Falcons lose senior night game to Jefferson in controversial fashion after officials reset clock

October 21, 2023 — by William Cao
Photo by Anika Kapasi
Senior Cooper Call lines up, eager to run his wide-receiver route against Monta Vista on Oct 5. 
The Falcons currently have a league record of 1-4 after their decisive 33-0 victory against Monta Vista on Oct. 5, a forfeit loss against South San Francisco on Oct. 13 and a 9-7 loss on Oct. 20 to Jefferson.

Senior night game on Oct. 20 ends with emotional 9-7 point loss 

Before the game, fans, decked out in America-themed colors, cheered to honor the senior football players and their families along with seniors on the dance and cheer teams. The seniors proudly walked down the gridiron, each holding a bouquet of flowers. 

Throughout the game, the Falcons’ offensive and defensive lines battled against the Jefferson Grizzlies. Jefferson initially scored two field goals in the second quarter, leaving the Falcons down 6-0. However, senior wide receiver Cooper Call caught a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Anson Hulme with 5 seconds remaining before halftime. After a successful conversion by senior kicker Yul Hong, the Falcons led 7-6. 

With 11 seconds left in the game, the Falcons’ defensive line repeatedly stopped Jefferson’s attempts to score at the 10-yard line. As the clock dwindled, Jefferson’s quarterback appeared to want to spike the ball but took a knee instead. Fans roared, thinking the Falcons had clinched a 7-6 victory. However, this hope was short-lived — officials controversially reset the clock back to 11 seconds left in the game, providing the Grizzlies the opportunity to kick a field goal. The result: a controversial 9-7 loss for the Falcons. 

With hunched backs and tears in their eyes, players and coaches made their way back to the locker room for the post-game talk. 

With this loss, the Falcons hold a 1-4 league record in the Peninsula-Lake League as of Oct. 20.

Saratoga forfeits against South San Francisco on Oct. 13

Football has long been battling shortages in its roster. According to senior defensive back Tristan Hoang, potential players are more cautious about joining the team due to football’s reputation as a dangerous sport. As a result, the team’s roster has been reduced to 26 students this year, compared to last year’s 33-member team, who finished with a 1-6 league record. 

Hoang said lack of players has been a significant challenge this season and a concerning trend for the future. 

This situation reached a point where head coach Stephen Matos had to make a painful decision: forfeiting their away game against a tough South San Francisco team on Oct. 13. 

Instead, the Falcon put their efforts into having the JV team win their game against South San Francisco that day with the addition of several regular varsity players — such as Hulme, junior linebacker and tight end Doug Bettinger and sophomore running back and linebacker Brennan Pak. This plan worked out, with JV winning 7-0. 

Although the varsity team hasn’t lost many star players due to injury this season, this decreasing trend in participation has forced players such as Pak and junior running back and linebacker Keion Ashjaee-Marshall to play both offense and defense in every game, wearing them down. Hoang has been doing so since last season.

“A recurring trend this season has been our defense doing well, but our offense not melding because of the new offense system [from the addition of assistant coach Darrell Adams],” Hoang said.

Over Hoang’s last two years playing on the team, he has enjoyed playing both ways. 

In addition to their dual-role enthusiasm, seniors like Hoang have stepped up by assuming higher leadership positions, helping unite the team and bolster team spirit.

In practice, Hoang said the seniors have maintained a higher level of focus to ensure smoother and more efficient practices, while on the field, they lead by example through their exceptional performance and help coach players in huddles after plays. If the seniors were to lose their temper, it could have a detrimental impact on the entire team’s morale and results. 

33-0 demolition of Monta Vista on Oct. 5

As the clock trickled down in the third quarter, senior defensive back Raghav Rajan caught two interceptions and the Falcons — under guidance from Matos — proceeded to plow through the defense. The Falcons readily secured their first league win of the season, 33-0. 

It was a particularly memorable night for Call, who was nominated for Bay Area News Group boys Athlete of the Week. Call caught six passes for 227 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

“Call had an impressive game, but what is even more remarkable is that it was not his best performance,” Hoang said. “He is our X factor and has the ability to make any play a touchdown. The whole team looks up to him — he brings energy and makes football fun.”

The Falcons look to achieve the same positive results for the remainder of the season. They will travel away to Gunn on Oct. 27 and play their final game away against Lynbrook on Nov. 4 to close out the season. 

“As the season concludes, we are set on the goal of ending strong,” Hoang said. “It will be a defining moment, and we will leave all of our newfound efforts on the field.”

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