Football season kicks off against Archbishop Riordan

Carlmont+varsity+starts+their+first+drive+of+the+scrimmage.

Austin Li

Carlmont varsity starts their first drive of the scrimmage.

After over a year, Carlmont football returned to action with a scrimmage against CCS powerhouse Archbishop Riordan, where the Scots displayed heart and determination against a recruited Crusaders lineup. 

As a scrimmage, the meeting on Mar. 12 was non-league and did not affect either team’s record. Unlike a real game, there were no kickoffs, punts, or extra points. Instead, both teams were given 30 minutes to score as many times as they could. 

However, the aspect of downs remained similar. Each offense had three downs to reach ten yards, or else the ball would be returned to the 40-yard line, and their drive would restart. 

Although the Scots suffered a 28-21 defeat to the Crusaders, they performed very well given their new coaching staff and a small roster that presented many challenges. 

“Because our team is quite small this year, the coaches and I have been cross-training players to play multiple positions on offense, defense, and special teams,” said Eric Rado, Carlmont’s varsity head coach. “Although this makes it more challenging for players, it puts them in the best position to grow and allows [the coaching staff] to put the best 11 on the field for each situation presented during games.” 

Many of Carlmont’s crucial players are sophomores who are playing in a varsity environment for the first time. 

“I was nervous going into the game because I had never played on varsity before, but once the game started going, the nerves went away, and it was a lot of fun,” said sophomore Jack Wiessinger, Carlmont’s starting quarterback. “Varsity football is really different in comparison to JV. Not only is the game much faster, but it is far more physical.”

On offense first, the Scots struggled to find openings and were overwhelmed by the Archbishop Riordan defense. Drive after drive, the Scots would pick up little yardage and ultimately stop and return to the 40-yard line. However, during their fifth drive, the Scots finally started gaining momentum. Set up by a huge 39-yard reception in double coverage by William Hesselgren, a senior, the Scots scored their first touchdown with a 1-yard rush by Luke Nessel, a sophomore.

Senior tight end William Hesselgren catches a 39-yard reception in double coverage. (Austin Li)

A few drives later, Nessel exploded with a massive 23-yard run as he broke through multiple tackles and fought his way into the endzone.

“Going into the game, I was really anxious because I had dreamed of playing varsity football since I was five years old. When my offensive line created a hole, my mind was set on scoring, and so I ran through defenders and forced my way to the endzone,” Nessel said. 

With two minutes left, the Scots were put in a must-score situation on their final drive. Filling in for Wiessinger, quarterback Matthew Gattey, a senior, took off on a 28-yard run when he recognized none of his receivers were open. However, despite the huge gain, a final touchdown was unlikely after two unsuccessful runs and one incomplete pass.

As the timer decreased, the Scots set up for their final play. Gattey lined up to receive the snap and, behind him, sophomore Jaquari Hughes and Calvin Gomez and Jake Bove, both seniors, lined up in the backfield. Rado had called a motion play designed to confuse the defense and create a quick and easy pass to Gomez on a flat route. The play worked beautifully, and Gomez hauled in a reception for a 4-yard touchdown. Carlmont had scored three times, and it was now Archbishop Riordan’s turn to display their offense. 

Led by quarterback Azaan Ledbetter, a senior, Archbishop Riordan quickly scored with a 40-yard touchdown run by running back Ziion Best on their first play. Although frustrated, Carlmont did not back down. Under defensive coordinator Brian Von Almen, the Scots quickly regrouped and contained the Crusaders’ offense. 

Play after play, Carlmont’s defense would come up with multiple sacks, pass deflections and ultimately force four turnovers on downs. Lining up in a blitz formation, defensive linemen Vincente Tamburina and Antonio Castillo, both juniors, consistently overwhelmed the Archbishop Riordan offensive line, forcing Crusaders head coach Mark Modeste to switch up his play calling. 

The Crusaders lined up in I-formation to start their sixth drive, causing Carlmont linebackers to tighten down, expecting a run from Best. However, the ball was handed off to 6-foot junior full-back Kemoe’atu Kefu who, despite having most of the Scots defense trying to bring him down, forced his way to the 25-yard line. Four plays later, Ledbetter scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown run. 

The momentum gained from the touchdown pushed the Crusaders forward, and the Scots were unable to find a solid solution to defend against Archbishop Riordan’s deep passes. On the next drive, Ledbetter threw a 43-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Laprell Trammell, tying the scrimmage 21-21. 

“Defense was rough at times because our defensive backs didn’t stay deep when we needed to, and we let them get past us on a couple of big plays. We all made mistakes as a team, but those mistakes will be fixed in the upcoming weeks,” Hughes said.

A few costly mistakes led to Ledbetter throwing another 40-yard touchdown to senior tight end Leo Maranghi on the next play, which gave Archbishop Riordan a 28-21 lead over the Scots and ended the match. 

Although the Scots lost, the game set a tone for their real season, which starts next week. In the end, many of the players are happy that they can compete again and grow as football players. The Scots’ next game will be at home against El Camino High School on Mar. 19. 

“My teammates and I are just blessed to even have a season. A month ago, it wasn’t a given, but now we are here. Archbishop Riordan was ranked 25 in the Bay Area and is our toughest opponent this year, which gives us tremendous confidence going into the season,” Nessel said.

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