How a halftime adjustment put Alhambra in front of the DAL-Valley title race

Coach Alan Hern, Alhambra defense makes key adjustment in wild 49-47 victory

MARTINEZ – Alhambra entered the locker room at halftime unable to stop Mt. Diablo’s outstanding running back Herschel Turner. The three-star prospect had torn Alhambra’s defense apart, carrying the ball 10 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

When the game resumed for the second half, the gaps that Mt. Diablo had exploited for huge gains were gone, replaced by a swarm of ready Bulldog tacklers. Alhambra took a three-touchdown lead and held on for a thrilling 49-47 win.

So, what was that critical adjustment, the one that limited Alhambra’s league rivals to just over 90 rushing yards in the second half, the one that unofficially clinched Alhambra’s Diablo Athletic League Valley title?

“We widened our defensive ends, got our safeties a little deeper, because they were running by us,” Alhambra coach Alan Hern explained. “A couple of nice adjustments really helped us out, and the kids really started swarming to the ball.”

Alhambra quarterback Beau Blau rushed for five touchdowns and threw for another, totaling 297 yards from scrimmage in the team’s first winning season since 2017. Turner finished the game with 299 yards.

“This was for the league championship,” explained Blau.

Alhambra took a 49-28 lead after a blocked punt on Mt. Diablo’s first possession of the second half gave Alhambra a short field. On the option, Blau ran in for a three-yard touchdown.

After suffocating Mt. Diablo’s rushing attack for the second time in a row, senior RB Mason Jones ran 21 yards and shed multiple tackles to give Alhambra a 21-point lead.

“The defense wanted it even more,” Beaty explained. “We knew if we stopped them, we could have this game.”

But, just when it appeared that Alhambra would cruise to victory, Mt. Diablo staged a near-rally by capitalizing on Alhambra’s blunders and gaffes.

To start the comeback, Red Devils quarterback Jakorey Robinson threw a 66-yard touchdown pass off play action to senior Taishaun Glover. With a half-minute left in the third quarter, Robinson recovered a fumble and ran it back 42 yards for the scoop-and-score to cut the deficit to 49-40.

Robinson’s final touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining in the game made it a two-point game. However, the onside kick was unsuccessful, and Alhambra won the game.

“A really good job by their defensive coordinator.” Fetuau Mua, Mt. Diablo’s coach, stated.

The first half was a sprint between two offenses with only two punts combined. Blau scored on the first play of the four-play drive, and Turner responded with a 62-yard touchdown run from one sideline to the other.

Turner came into the game with 1,708 yards and 27 touchdowns in six games, both of which were tops in the North Coast Section.

Blau capped off Alhambra’s second drive with a short rollout touchdown pass to tight end Colton Banchero. Turner responded with a four-play drive that culminated in an 11-yard run, tying the game 14-14 midway through the first quarter.

The second quarter began with another 12-yard Turner run against a struggling Alhambra defense, but Blau and top receiver Beaty responded with another scoring drive that culminated in a two-yard keeper for a touchdown with 6:30 remaining in the half.

Mt. Diablo took a 28-21 lead a minute later when Turner bolted down the right sideline for a 67-yard touchdown, but Alhambra closed the half with two more Blau touchdown runs to take a 35-28 lead.

Mt. Diablo (5-2, 1-1) concludes its league schedule with wins over Benicia, Concord, and Ygnacio Vallley. It would be surprising if Alhambra (6-1, 3-0) blew its league lead by losing to either Ygnacio or Northgate.

“This was the two best teams playing tonight, and we knew this was going to be, unofficially, the championship game,” Hern went on to say.

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