Falcons lose in Homecoming tilt at Levi’s, look to rebound vs. Mountain View

September 27, 2018 — by Siva Sambasivam and Rahul Vadlakonda

Despite a less than stellar start to the season, Falcons look to make CCS.

Following a 1-9 season last year, one riddled with injuries and tough losses, the football team dropped down to the lower El Camino League. But after winning its first game against Santa Teresa, the Falcons have stumbled in non-league losses to Silver Creek, Sacred Heart and Los Gatos.

Most painful of all, they lost their much-anticipated Homecoming game last Friday against Santa Clara 26-21 at Levi’s Stadium. It was their first league game. A week earlier they traveled to Los Gatos and fell to the Wildcats 48-7.

The Falcons travel to Mountain View tonight for their next league matchup. The Spartans enter the game with a 2-3 record, but are coming off an impressive 58-34 win against Gunn.

During the Homecoming game, the Falcons got into a hole quickly as they struggled to stop the Bruins’ rushing attack and were unable to prevent Santa Clara from converting on third down. The Bruins got out to a 12-0 lead within the first quarter and a half, from two rushing touchdowns from their quarterback Nick Garcia.

After the Falcons got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff in the second quarter, they began to find their rhythm. The team capped off a 75-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Stokes to junior wide receiver Tyler Prowse.

Their defense was able to stop the Bruins’ next drive, but a 40-yard field goal attempt before the half failed.

The Falcons trailed 12-7 at halftime. The Falcons’ momentum carried over into the second half, with Stokes driving the team down the field on their first drive and running the ball in for a 2-yard TD. The score put the Falcons ahead 14-12.

At this point, the Falcons defense was finally able to hold up, stopping the Bruins on their next two drives. The Falcons’ offense however, was not able to convert either of these opportunities, and senior running back J.J. Wang fumbled on the team’s own 21-yard line, a costly turnover.

The Bruins pounced on their opportunity to score with a 10-yard touchdown pass, making the score 19-14. After this momentum shift, the Bruins’ defense was able to get a quick 3 and out, giving the ball back to Garcia, who scored on a 8-yard rushing touchdown, with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

On the next possession, Stokes led the Falcons on an 80-yard drive, capped off with a 50-yard touchdown connection to junior wide receiver Max Muilenburg, making the score 26-21 and keeping the Falcons in the game.

The defense was able to force a missed 36-yard field goal from the Bruins, giving the ball back to the offense with 4 minutes left on the clock, and all three timeouts. Trailing by one touchdown, Stokes had one final chance to lead a drive to put the team ahead.

The offense was able to convert two first downs, but with around 3 minutes left, Stokes threw an interception on a pass intended for Prowse. The turnover gave the ball back to the Bruins, and one first down sealed the win for the Bruins.

Toward the end of the contest, a scary play brought a hush over the stadium.  Defensive tackle and special teams gunner Will Seifert was injured on a blindside hit on special teams. He lay on the ground unconscious for several minutes while medical personal rushed onto the field. Even though the hit was legal and no penalty was assessed, Saratoga coaches were upset at the dangerous nature of the block.

After regaining consciousness, Seifert was carted off the field in a neck brace. He spent the night in a hospital and was released the next day. He is out for the foreseeable future, and as such a versatile player, it is a huge loss to the team.

Despite the team’s recent struggles compounded with likely season-ending injuries to both Siefert and sophomore wide receiver Ryan Gilligan in an earlier game, junior wide receiver George Bian believes that with their toughest stretch of the year behind them, the team can still regroup and make some noise for the rest of the season, and perhaps the playoffs.

“For the last few weeks we haven’t really been playing our best because we have been playing the three toughest teams on our schedule. We are going to play easier teams in the upcoming weeks and should do better,” said Bian.

Bian said that the Falcons held their own against a tough team like Santa Clara, a positive sign that can help the team’s morale and prospects going forward.

“Although losing those three games has affected our morale, I think that we are going to keep our head up and work hard the rest of the season, and start getting some wins,” Bian said.

Since the Falcons have only lost one league game, their prospects for a league title and a CCS appearance are still a realistic possibility, especially being in the B-division with easier competition.

“Coming into the season we wanted to win CCS, and because we are in the El Camino League, I still think that that is our ultimate goal,” said Bian. “But after losing our first league game, we need to win the rest of our five league games, so we are treating those games as all playoff games.”

Despite having a losing season so far, coach Tim Lugo is hopeful that as the the younger players get more experience, and develop more at the varsity level, the team will be able to execute better on the field.

The team’s current roster includes numerous sophomores and juniors in their first year on varsity, such as free safety Tyler Chaffin and receiver Kelly Huseby.

“Those guys are all contributing,” he said. “We did not bring them to the team to sit on the bench, but there is a growth process when you start sophomores on your team.”

Lugo said he is optimistic for the rest of the season because of the untapped potential of some of these players combined with the lower league competition.

Although the Falcons were not able to win at Levi’s, Bian believes that having the football game at the stadium brought the entire community together, and gave a boost of morale to the football team.

“Just having the whole community out there supporting Saratoga High, that’s what it's all about. It is not necessarily about winning or losing, it’s just about bringing together our community and having fun at the event,” he said.

As the Falcons look forward to their game against Mountain View, many of their players have another motive to come out and play their best.

The Falcons former JV head coach, Stephen Matos, is now one of the varsity coaches for Mountain View. Bian is looking forward to showing how much they have improved.

“Coach Matos was our coach when we beat Los Gatos two years ago, down the last second. It is going to be a really awesome game, because we get to show him what we have learned, and hopefully come out with win,” Bian said.