Playoff-style football came a bit early for the Vintage High football team Friday night.
In a battle of playoff-caliber teams, the Crushers improved to 3-0 on the season with a 28-20 victory over Acalanes-Lafayette at Napa Memorial Stadium.
“It’s like a round three (of the playoffs) atmosphere,” said Vintage head coach Dylan Leach, whose team entered the game ranked 15th by prep2prep.com. “That’s where we want to be. You want to play these teams in order to put yourself in that position. I thought our kids were absolutely in shape. I thought we did great. We were the hammer, not the nail.”
It’s certainly hard-earned when the game comes down to the final play for the second consecutive year. Last year, Acalanes prevailed 28-27 when the Crushers missed the tying extra point. This time, with less than four seconds left, Acalanes quarterback Brady Hutchingson heaved a Hail Mary to the end zone that fell harmlessly to give the Crushers the win.
Vintage junior wide receiver Reid McCaffrey was happy his team has now avenged last year’s only two regular-season losses, the first with a season-opening win over Wood.
“Yes, it’s a big win for us, especially for my teammates who left us last year,” he said. “And it feels great to come out and beat them.”
With 8:36 left in the game, Vintage sophomore running back Dylan Smith broke away for a 73-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
“Yeah, it was great,” Leach said of the sophomore’s long run. “They gave us a hole, we saw it, we called the play, and the rest is history. He does what he does. We know he has that in him, so we’re going to give him those opportunities.”
Heading into halftime, it appeared one team would need to seize momentum in order to claim the victory. That exact thing happened with only 1:25 left in the first half, when McCaffrey fielded an Acalanes kickoff at the 1-yard-line and took it all the way to house for a 99-yard return that gave the Crushers a 14-13 lead heading into the break.
“Everything went right,” McCaffrey explained. “Everybody blocked the right person. Everybody basically did everything they could possibly do on that and to the best of their ability.”
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“It’s exciting. It gets the crowd involved,” Leach said of McCaffrey’s big play. “It just gets us excited. It puts points on the board, and it keeps their offense off the field.”
The first score of the game came when Hunter Ridley nailed a 32-yard field goal with 10:35 left in the second quarter for a 3-0 Acalanes lead.
Vintage found the scoreboard when quarterback Bill Chaidez found the end zone from 4 yards away with 6:11 left in the half. Chaidez had come in for Jacob Aaron, who left the game in the first quarter with an injury and didn’t return.
“Those guys get equal reps in practice,” Leach said of going to Chaidez. “So, it’s not a big deal to me. I mean, obviously losing Jacob is huge, right? He’s our guy, and we know that. And he’s a great player. But, we feel like if that situation arises, we have a guy that got tons of reps in practice.”
Jake Delaney’s 2-yard touchdown run with 1:39 left in the half gave Acalanes a 10-7 lead. Following McCaffrey’s return, Ridley kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1.1 seconds left in the half.
In their first drive of the second half, the Crushers found paydirt when Chaidez found fullback Ian Avalos for a 9-yard touchdown reception.
The Dons’ last score of the night came when Huchingson found Lucas Eppinger on a screen pass for a 50-yard touchdown.
The schedule won’t get any easier for Vintage next week, when they will take a long trek down to San Jose to face Bellarmine Prep.
Acalanes 43, Vintage 12
The Crushers (2-1) fell for the first time in two seasons despite a pair of touchdowns runs from Justin Ray.