has been playing at a high level and has gotten better, so has Jacob Watson. Spencer Chan has stepped up his leadership on defense. Having all these guys enables us to rotate guys to keep fresh bodies in,” explained Holan.
These schemes helped set up linebacker Goyo Prospero’s pass break up near the end of the first quarter. Prospero finished with eight tackles.
In anticipation of Piedmont’s Homecoming game this Friday, Holan said, “We’re looking forward to having the stands full.”
Piedmont (4-2) faces Arroyo this Friday, October 16 in Piedmont’s Homecoming game at Witter Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., with a JV game at 4:00 p.m.
In a game displaying a handful of heroics by the Highlanders, Piedmont lost by two points, 23-21, on Friday night at Witter Field to McClymonds, which remains undefeated at 5-0.
The loss seemed improbable, given the fact that:
• Gabe Watson had his biggest game of the season with 215 yards running, including a dazzling 80-yard breakaway and another for 74 yards, plus two touchdowns. and scored 2 TDs
• Andrew Meredith returned the opening kickoff for a 98-yeard touchdown and returned a fumble recovery 60 yards
• Sam Williamson got far behind the defender and caught a 68-yard pass from Watson on a halfback option play.
Those alone would suggest stats from the winning team. Unfortunately, mistakes on both sides of the ball doomed the effort.
Watson had over 100 yards by the end of the 1st quarter, and his 80-yarder made it 14-7 with 8:33 to go in the opening quarter, giving fans the expectation of a shoot-out. McClymonds made adjustments, while Highlander defenders had their hands full with the Warrior’s two multi-talented quarterbacks, Emoreea Fountain, who left in the 2nd quarter with a broken foot, and his replacement, Derrick Purvis.
Watson opened the 2nd quarter with a 20-yard run up the middle followed by 16 yards to the 33. He then had another 1st down to the 9, before a bad snap and a series of miscues left the Highlanders with a 4th and 30. They did not score.
On defense, linebackers Nick Pacult and Mason Willrich led Piedmont with 13 and 12 tackles respectively, while defensive end Christian Turner, Meredith and Watson each recovered fumbles.
“Our defense played inspired football against some of the most explosive offensive players we will face. We’ve been giving up a lot of yards, but we don’t want to give up points,” he said.
Center-QB exchanges have been troublesome for Piedmont all year. Of the five miscues that occurred, the most disastrous was at the 3:24 mark of the 3rd quarter when a Piedmont drive was undone by a snap over the head of quarterback Miles Kim.
The Warriors’ speedy Dyllon Louis raced in, scoped up the ball and ran 72 yards for a touchdown.
Piedmont played without several key contributors, most notably linebacker Jacob Watson, who hopes to be back next week. Lineman Connor Addiego is out for the year with a broken toe.
Another heartbreak came at the end of the 3rd quarter as Kim led a methodical, time-consuming drive. With a chance to score and go up 21-10, a snap over Kim’s head led to a 14-point turnaround when McClymonds’ speedy Louis scooped up the ball again and raced unimpeded for a touchdown for a 16-14 lead.
McClymonds pushed ahead 23-14 on a 5-yard run at the 5:24 mark of the 3rd quarter. But less than 30 seconds later, Watson scored on a dramatic 74-yard run. Meredith returned a Warriors’ fumble 60 yards, leading to another impressive Highlander drive, only to be doomed by yet another bad snap.
Josh Landheer had a career-long 60-yard punt in the 4th quarter, but missed tackles
allowed McClymonds to run down the time on a long possession. Piedmont’s last gasp began at the 1:09 mark at their own 22-yard line, but ended with an interception.
Coach Holan took his share of blame after the game telling his players, “This one’s on me, guys. You played well enough to win, but I fell short. I promise to be a better coach the rest of the way.”
Holan second-guessed himself on the decision not to try for a field goal late in the game when the Highlanders were within McClymonds’ 10-yard line and trailed by two points.
Defensive Coordinator Nick Safer praised his players. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we were the better football team tonight. We had a few bounces not go our way and that’s football. Last year we had all the bounces go our way. You can all be proud about the way you played tonight, we’re going to leave the results behind and learn what we can from this,” he said.
He took time to remind the Highlanders about how they’ve helped build a competitive program. “Two years ago, we couldn’t get 50 people in here for a game. You guys have built this up since then. To look up and see the stands packed, that’s something you can be proud of.”
Piedmont (3-2) opens league play next week with a home game against Hayward on Friday, October 9 at 7 p.m.
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