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Dragons find late answer in win at San Leandro


David Perry kept hoping for an answer, and that’s just what he got.

The Bishop O’Dowd head coach, in his first year running the program, was searching for the missing piece to the puzzle for much of Thursday night’s contest at San Leandro. The Pirates were throwing blitzes from every which way, making it difficult on a highly talented and up-tempo Dragons offense to make much of anything.

Well, with just a few minutes remaining, his team found an answer on a 29-yard touchdown pass, as the No. 24 Bishop O’Dowd Dragons (2-1) pulled through with a 15-6 win at San Leandro (2-1).

“It was nuts,” Perry said. “No. 1: Praise God. Put that on there. That’s all I was doing at the end was saying, ‘Please, Lord. Please, Lord. Find something. It took us four quarters to find an answer. That was an amazing effort by coach Boom and his squad. They were taking everything away, and we just kept searching for answers. Finally found an answer at the end. The credit goes to my players, this coaching staff.” 

San Leandro was in control for much of the first quarter, as its defense kept applying pressure and its offense was creating some chunk plays and breaking tackles. 

There was a blocked field goal. Five stops in the backfield on the first 10 plays of the game.

Then, quarterback Demetrius Freeney ran untouched for a 62-yard touchdown, and after a missed two-point try, San Leandro had one of the Bay Area’s top teams in a 6-0 bind with 2:25 left in the first quarter.

But, after that, Bishop O’Dowd’s defense rallied. And so did the rest of the team together.

“We just knew what we had to do,” said Bishop O’Dowd senior linebacker Julian Wilson. “We call this a ‘Dragon tackle.’ We want everybody in the tackle, so we just knew we had to hold it down, get everybody. Tackle low. We were tackling too high. We just had to make sure we were getting low, and we got it done.”

Bishop O’Dowd never allowed another point the rest of the way, making it the second straight week an opponent scored fewer than 10 points against it. Last week, Encinal – a runner-up in the North Coast Section in 2019 – scored just seven and San Leandro came away with six.

In total, San Leandro totaled 156 yards offensively, with 143 of those coming on the ground and 13 of those coming on one completion on 11 attempts.

Additionally, Bishop O’Dowd held San Leandro to 1-of-11 passing, intercepted two passes and forced stops on all five fourth down attempts, including one at San Leandro’s own 7-yard line that eventually led to an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jesse Madden to Tyler Hunter that put Bishop O’Dowd up 8-6 in the first half.

Eleven San Leandro plays went for negative yardage against this stingy Bishop O’Dowd defense, which was led by three tackles for loss from Ty Jones, two tackles for loss from Kaleb Branscomb, Alessandro Paez’s two sacks and an all-around display from Julian Wilson.

Before the year, Perry told the Dragons he wanted them to be the best defense in California, and they are showing that they are one of them through the first three weeks of this season, with opponents averaging 11.3 points per game.

“Everything we’ve put in practice,” Wilson said. “We put that work in in practice. We just work as hard as we can. Our scout O – they put in all the work for us. They help us out, get us prepared for all the games. Everything is in practice.”

San Leandro’s defense applied countless blitzes all night, which worked and created 11 negative plays of Bishop O’Dowd’s own.

“It was a tough week, and we tried to send everything at them,” Perry said. “I think we did a pretty good job of preparing them, of just putting them in the fire and throwing blitzes. We literally did blitz pickup like three days this whole week to get ready for it because we knew it was going to come. 

“Hats off to San Leandro. They did a heck of a job taking it away, and we just needed an answer. These dudes – they don’t give up. That’s what we’re hanging our hat on is these kids fight. They never give up. They’ve got that championship heart. They’ve got that championship attitude. They just know how to get it done.

It took until the very end for the Dragons to dial up just the right plays, with Matt White taking a pass from Madden 29 yards to the house, eluding a couple defenders and missing some tackles to make it a 15-6 ballgame with 2:46 remaining.

Perry said O’Dowd got San Leandro in a numbers game on that play, as the Pirates did an excellent job of matching up three against three, so they thought they could add a fourth. They did basic math, got four against three and found White in the flat with nobody guarding him.

“A dude like Matt White – clutch, straight gamer,” Perry said. “He never wavers. Never wavers. He’s in there the whole game. You saw it. When we’re down, ‘Let’s go. Come on, D.’ He just never wavers. He finds a way to get it done.”

“That play – all I knew is that time was running out, and we needed a play to win this game,” White said. I don’t know. With the help of God I was able to get it done. I don’t even know what happened. I just know one moment I was in the endzone. That’s when I looked that up to God and my team. Shout out to the o-line.”

Madden finished with a 14-of-24 passing day for 142 yards and two touchdowns, coming one week after he went 17-of-22 for 235 yards and four scores.

White led the Dragons with 63 yards and a score on three catches, rushing for another 30 yards. Ben Martin had 43 yards on four receptions. Lehigh bound Harrison Jenkins tallied 27 yards on four catches, and Hunter had the 18–yard touchdown snag.

Freeney was San Leandro’s top player statistically, as the dual-threat quarterback finished with 56 rushing yards. Ismael Sanchez recorded 39 rushing yards. Enoch Ampofo was right behind them with 36 yards on eight carries.

Next week, San Leandro looks to get back into the win column versus Encinal at 7 p.m. April 9. Bishop O’Dowd aims to keep its two-game winning streak going when it hosts No. 23 James Loga at 7 p.m. April 9.

“I tell them all the time that the standard is the standard,” Perry said. “That’s what it’s supposed to be. We’ve got to step our game up on the offensive side and kind of go back and look at that and clean that up to get this run game going a little bit. But the standard doesn’t change. We want to shut dudes down as much and as best as we can, and we want to put points on the board. Nothing changes.”

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Box Score: 

Bishop O’Dowd

Passing: Jesse Madden 14-24, 142 yards, 2 TD.

Rushing: Matt White – 17 carries, 30 yards. Kyon Loud – 1 carry, -2 yards. Harrison Jenkins – 1 carry, -5 yards. Jesse Madden – 5 carries, -12 yards.

Receiving: Matt White – 3 catches, 63 yards, TD. Ben Martin – 4 catches, 43 yards. Harrison Jenkins – 4 catches, 27 yards. Tyler Hunter – 1 catch, 18 yards, TD.

San Leandro

Passing: Demetrius Freeney – 1-11, 13 yards.

Rushing: Demetrius Freeney – 12 carries, 56 yards, TD. Ismael Sanchez – 8 carries, 39 yards. Enoch Ampofo – 8 carries, 36 yards. Devan Daniels – 3 carries, 16 yards. Luis Ventura – 1 carry, -4 yards.

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