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.
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By Jason Eisenberg
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