Giles Jackson (Freedom High School Football)

Giles Jackson turns the corner during Freedom’s 28-21 loss to San Ramon Valley in the North Coast Section Division 1 title game.

Photo by Tony Kukulich

The North Coast Section Division 1 football final between Freedom and San Ramon Valley was a back-and-forth game undecided until the final seconds.

Trailing by a touchdown in the final minute, the Falcons faced a third-and-long from deep in their own territory. Senior quarterback Joey Aguilar found senior receiver Giles Jackson on a long pass to set Freedom up deep with a legitimate chance to tie the game.

However, from there the offense stalled. Aguilar was eventually intercepted with less than five seconds remaining to seal a 28-21 win for San Ramon.

“They did a great job defensively,” Falcons coach Andrew Cotter said. “I’m not upset with how we played at all. It was a good game. They executed a few more times than we did.”

The Wolves’ (9-4) were carried by running back Jacob Himan, who finished with 39 carries for 212 yards and two touchdowns. 

The Wolves took an early 7-0 lead, but Freedom responded immediately with a kickoff return for a touchdown from senior Mekel Ealy.

The Falcons took a 14-7 lead on a 3-yard run from Jackson in the second quarter and appeared poised to take that lead into the halftime locker room.

But in the final minute of the first half, San Ramon’s Brandon Cammisa found JP Murphy on a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game and wrestle the momentum away.

For most of the first half, the unavoidable storyline of the game was the ever-present fog, which greatly limited visibility.

That seemed to play into the hands of the Wolves, who used the power running attack of junior Jacob Himan to control the game and keep Freedom’s explosive offense on the bench.

“They did a great job, their run game was impressive,” Cotter said. “They’re physical. I think we did a good job defensively. They just kind of pounded it. That’s tough to do.”

San Ramon opened the second half with a touchdown and held the lead through the remainder of the third quarter. Freedom eventually tied it when Jackson grabbed a short pass, evaded three defenders and sprinted in for a 39-yard touchdown reception with 8:15 minutes left.

But the Wolves answered, going on a long scoring drive that included a successful fake punt. It culminated in a one-yard quarterback sneak from Cammisa, which stood as the winner.

For the second consecutive year, the Falcons ended their season with a loss in the Division 1 final.

With the loss to San Ramon, Freedom finished its season with an overall 9-4 record. While Cotter acknowledged that the season ended in an upsetting fashion, he also looked back on the year with fondness.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “We wish we could have taken advantage of the situation. But it is what it is. It’s just part of sports.”