Exciting clash of rivals could be last in historic series
Bittersweet is an overused term, particularly in sports, but the annual high school football clash between west county rivals Analy and El Molino was the very definition of the term as the teams took the field on the Lions’ home turf on Friday for the 56th and final time.
When the dust cleared some two and a half hours later, the host Lions hoisted the coveted Victory Apple trophy for the second straight season – the first two-game win streak for El Mo in 25 years — with an electrifying, 35-27 victory.
“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and excitement for our players, their families and the community,” El Molino head coach Jerod Brown reflected. “Aside from all of the consolidation discussions happening in our district, I think the history of the game was important for our entire west county community to be able to experience again.”
The pre-game ceremony, highlighted by the gathering of former coaches from both sides set the tone for the historic game, a night loaded with nostalgia but grounded in athletic achievement.
Lions get physical
El Molino, led by a 180-yard rushing performance from senior all-league quarterback Weston Lewis, came out slugging, employing a bruising ground attack that would ultimately be the key to victory
“We installed a special unbalanced package specifically for this game,” Brown explained later. “We felt like we've had a good run game all year and would be able to slow the game down by running the ball and burning the clock on long drives. We didn't want to get in a shootout with them.”
The strategy proved effective, with Lewis engineering a short drive resulting in a one-yard quarterback burst. He added the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.
In a game marked by multiple turnovers on both sides, El Mo cashed in on a fumble recovery at the Analy 25, a play leading to another seven-yard touchdown scamper by Lewis and a 14-0 second-quarter lead.
Analy senior quarterback Jake Acosta cranked up the Tiger offense on their next possession, a drive highlighted by a long pass to receiver Nick Kraemer and capped by a 13-yard scoring pass to Trent Vogel to make it 14-7.
The passing game came up big again on in the Tiger’s next drive, as Acosta found Armand Moreno a couple of long passes, setting up a six-yard touchdown scamper from Cole Hunter to knot the contest at 14-all at the break.
“I repeated multiple times throughout the game, ‘weather the storm,’” Brown said. “We felt like we could match their talent at all levels of the field but, with a small roster and Analy’s fast offense, we knew we needed to control the pace of the game as much as we could.”
Both teams ramped up their attack in the third quarter — trading touchdowns that featured passes from Lewis to Ian Hocheder and Acosta to Vogel. The Lions led 28-21 after three and the game would ultimately be decided with one final drive.
Lewis led his team on a 19-play, 94-yard fourth-quarter march that featured three fourth-down conversions, including one from their own 15. The drive ended in Lewis’ third touchdown run of the night.
“I know the call was gutsy and would've been seen as stupid if it didn't work in our favor but it was important to me to show our players that I have unwavering confidence in them at that moment,” Brown noted. “I felt like it was an opportunity to really take control of the game and close it out.”
The ensuing scoring drive gave the Lions a lead they would not relinquish, holding off a determined Analy squad to win, 35-27.
Tigers head coach Dan Bourdon, whose history with the rivalry dates back to the late ’90s as an Analy quarterback, summed it up well.
“El Molino had a great game plan and executed it well,” he said. “We had trouble stopping their running game and that allowed them to control the tempo. After falling behind 14-0, our guys battled back, but it's hard to win games when we have four turnovers.”
Lewis finished up a Herculean performance with 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns and 144 yards through the air and a pair of scores. He also converted five point-after kicks. Other outstanding offensive efforts for the Lions came from DJ Ramalia (22-66 yards rushing), Tyler Sword (3-20 yards rushing), Hocheder (4-84 yards receiving, 2 TDs) and Jackson Dunkle (2-30 yards receiving).
Acosta finished up a great night with 15 completions on 27 pass attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Other standout performances were had by Vogel (5-74 yards receiving, 2 TDs, 9-54 yards rushing), Kidd (2-65 yards receiving, TD), Kraemer (3-60 yards receiving), Moreno (2-50 yards receiving), Hunter (2-14 yards rushing, TD) and William Koenig (1-8 yards receiving).
Leading El Mo defenders were Erik Dimond (2 assists, 7 tackles), Dylan Dekker (1 tackle, 6 assists, FR), Hocheder (1 tackle, 4 assists, INT), Sword (1 tackle, 4 assists) and Trenton Rivas (2 assists, INT). There were no defensive stats available for Analy.
The El Molino victory was just the fourth for the Lions in the past 20 years, cutting the all-time Analy lead in the series to 31-25.
Both teams will be back in action this Friday, April 9 when the Lions (2-1) host St. Vincent (7 p.m. varsity kickoff), while the Tigers (1-1) visit Healdsburg in a 6 p.m. varsity start.