While they didn’t make it as obvious as last year, the Carlmont Scots still proved dominant in the home opener at Woodside’s Bradley Field.
The Scots (2-0) accrued 379 yards of total offense Friday night, including 100-yard rushing performances from seniors Luke Nessel and George Hanna, to take down the Woodside Wildcats 34-20.
It wasn’t the dynamic show of last year’s Carlmont-Woodside matchup, that saw the Scots prevail 61-16 under former head coach Jake Messina. But new head coach Eric Rado has stayed the course with the offense Messina cultivated in his four years at the helm.
“We’re just running … what I’m used to,” Rado said. “We ran the wing-T to perfection under Coach Messina and we’re just building on that. … We’re just adding the stuff that I know, and our kids are doing a great job of picking it up. And I’m excited to see what it looks like in the future.”
It was Carlmont’s defense that set the tone though — owning the line and penetrating the backfield consistently — and it’s no wonder why. Rado hired former Half Moon Bay and Burlingame defensive coordinator Brian Von Almen to run the Scots’ defense. And it was quickly evident the defensive guru still has the touch with his third team in four years.
Carlmont’s defense forced a quick three and out with some quick pressure. On second-and-5, junior defensive tackle Antonio Castillo swarmed the backfield to drop a sweep for a 2-yard loss. Then on third down, third-year varsity senior defensive end William Hesselgren used his long frame to bat down a pass attempt to force a Woodside punt.
“We expected it, we tried to prepare for it,” Woodside head coach Justin Andrews said. “But kudos to them, they get after it. They do a lot of twists and stuff that kind of confused the offense, and kind of put us on our heels.”
Then the Scots’ offense went to work. Carlmont mixed in an up-field aerial attack early, offsetting their signature high-tempo run game. And the results came quickly.
While Hanna carried 15 times for a game-high 132 yards and a touchdown, and Nessel countered with 18 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown, it was sophomore quarterback Jackson Wiessinger’s cool hand that set the tone on the Scots’ first possession.
Wiessinger completed a 14-yard pass to Hanna to cross midfield on the second play of the drive. Two plays later, Wiessinger went back to the same target for a 23-yard pickup to the Woodside 20. Then sophomore Connor Cook took a carry around the left side, breaking a tackle for a gallop 20 yards for the score, giving Carlmont a 7-0 lead.
The Scots again forced a quick punt and might have looked to open up the score early, but a fumbled return gave Woodside prime field position at the Carlmont 41. Junior running back Jakob Jackson helped sustain the drive with a third-down pickup of 22 yards into the red zone. Four plays later, the Wildcats got on the board on fourth down with an 11-yard scoring pass from Ben Shepard to Kyle Knudson; the point after try failed though, keeping Carlmont out front 7-6.
Woodside (1-1) wouldn’t see the end zone again until Carlmont had 34 points on the scoreboard.
“We were still trying to figure out what they were leaving open for us,” Andrews said. “They were really selling out to stop the run game. I thought, even when we had some good looks to get the ball out to an open receiver, they were able to swat it down the line. We were always just a couple inches away from really trying to be able to exchange blows with them. And it’s just stuff we’ve got to be able to clean up and continue to fix.”
With Carlmont near midfield, Woodside’s defense produced a stop, but the effort was squandered on the ensuing punt when the Wildcats fumbled one away, the first of three Woodside fumbles on the night. And the Scots took advantage.
Starting at the Woodside 28, Nessel ran for gains of 8 and 9 yards before scoring on a 4-yard blast off the right side to put the Scots up 14-6.
Carlmont scored again near the end of the first half, with Wiessinger hitting Hesselgren on a tight end post over the middle, with the big target all alone down the middle of the field for a 29-yard score.
Then, to open the second half, Carlmont’s defense kept punishing Woodside. The Wildcats forced a punt on the opening possession of the half. But after taking over at their own 25, Wildcats’ quarterback Thomas Ashworth got drilled by defensive end Emerson Monge on an incomplete first-down attempt. On second down, Nessel, out of the linebacker position, blitzed through the middle to bat down a pass.
And even though Ashworth completed a third-down pass for 21 yards to senior Zachary Scher, the senior quarterback paid the price as he got blown up by Castillo and Hesselgren.
“It just changes the game,” Hesselgren said. “The quarterback, you just hit him a couple times, he’s thinking the whole game. When he goes to throw, he’s all nervous.”
Hesselgren added a second touchdown reception with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but this one was more luck than skill. Wiessenger sent a 9-yard pass into traffic and had it batted in the air by Woodside linebacker Ben Turchet, but the ball volleyed up and into the hands of Hesselgren in the end zone.
Then in the fourth quarter, Hanna added a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Scots up 34-6.
Woodside added scored on consecutive possessions late in the game. Ashworth completed an 18-yard scoring pass to Scher with 3:28 left. Then, after the Wildcats recovered an onside kick, Shepard completed a 19-yard pass to senior Ian Gould to reach the Carlmont 16, before Ben Giovannetti ran for gains of 16 and 2 yards to reach the end zone.
“It took us awhile to figure it out and catch our rhythm a little bit,” Andrews said. “But I thought we responded late — probably a little too late.”
Woodside managed just 234 yards of total offense, paced by Ashworth’s 6 of 11 completions for 73 yards and a touchdown.