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Sunday night, the Campolindo football program went through an unspeakable tragedy.
Junior lineman Elijah Klock lost his father, his best friend who did so much with him and for him, and someone who pushed Klock every single day to get better. He lost the man he admired, the man so many around him admired.
Klock and his father were inseparable, a relationship his teammates attested to after the game. They took the loss hard, too, as they lost someone whom they considered family.
But Klock and the Cougars showed an undeniable strength, one of incredible perseverance throughout the week, as Klock was seen smiling at practice throughout the week and cheering up his teammates. It was much of the same Friday evening in Moraga.
For the third straight week, the No. 13 Campolindo Cougars (3-0) came away with another high quality win in the Bay Area, beating their rival, the No. 16 Acalanes Dons, in 28-13 fashion to remain undefeated.
“It meant a lot,” Klock said. “This week, we really dedicated the week of practice to my dad, who just passed this Sunday. I think that really gave us an extra fire that just propelled us through the week and got us this dub.”
And the Cougars took control of the game from the onset, utilizing a strong defensive display, a punishing ground game and timely passes to get revenge on Acalanes, who won the meeting, 17-7, last year.
Senior running back Dillan Thoms carried the ball 10 times for 48 yards on the opening drive, topping it off with a 3-yard scoring run to put Campolindo up 7-0 with 2:29 left in the first quarter, and he and the Cougars never relinquished the lead after that.
Will Monkarsh later picked off Acalanes on a screen pass, leading to a scoring drive that Thoms finished with on a 1-yard run, putting the Cougars up 14-0 with 7:06 remaining the the half.
Those defensive plays proved to be a crucial difference.
Campolindo forced three turnovers, with two of those leading to 14 points – a pivotal differential in what was a 15-point win (Acalanes had an extra point blocked). The other takeaway that led to a score was a fumble recovery, as a third down fumble recovery in the red zone gave Campolindo even more momentum, which J.T. Clarke capitalized on a few plays later on a 25-yard touchdown run to make it a 28-13 ballgame with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
The third turnover: another fumble recovery in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.
Acalanes’ 13 points was its fewest of the season following 33 and 35-point performances.
“Any turnover we get is a huge momentum shift, and they really help us on offense by getting us good field position,” said Campolindo senior quarterback Jacob Griessel. “It definitely gets us momentum going into the drive, and they definitely led to our biggest scores of the game.”
Thoms was a workhorse for the Cougars all night long, totaling 31 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third time he reached 20 or more carries in three games this season, as his other totals are 20 in the season-opening win against Freedom and then 24 last week in a victory versus Benicia.
His production is up to 380 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s been huge,” said Campolindo senior lineman Matai Bell. “It was a blessing to see that he was coming back this year. One of the main things I was hoping for was to block for him one more time for this game especially. I know going into our freshman year and our sophomore year, we always expressed that, how I used to block for him all the time. And then he left for one year and then he came back, which was huge.
“I was able to block for him one more time. He;’s a hard man to take down. Hard man to take down, especially over 26 carries every game. It just doesn’t let up. He’s a hard body. He can;t be taken down.”
Campolindo also found some big plays through the air.
It was Griessel’s best game to date as a starter, completing 9 of 13 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Griessel’s touchdown strike came on a 15-yard play up the middle to senior Joey Schmidt, who bobbled the ball a few times before taking the ball 77 yards to the house to extend Campolindo’s lead to 21-7 with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Griessel said he threw the ball a little early to Schmidt, who still made the play and gave the Cougars the cushion they needed.
“It was one of those where you turn and the ball is right in your hands,” Schmidt said. “It came too quick, but I tipped it up and I got it. Form there, I don’t even remember.”
Schmidt led Campolindo with 126 receiving yards on five catches. Max Heffernan had a 51-yard grab. Zach Raphael brought in two receptions for 14 yards.
Clarke rushed for 40 yards on three touchdowns.
“We were able to pound the ball on the ground,” Griessel said. “We were able to get consistent yards. And then we were able to hit a few chunk plays that really helped us. Definitely, linemen did a great job. Defense did a great job. They had a really good offense, but we were able to hold them to a manageable amount of points where we could win.”
Acalanes senior quarterback Brady Huchingson threw for 230 yards onn 19-of-31 passing, bringing him to 657 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
Five different Dons players caught passes, led by Sam Heyman’s 63 yards on three catches. Evan Malmquist had 54 yards on five receptions, while Dante Montgomery recorded 42 yards on seven catches.
Nic Rossi scored both of Acalanes’ touchdowns on a 12-carry, 67-yard day.
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Passing: Brady Huchingson – 19-31, 230 yards, TD.
Rushing: Nic Rossi – 12 carries, 67 yards, 2 TD. Brady Huchingson – 6 carries, 43 yards. Evan Malmquist – 2 carries, 12 yards.
Receiving: Sam Heyman – 3 catches, 63 yards. Evan Malmquist – 5 catches, 54 yards. Dante Montgomery – 7 catches, 42 yards. Will Berrien – 3 catches, 22 yards. Nic Rossi – 1 catch, 1 yard.
Passing: Jacob Griessel – 9-13, 198 yards, TD. Maxwell Weaver – 0-1.
Rushing: Dillan Thoms – 31 carries, 119 yards, 2 TD. J.T. Clarke – 3 carries, 40 yards. Maxwell Weaver – 1 carry, 8 yards. Jake Leuteneker – 1 carry, 3 yards. Jacob Griessel – 3 carries, -14 yards.
Receiving: Joey Schmidt – 5 catches, 126 yards, TD. Max Heffernan – 1 catch, 51 yards. Zach Raphael – 2 catches, 14 yards.
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