As our beloved Piedmont Highlanders football team gears up for its huge, road playoff game tonight against the JFK-Richmond Eagles; earlier this week the San Francisco Chronicle released a story about the wonderful season that the Eagles are having this season, which has become the Eagles most noteworthy season since they won the NCS Championship in 1988.
Back in 1988, that incredibly talented championship Kennedy Eagles team suffered a stunning upset in their regular season finale on their home field during Week Ten of the regular season…courtesy of the Piedmont Highlanders and a final score of 28 to 27 in favor of Piedmont; a remarkable game that remains one of the greatest upsets in the history of Piedmont football.
On that cold and damp late November afternoon in Richmond, Piedmont was led by their outstanding Head Football Coach, Steve Beyrle, and humbly, I served as his Offensive Coordinator. We had a good football team, and we finished that 1988 season at 6 – 4.
All season long we had heard about the major, future college and pro football-level talent of the Kennedy Eagles football team, and when our coaching staff had a couple of chances to scout that Eagles team live and in-person, the rumors were completely true, much to our dismay.
The Eagles were loaded with talent like no other high school football team that I have ever seen in my 25-years of coaching football throughout northern California. They were stocked with future collegiate stars and an eventual NFL Super Bowl Champion, D’Marco Farr (St. Louis Rams) at Defensive Tackle, Jason Harvey (University of Arizona) at Quarterback, Eric McDaniel at Tailback, Omar Thornton at Linebacker, and their roster seemed to be never ending with the number of players that went on to play junior college and/or collegiate football.
Our Piedmont players and coaches clearly understood that we were overwhelming underdogs going into that game vs. Kennedy, and when we watched the Eagles players in their red and white uniforms warm up on the field during that gray afternoon, it was an incredible sight to behold…they were huge, big, strong, fast and agile across the board – no weaknesses anywhere.
Coach Beyrle had devised a brilliant defensive game plan in a valiant attempt to somewhat slow down the Eagles offensive firepower, and we felt good about our multiple offensive attack, built around the simple concept of creating one-on-one matchups designed to isolate each Kennedy player in their 2-5-4 unique defensive scheme.
Kennedy’s two-man defensive front led by D’Marco Farr had been creating nightmares for their opponents all season long, and their remarkably talented 5-man linebacking core had been blitzing opposing backfields relentlessly. Lastly, their 4-man defensive secondary played man-to-man coverage vs. opposing receivers non-stop, because their 11-man defensive unit was unmatched in terms of talent and ability.
In our scouting of the Eagles defensive unit earlier that season, we noticed that when a running back motioned out of the backfield, that one of the Eagles linebackers would always follow him in man coverage.
So, during our game vs. the Eagles that day, we designed a simple plan to have our tough and smart offensive line set up with 4-foot wide splits, and we motioned one of our two running backs out of the backfield to clear out one of the Eagles’ inside linebackers. Then, we often had our quarterback, Watts take the handoff, spin around and give the football to our sprinting single running back coming from the backfield and racing between the guards, either Grimsrud or Austin, whichever running back happened to be in the backfield. Our attack worked brilliantly and we added a twist to our basic dive play because we knew that our offensive lineman could block or shield a big Kennedy linebacker for a split-second, just long enough to allow our speedy running backs to fake right and break left, or vice-versa. Our players executed things perfectly, and very soon into the opening quarter, our running backs were routinely sprinting through gaping holes in the Kennedy defense.
Defensively, Beyrle’s game plan attacked Kennedy’s backfield from all angles, we had to roll the dice on almost every play, they knew it, and we knew it, and fortunately we prevailed. If Kennedy was to score against our defense, Beyrle wanted it to be on a big play, because our physically overmatched defensive unit would not be able to withstand four-quarters of long, sustained offensive drives by the Eagles. Our defense created a couple of big turnovers which helped turn the momentum in our favor during the game; and those breaks also gave our offensive unit a shorter-field to work with to score.
Special teams made the difference in the game, and a missed PAT by the Eagles would ultimately be their undoing that day.
After a truly brilliant and exciting game hand unveiled itself over a two-and-a-half-hour period, it all came down to a Fourth down from the Eagles one-yard line. Our Piedmont offense had the football with less than two-minutes to go in the game, and we were trailing 27 to 21.
The stunned and disbelieving Kennedy coaches, players and fans knew that we were going to go for the win, and the shocked and excited Piedmont coaches, players, and fans also knew this was it, do or die, no matter what.
During our final timeout on the sideline with our offensive unit, Coach Beyrle asked me which play did I want to call, and I replied, “The Dive…because it got us this far.”
Beyrle agreed and I called the play, then our mud-and-grass stained Piedmont offensive unit eagerly hustled themselves onto the field. Both teams eventually lined up against each other in ultra-tight formations, pitting their big and talented defense against our smaller but determined and tough team. We put our Goal Line specialist at running back, Rusty Robb, who also played Linebacker for us, and Watts barked out the cadence as dusk settled in the darkening skies.
Watts took the snap from under the center and spun around from left to right, our offensive line fired off the line of scrimmage and created a tiny crease on the right side. Robb bolted towards the line and gobbled up the handoff, he powered his way through the tiny hole and dove head-first into the end zone!
Every single person on the sidelines and in the bleachers rooting for Piedmont jumped into the air and shouted for joy! We proceeded to kick the PAT to take the lead 28 to 27, with one-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.
But, the game was not yet over, Kennedy received our kickoff and proceeded to drive a few plays down the field, and then it happened. Eagles quarterback, Harvey launched a glorious bomb that went spiraling far down the right sideline, and the galloping Eagles receiver had somehow gotten behind our defensive secondary. Then, right in front of Coach Beyrle and I, the perfectly thrown pass hit that Eagles receiver right in the hands, on the money, he was off to the races for the winning score…but fortunately for us, that Eagles amazing receiver dropped the football and the immaculate pass fell incomplete for the Piedmont victory!
Our Piedmont players stormed the field in celebration of our shocking win, and in their joyous glee, the players hoisted Coach Beyrle and I onto their shoulders in the middle of the field, as we all reveled in the incredible win!
And now tonight, in their important playoff game vs. the Kennedy Eagles, it is my hope that the good and strong Piedmont team not only plays like champions with heart, but once again they stun the football world by upsetting a very good and talented Eagles team on their home turf.
Go Highlanders, and may both teams play a great game tonight in the NCS Playoffs!
When the 1995, “Team of Destiny” Varsity Piedmont football teammates were freshmen players under Frosh head coach Humphries in 1992, after their last game of that season, Coach Humphries was luckily captured on video giving a pep talk to them about the possibility of a wonderful football future that lay before them…if they could stick together and work hard to achieve their football dreams.
In 1993, after serving under Coach Beyrle as his offensive coordinator for six-years, I accepted the Varsity head football coaching position at Piedmont. Immediately thereafter, everybody within our Piedmont football family understood one thing for certain – the ACCAL Championship went through Bishop O’Dowd.
During my first-year as varsity head coach in 1993, my excellent assistant coaches such as, Dave Marshall, the late Greg Fox, and Pete Johanssen and I, decided to pull up several of the outstanding frosh players from the 1992 team. From that point on during the 1993 football season and through the 1995 “Team of Destiny” season; quite often, the last names of players such as, “Tollas, Peters, Sullivan, Griffinger, Pacult, Gray, Johnson, Bromley, Adams, Rutzen, Fleming, Dare, Fields and Watanabi” and many others could be heard echoing via the broadcast booming out of the Witter Field loudspeakers – proudly called by the late, great Piedmont announcer, Hunter McCreary.
In 1994, our Varsity football team travelled to play at Bishop O’Dowd. We were ready for the rivalry game vs. the Dragons at their place on a Saturday afternoon. However, our team was fairly and squarely defeated by a better O’Dowd team. After the game during that quick team bus ride back to Piedmont, I decided to look at things differently on behalf the hard-working Piedmont players and assistant coaches.
Adjustments had to be made…
A sharp truth pierced my brain like a bolt of lightning during that short ride back to Piedmont, “From now on, everything we do within the framework of Piedmont Football will be designed to defeat Bishop O’Dowd…and then we will adjust to our other opponents along the way.”
Entering the 1995 football season, our 31-man varsity football roster was led by a core group of players, many launched from that 1992 frosh team referenced earlier, “Tollas, Peters, Griffinger, Sullivan, Pacult, Gray, Johnson, Adams, Rutzen, and Bromley” among several other quality young men.
The 1995, “Team of Destiny” ended up finishing (8-1-1) that season. Prior to that, we had our committed players doing massive amounts of training in the off-season. Also, the assistant coaches and I spent a few months transforming our offensive, defensive and special teams’ systems into a more-narrow approach focused on defeating Bishop O’Dowd in order to win the ACCAL Championship outright. More adjustments were needed.
To be clear, our excellent 1995 football team caught two bad breaks to begin the season. In Week #1 at Pacific Grove, our outstanding Place Kicker, Schwartzman, drilled the game winning PAT that should have given our team its opening win of the season. But, even with our entire JV team standing on the track behind the uprights and jumping for joy after the PAT sailed through the uprights, the homegrown Monterey referees somehow signaled ‘No Good’ because the kick had been blasted too high through the uprights. So, the befuddled referees gave that egregious call to Pacific Grove, and the game ended in a tie, 13 to 13.
In Week #2, we hosted a powerhouse Berkeley High team in our home opener at Piedmont. The game was a masterful defensive slugfest and we held the lead with less than two-minutes to go. However, we were down to our third-string long-snapper due to injuries, and were forced to Punt from our own end zone. The long snap went whistling high over our Punter’s outstretched arms and hands through the back of the end zone for a two-point safety. We dropped that game, 8 to 7.
However, our players and assistant coaches were resilient. In Week #3 we travelled to San Leandro High and defeated a tough Pirates team to earn our first victory of the season.
We kept on winning games and stunned very highly ranked De Anza team at their place 31-8 for the win. Suddenly, the Piedmont 1995 “Team of Destiny” was for seemingly for real.
Heading into the O’Dowd game, the SF Chronicle had our two teams highly ranked and they were covering the game that night as well.
*In late October 1995, the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons and their highly-touted, Oregon State bound, star Running Back, Ricky Walker trekked to Piedmont to battle our team on a crisp night. A fantastic football game was about to take place in front of several thousand crazed football fans from both camps that jammed our Witter Field bleachers to standing room only.
Our worn out grass field had a brutally harsh runway of hard-packed devil dirt down the center of it that ran the length of the entire field. And, under the dimly lit cloudy lights of old Witter Field, the pregame aura and energy pulsing through the anticipatory crowd was surreal.
Prior to kick-off, each of our respective football teams linked-up with their teammates hand-to-hand and fanned out down the sidelines. Both units strode out to midfield to face one another and then proceeded to conduct a massive player-to-player, glare to glare hardcore stare-down, replete with some players barking and howling at their opponents with wildly painted game faces and grimaces.
Watching the incredible pre-game scene unfold, the bipartisan crowd went totally berserk, and from out over the loudspeakers came blaring that legendary song with the famous lyrics, “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!” and “Ya’ All Ready for This!” It was nuts!
Going into the game that night vs. O’Dowd, our game plan was to run the football as much as possible, in order to keep their star running back, Ricky Walker off the field.
After the kickoff, it was our turn to go on offense. Our Piedmont team marched down the field and scored a touchdown with our very good tailback Johnson punching it into the end zone from a few yards out. That was a good sign, our powerful offensive line could get the job done.
However, if we were going to beat O’Dowd and claim victory, then our great defense would have to lead the way. Our defensive squad was led by Tollas, Sullivan, Griffinger, Peters and Pacult, and across the board to a man, we did not have one weak link on that stalwart unit.
When the Dragons got the ball back, our defense stuffed them deep in O’Dowd territory, and forced a fumble. Suddenly, our Piedmont offense was back on the field in the First Quarter and deep within Dragon turf. We executed a few nice running plays, and a great play action pass on 4th down from quarterback, Adams to receiver, Fleming that brought us down to the one-yard line. One play later we scored on another touchdown run, but we scuffed the PAT, and were up, 13 to 0. The raucous hometown Highlander crowd was delirious with joy!
But then, the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons woke up and their star running back, Ricky Walker unleashed a torrent of game breaking runs to turn the tide in their favor. Walker went left, Walker went right, and Walker went up the middle of our defense.
Our hometown crowd grew pensive, and the visiting army of O’Dowd supporters voiced their enthusiastic glee for their Dragons who had taken back the lead, 20 to 13 at the half.
At halftime on the way to our locker room while I was jogging up the bleacher stairs through the heart of the crowd with our Piedmont players and coaches, a warm and comforting feeling came over me, and it was then that I knew we were going to win the game that night. Our excellent football team had taken O’Dowd’s best shots during the first-half, and we were only down by a touchdown.
During halftime, our Defensive Coordinator, Dave Marshall made some key adjustments with his defensive unit, and as we departed the locker room to return back down to the field, Dave looked at me and said, “They’re done…they won’t score another point on us.”
I smirked at him and replied, “If you’re right, then we got this.”
After the second-half kickoff, our Piedmont team dominated virtually every facet of the game. We scored another touchdown on a short run after a nice offensive drive and kicked the PAT, now the score was tied, 20 to 20.
Our physical and smart defensive unit began to pound away at O’Dowd’s offensive line, and for the entire second-half, their great running back, Ricky Walker had little room to do much at all.
Our defense shut down O’Dowd and we got the football back. Our offense executed another beautiful play action pass for a big gain down inside the O’Dowd 10-yard line, and two plays later we scored again on a short run. Now we were up, 27 to 20.
The next play sealed the game for us to begin the fourth quarter. We kicked off after scoring the go ahead touchdown, and our stud linebacker and special teams’ warrior, Sullivan, attacked the O’Dowd kick returner like a tackling madman and he ripped the football out of the stunned ball carrier’s arm. Sullivan pounced on the tumbling football and suddenly our Piedmont offense was back out on the field inside the O’Dowd twenty-yard line, and we had the football.
Our offense continued to pound away at the fatigued O’Dowd defense and a few plays later we scored again to make the score, 33 to 20.
Now, with less than seven-minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, our defense was humming on all cylinders and the Dragons were out of gas. It was obvious, and our hometown crowd was screaming for joy, and jumping and dancing around in the stands with abandon!
As the official clock on the scoreboard wound down to show there was under one-minute to go in the game, several of the players and assistant coaches and I began exchanging hugs and high-fives in celebration.
Our Piedmont Football program had earned the win vs. Bishop O’Dowd in a classic rivalry game, and it was due to the hard work of the outstanding players and assistant coaches that spanned the course of several years.
That night after the game, all of us were exhausted but thrilled with the accomplishment. The next morning, the SF Chronicle featured the Piedmont vs. Bishop O’Dowd game in the high school football section, and the headline read, “Highlanders Live by the Sword!”
Our 1995, “Team of Destiny” finished that season 8-1-1, with a 7-0 undefeated league record and an ACCAL League Championship.
What a marvelous rivalry it was between Piedmont and Bishop O’Dowd “back in the day.”
Hopefully, on Friday night, October 7th at Witter Field, the very exciting matchup between these two great football programs will be the beginning of a once Great Rivalry Reborn?
Kurt Bryan is a graduate of Piedmont High (82′) and a former Head Varsity Football Coach (1993-1996) and (2006-2010)
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.
After spending two seasons as Defensive Coordinator with the Piedmont Varsity football team, James Holan was named the 21st Head Football Coach at Piedmont High School. In his first season, the Highlanders currently sit at 6-2 and are poised for another play-off run.
A couple days ago I had a chance to sit down with Coach Holan to discuss the keys to gridiron success at Piedmont and formally introduce our fans to a wonderful coach, who is putting a solid football program in place that also prepares his Highlander players for future success.
Q: For our fan’s who don’t know your story, what was some of your prior coaching experience before you were named Piedmont’s new head football coach at the beginning of this season?
“For the fans who don’t know my story, or my prior coaching and playing experience and such, I’ve been here now for the last three years when we rebooted the program with coach Coats back in 2013. My first two years here I served as defensive coordinator and before that I was down in San Diego for 4 ½ years at Mission Hills High School, where I was the non-play calling Varsity offensive coordinator, offensive line and tight ends coach. I was also co-head coach and play caller on junior varsity. The year before I moved to San Diego, I coached at College of Marin for one year, which happened to be the last year they had their football program. Prior to coaching I played at Linfield College where we won the National Championship in 2004 and I played my high school ball at Tamalpias high school in Mill Valley.”
Q. It’s October 28th and while we are conducting this interview before practice, the players are in the weight room. Can you share a little bit about the work the kids put forth for this season.
“Probably one of the biggest things as far as our turnaround the last three years and trying to work to become a consistent program that is in the playoffs every year and competing for a chance to go win a section or league title, is implementing a weight training program. It’s a year round strength and conditioning program that allows our kids to get as strong as they possibly can. We aren’t telling our guys to put on weight or get bigger, we’re asking them to become more explosive and stronger regardless of what their body type is, or what position they play. We always want to be the strongest team on the field.”
Q: What do you notice about the way this team plays, that is a direct result of the strength program?
“Some of the biggest things that stick out to me about this team and the way they play. . . First off, this is a team that shows tremendous resilience. There’ve been multiple cases were we’ve been down or we’ve been out or guys have been missing due to injury or guys have gone out during the week in practice and every time something like that has happened, somebody else has stepped up and been there for their teammates and made sure they can get the job done. I think there’s a direct correlation with our weight room and our weight program, and the fact that if starter gets hurt we know the next guy going in has put in his time in the weight room, that his strength level is there that he’s a guy we can trust and count on because he’s been there all off-season with us. And obviously just over the course of the three years since I’ve been here, you’ve seen our players develop and grow in a physical manner and they look less like boys and more like men now.”
Q: Coaching a team requires good assistant coaches, what do you look for in an assistant coach?
The biggest thing I’m looking for in coaches? We want to have guys we can trust, who always can have the kids best interest in mind and who are going do their best to get the kids not only ready for football, but ready for life in general. We want them to be trustworthy guys who we know are doing the right thing and setting great examples for these young men and making them better football players every day. I firmly believe that with building staff and developing coaches it starts with the person because all the X’s and O’s and technique and all that stuff, we can teach. But being a trustworthy person, a guy with high morals that’s not necessarily something we can teach an adult, so we look for great people.
Q: What gives you the most satisfaction as a coach?
“Besides winning the most satisfaction I get as a coach is when kids have “that moment” and what I mean by that moment, is when you’ve been working on something with a kid for maybe one practice or one week or the whole season, but it’s something you been working and working and working on and at that moment it clicks for that guy. When they do it right and have that “AH-HA” moment, for me really that’s one of the most satisfying things as a coach. Also, I just love seeing the guys when they come back after they’ve graduated and been through our program. They’re off to college and growing up into fine young men and it’s great to have those guys come back, shake our hands and thank us for being hard on them or that we did know what we are talking about (laugh), really just seeing where they are going in life.”
Q: There is a ring you wear on a necklace during games, what’s the story?
“The ring I wear on my shoestring around my neck is the national championship ring from 2004 that we won at Linfield. It doesn’t really fit on my finger anymore and it’s kind of bent from the times I was wearing it, so I feel the easiest way to keep track of it is to have it tied up on a shoelace. I put my little Jim Harbaugh sharpie on there so I’m all set to go for games.
I’ve worn it for just about every game I’ve ever coached but there’s been times I forgotten it, and thank God I’m not a super superstitious guy otherwise it would’ve caused me some issues.
Funny story, I was coaching in San Diego at Mission Hills and same deal, I would wear it around my neck as a necklace on one of those beaded chains. Well, after playing Vista High School we got back to our high school and I didn’t notice until after one of my offensive linemen brought it to me that my ring was missing. He and his parents we’re taking some photos after the game and they found my ring on the field. They knew it was mine because they seen me wearing it around, but I was super lucky and it’s one of those things; I’ve always had opportunities to lose it but somehow it always comes back to me. It doesn’t look as nice but I got it tied on my shoelace and its not going anywhere.”
Q: With the way the team is playing things look good for another playoff berth. How does making the playoffs year after year help build a program?
“One of the things we set out to do when got here three years ago was to start earning some respect and I think that every year we make the playoffs and continue to win games in the playoffs, we earn a little bit more respect in this community and in the Bay Area football scene. But I think the bigger thing on top of that is that this has become the expectation for these young men; that we are going to make the playoffs and make a run. That’s what playing this game is all about. We all love to go out and run, tackle, throw and catch, but at the end of the day we’re competing to be champions and be the best we can possibly be. So, making the playoffs allows us that opportunity.”
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.
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.
Piedmont’s football team rebounded from an ugly loss to Moreau Catholic one week earlier with a satisfying 24-15 win over Salesian on Friday night. September 18, at Witter Field.
Running back Gabe Watson led the Highlanders with 139 yards and two touchdowns, including a beautiful cut back run. He ran into a wall of defenders on the right side, quickly spun to his left and broke several tackles for a 31-yard gain.
Quarterback Miles Kim directed the offense to a big second quarter in which Piedmont scored all its points. He capped the first half with a dazzling 42-yard scoring play off a QB draw. (more…)
Piedmont football began the year with great expectations after last year’s 12-1 campaign. With two decisive wins to open the season, last Friday night’s 55-9 loss to Moreau Catholic in Hayward came as a shock. Victimized by what coach James Holan described as “an avalanche of mistakes,” the Highlanders trailed 20-0 before the end of the first quarter. When the evening was over, Moreau running back Jullen Ison had scored six touchdowns. (more…)
The Piedmont Highlanders romped over an undermanned Fremont High (Oakland) football team, 43-13, in their home opener last Friday, September 4. On a beautiful night for Friday Night Lights football at Witter Field, Piedmont’s offense kicked into gear in the second quarter with three of its six touchdowns. (more…)