How Acalanes ran away with the NorCal 3-AA championship: “Our superpower is speed”

LAFAYETTE, IN — Before the third-quarter rain, the fourth-quarter running clock, and Acalanes’ first NorCal title after defeating Escalon 49-14, the winners set the tone by defending a long first-quarter drive.

The fast-paced On a nine-play drive, the Cougars methodically drove the ball downfield, keeping the ball away from Acalanes’ high-flying offense and chewing up clock with an old-school Wing-T.

But after six minutes, Acalanes senior Trevor Rogers, a flash of blue and white, jumped in front of a pass near the 20-yard line, ran downfield, cut back inside to shake any pursuers, and strolled into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

CIF NorCal 3-AA football: Acalanes wins first NorCal championship in program history in rout

This is how the 3-AA championship game played out: Escalon, the reigning 4-AA state champion and bigger and stronger than Acalanes, controlled the ball and the clock.

But the Dons turned the game into a sprint at key moments, and as it turned out, the track stars from Lafayette were unbeatable.

“Their superpower was size, but our superpower is speed,” said Rogers, a member of Acalanes’ 4100 relay team that finished second in the state last spring. “Today, speed won.”

Sully Bailey threw for 211 yards and one touchdown and ran for 33 yards and three touchdowns on four carries, mastering the read-option and scoring his touchdowns by running up the middle after fakes.

On the ground, he worked with halfback Jack Miller, who ran for 88 yards and a touchdown. The Dons were a step (or three) ahead of their opponent when it came to hitting the edge and turning the corner.

“Acalanes kind of has a history up until now of losing, that we couldn’t get it done in the playoffs,” Miller went on to say. “We decided we’re not gonna be that team again.”

After defeating San Marin 24-7 last week to win the program’s first section title, the Dons punched their ticket to Southern California, where they will face Birmingham-Lake Balboa.

Coach Floyd Burnsed, who embraced Rogers and his team on the sideline before walking out to midfield to accept the NorCal trophy, is leading the program into uncharted territory.

“They just played their butts off,” said Burnsed.

In the first half, Escalon ran 42 plays to Acalanes’ 12 and held the ball for more than 21 minutes. But those long drives were just postponing the inevitable.

Following Escalon’s nine-play drive that ended with a turnover on downs, Acalanes ripped down field in four plays, the longest of which was a 40-yard bomb from Bailey to Rogers. Bailey capped off the drive by keeping the ball on an option play and diving in from six yards out to make it 14-0.

Escalon finally went on a sustained drive that resulted in points with 7:34 remaining in the first half. The Stockton-area wing-T visitors capped a 14-play march with a two-yard Graham touchdown up the gut, thanks to Joshua Graham’s 24 first-half carries for 110 yards.

With a minute left in the half, Acalanes demonstrated why it had won nine of its last ten games, scoring on another blistering four-play drive that Bailey finished with a two-yard dash into the end zone to lead 21-7 at halftime.

“He’s just as fast as our receivers when he hits top speed,” Rogers said of his quarterback. “And he has the ability to throw the ball anywhere on the field.” Anywhere. He has a 65-yard throwing range.”

Acalanes didn’t let up in the second half, starting with a five-play, all-run drive that Miller capped off with a short touchdown run. Donovan Rozevink’s touchdown pass midway through the third quarter cut Escalon’s lead to 28-14.

“I threw two pick-sixes, and that’s just not (like me), and the defense couldn’t stop anybody,” Rozevink told the media. “They caught us on an off night, but they’re a hell of a team though.”

On its next drive, Acalanes ended the rally with a Bailey touchdown run. Then, in the final minute of the third quarter, sophomore defensive lineman Deonte Littlejohn, who had two sacks, returned an interception for a touchdown.

“We’re a track team that’s also a football team, we really are,” said Paul Kuhner, who caught a late touchdown pass from Bailey to make the final score 49-14.

Acalanes was too fast for its Sac-Joaquin section opponent, and the Dons are optimistic about their next opponent from the Los Angeles City Section.

“I like our chances against any other team out there,” Rogers was quoted as saying.

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