After Seth Magalei of Heritage fielded a short opening kickoff for the Contra Costa All-Stars, the CC offense lined up in a shotgun I-formation with Las Lomas quarterback Lucas Gorton at tailback. Gorton took a toss from Campolindo quarterback Tommy Stephens, but proceeded to pull up and throw deep on the halfback pass play, finding Berean Christian’s Chris Morgan open deep for a 69-yard touchdown to start the game.
“We came out ready to play,” said Hartwig, who is also the head coach of Freedom High’s football team. “We caught them on some big plays, and had some big stops in the first half.”
A couple of those big defensive plays came on Alameda’s first offensive possession. After a false-start penalty to open the possession, Las Lomas’ Reed Snook threw a ball carrier for a loss, setting up a second-and-long situation. The Freedom coaching staff changed the coverage, and it paid off. Piedmont’s Cormac Craigie threw an intended hitch route into the right flat, only to find Pinole Valley’s Donovan Henderson cutting in front of the pass and returning it for an 11-yard touchdown, giving Contra Costa a stunning 14-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
It appeared that the local team was going to add to that lead on its next possession, as a screen pass to Henderson brought CC inside Alameda’s 40-yard line. An intended quick screen pass went awry, however, as San Leandro’s Lenny Jones made a leaping interception from his defensive end position. That turnover sparked Alameda’s first score of the night, as Albany’s Levy Wilson dove past the right pylon from eight yards out, finishing a drive spurred by big plays from the arm and legs of James Logan quarterback Jonathan Willis.
The final five minutes of the first half provided the game’s deciding scores. As CC’s offense set up shop at midfield with less than two minutes remaining, Hartwig decided to pull another trick out of his bag.
Stephens intentionally skipped a lateral across the turf to Morgan, who then walked in front of three Alameda defenders, acting as if it was an incomplete pass. As the defense began to walk away from him, he threw deep to a wide-open Henderson, who walked past the secondary for a 51-yard touchdown and a 24-6 lead.
Less than a minute later, CC was back on offense after a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and a nice scoop and return from Acalanes’ Tyler Malley. After a sack on second down, Stephens found Henderson on a post pattern for a 20-yard touchdown strike, Henderson’s third TD of the game.
Contra Costa would need every bit of its 31-6 halftime advantage to secure a victory, as Alameda came roaring back with 20 unanswered points in the second half, falling just short in the end, 31-26.
“They shut us down in the second half,” said Hartwig. “We had only four offensive plays in the third quarter, but we did a good job of extending a few drives and holding them off in the end.”
Hartwig said the game was a fun experience for everyone – including him, considering the quality athletes he got to coach. Donovan Henderson was named the game’s offensive MVP, while Chris Morgan was named overall MVP, and was singled out by nearly all the coaches as someone they loved working with.
Hartwig also praised the adaptability of Heritage’s Jesus Ochoa, who, after working for years in the Patriots’ under-center fly offense, made a seamless transition to Contra Costa’s shotgun spread offense without a single bad snap the entire week.