I always like to get an event early just so I’m not scrambling around getting ready. There will be plenty of scrambling after a game, especially following a Friday night football game, so I like to limit my stress in other areas of the job as a high school sportswriter.

A lot of my pre-game prep, if you will, usually includes chatting up the officials, if I know them, as well as coaches. Sometimes I’ll check in with the announcer if I need updated rosters and overall, it’s just a way to kill 15 minutes before kickoff.

Friday night before the Aragon-Carlmont matchup in Belmont, I just sat there and took in the scene and for really the first time since the 2019 season, the situation felt — normal. Not “new normal” or “kinda normal.” There was no need for a modifier. It felt good. It felt right.

On a crisp autumn evening, the teams were warming up on either side of the imaginary barrier erected along the 50-yard line. There was Aragon’s head coach Steve Sell, the dean of Peninsula coaches, pacing around, trying to glean any info from the Scots, who were running pregame offense. Sell is only the third head coach in the nearly 60-year history of the school.

On the other side was Sell’s Carlmont counterpart, Eric Rado, the man tasked with sticking around long enough to complete a Scots’ turnaround.

As the teams prepared, the sideline bustled with activity with the bleachers filling up as the home school band played.

The Carlmont band was absolutely on point Friday night. Pregame was a collection of good, old-fashioned high school band music — songs you know by ear, but have no idea the name of. When did I know the band was in the pocket? When it nailed the national anthem, traditionally one of the toughest songs high school bands have to perform. There is a quick little flourish on the second-to-last-line of the song, one that requires the utmost confidence when playing. The Carlmont band played it loud and proud and went on to a near flawless performance.

And speaking of Carlmont, hats off to the Scots’ community because the home stands were packed, necessitating some fans to stretch around the track. The visiting Aragon stands were pretty well full and together it lent to the excitement of a game that saw five touchdowns scored in the opening 10 minutes of the game — touchdowns of 43, 27, 47, 33 and 79 yards with the Dons running away with a 48-27 victory. 

Under the lights, the crowd roaring, the band rocking, the teams playing their hearts out — it truly was what high school sports is all about. 

***

Come to find out, there are three reasons a blocked kick doesn’t result in a change of possession. Most are probably familiar with the first two: one is the kicking team recovering the ball and advancing it past the first-down marker. The second is a defensive penalty.

The third happened during the Aragon-Carlmont game. Trailing 20-13, Carlmont lined up for a 36-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by the Dons, who could not corral the ensuing loose ball. It was eventually picked up by a Carlmont player, who came up well short of the first down.

During the ensuing scramble, a whistle sounded near the Carlmont sidelines as the play continued.

After a referees’ conference, head referee Mac Parfet explained to Aragon coach Steve Sell, and later confirmed to me that, because there was no possession before the inadvertent whistle, the down is replayed.

The Scots put their offense back on the field for the ensuing replay and threw an incomplete pass, giving the ball back to the Dons.

***

Now that every PAL football team has opened division play, you can already see how the races for division titles will be shaping up.

In the Bay Division, it looks like Burlingame and Menlo-Atherton are on a collision course for the honor of best team in the PAL. Both survived scares over the weekend, with Burlingame improving to 2-0 in league play following a 10-7 win over King’s Academy. M-A built up a big lead over Half Moon Bay, then weathered a Cougars rally to pull out a 47-46 victory. While nothing is set in stone, the two will meet on the final weekend of Bay Division play in Atherton, Oct. 29.

In the Ocean Division, it’s hard to see any team beating Menlo School after the Knights put up 55 points in a win over Hillsdale. Aragon, which has won four in a row, is next up for Menlo.

In the Lake Division, San Mateo improved to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in division play, having established itself as the team to beat. In two Lake Division wins, the Bearcats have outscored their opponents 55-7.

Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: nathan@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. To report scores or have tips, email sports@smdailyjournal.com

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