As a group, the Aragon football team went into their locker room at halftime of a Saturday clash with Lincoln-San Jose scratching their collective head a bit and admittedly a bit nervous.
Sure, they were up 7-0 on the Lions and they had all but imposed their will on Lincoln on both sides of the football. But still, something felt a little, incomplete.
“That’s what I was worried about,” said Aragon head coach Steve Sell. “I’ve seen game like these when you look at the stat sheet and you’re dominating, but they get a touchdown and boom all of a sudden, you’re in trouble. If they had scored at the end of the first half, beginning of the second half, it could have gotten real dicey.”
The message of impending trouble was received clearly by the Dons though, who came out in the third quarter and played like a team with zero intentions of flirting with disaster. Aragon (3-0) stormed out in the third period, using three Lincoln interceptions and 168 yards of offense to put up 28 points on the Lions en route to a 35-7 win.
“I told them that if Lincoln came out and scored, that this game could get very interesting,” Sell said. “So, we decided to stop playing against ourselves and play against one team. We just had to quit making mistakes.”
Aragon’s mistakes stemmed from their inability to hold onto the football in the first half. This was unfortunate considering they dominated the Lions through the first 24 minutes of football.
Their initial drive moved 10 yards before Nat Blood was picked off. And while the turnover hurt, the second and third drives were probably more frustrating for the Dons.
Aragon ran a total of 26 plays in those drives and came up with zero points. On the second drive, the Dons got all the way down to the Lincoln 10-yard line before a false start and an incomplete pass thwarted the drive and turned the ball over to the Lions.
Then on the third drive, the Dons marched down the field and ate clock. This time, Aragon got down to the 3-yard line before a fade ball into the end zone resulted in yet another interception.
“They forced us [underneath],” Sell said. “They were going to keep everything in front of them and we threw them the ball a couple of times and hurt ourselves.”
But Sell’s defense wasn’t budging at all in that first half. Lincoln saw the ball three times and ran a total of 12 plays for -10 yards during that same span of time.
“Our defense played so great,” Sell said. “That was huge. It was such a far cry from last week. This week we made it tough.”
It was that defense that set up a short field for Aragon, who finally got into the end zone. It took the Dons six plays to cover 49 yards. Patrick Pauni did the honors, bulldozing his way into the Promised Land to give Aragon a 7-0 lead.
Lincoln did find a positive offensive play with a little more than a minute to play in the second quarter — a 31-yard run. Still, at the end of the half, the Lions had only managed 11 yards and were almost burnt by a Hail Mary that Kono Filimoehala-Egan almost ran back for a touchdown.
Come the third quarter, the Dons learned from their mistakes and did not waste a single opportunity.
After a Lincoln 3-and-out, Aragon marched 84 yards on eight plays and this time Pauni showed a bit of flash scoring from 35 yards away to make it 14-0.
The defense continued to show its dominance. Two snaps into Lincoln’s next drive, Keith Samujh intercepted a pass. Six offensive plays and 25 yards after that, Pauni checked into the Touchdown Hotel from a yard out to increase Aragon’s lead to 21-0.
The Don defense wasn’t done. Lincoln was picked off on its next offensive play and this time Nicholas Tolfa liked Pauni’s experience at the Touchdown Hotel so much, he decided to book reservations for 6 from 33 yards away to make it 28-0.
The interception party wasn’t over. Devin Grant jumped in front of a materializing wide receiver screen for a pick of his own. Aragon turned that one into a touchdown, too, taking 11 plays and 59 yards for its fourth TD of the quarter. Samujh did the honors then.
Aragon outgained Lincoln 168 to -2 in that pivotal third quarter. The Lions did score during the fourth on a nine-play, 77-yard drive.
Elsewhere in Saturday football action, El Camino bounced back from a loss to Aragon last week and pulled off a tough 12-7 win over Lincoln-San Francisco. Brandon Gip scored twice for the Colts in the victory. They’re now 2-1.
Mills High School continues its non-league success. The Vikings lead 24-0 going into the fourth quarter and added 13 more to blow last San Lorenzo Valley 37-7.
And finally in late Friday night football, Terra Nova continued its offensive juggernaut ways, scoring 28 points in the first quarter en route to a 56-15 win over Pioneer of San Jose. The Tigers are now 3-0.