The scoreboard read Home 14 Guests 10 and senior Falcon running back Tristen Alesi sat dejectedly on the bench thinking of the catch he missed at the two minute mark. As the ball fell to the ground so ended Torrey Pines’ season and hopes of a victory over El Camino in the CIF quarter finals. Never mind that Alesi took crushing hits as the ball arrived from not one but two Wildcat defenders to shake the ball loose. Never mind that he was left flat in the end zone tended by the trainers for long minutes afterward. IF ONLY. If only he had managed to hang onto the ball the Falcons would have had another last minute win in their season of clutch victories, like when Torrey Pines defeated El Camino 17-13 in the regular season in the final seconds.
Coaches and teammates came over to, I imagine, try to talk some sense into Alesi and I hope they succeeded. I’m sure they reminded him that the main reason the Falcons were in the position to win with that pass was Alesi’s outstanding performance in the game, rushing for 47 yards and catching passes for 123 yards. He was also a big part of the reason the Falcons were in the playoffs at all. Of course he had plenty of help from his teammates. Senior running back Matthew Feeler rushed for 64 yards in the game, and made key catches, and first downs. There were also names you didn’t hear called often from the booth like junior tight end Michael Gadinis who against El Camino in the regular season caught pass after pass including a last second game winning toss. All this night El Camino had him double covered, but that left holes for the Falcon running backs or left them open for passes.
All year I’ve tried to call out all the players who have made a difference, but I know I’ve fallen short. Who was the lineman who opened the hole for Luke Duerr to run 30 yards? I missed his number. Who was the defensive back who deflected the pass? I missed his number. The Falcon victories to come so far were team efforts. When key players went out with injuries the team never gave up, even playing one of the toughest schedules in the county. So when senior quarterback Caden Kelley went out we saw senior Ben Spitters step in with poise, as did junior Johnny Hastings. We saw running backs Duerr, Jacob Montes, and Sully O’Brien step up to the challenge. We saw players like Kelley and Alesi come back from injuries to rally their team into the playoffs. So although that pass fell incomplete and the Falcons’ playoff run ended, this team showed us all and each other what they could do together. Torrey Pines is losing a lot of talent to graduation, but next year they know how to close ranks, fill the gaps, and support one another to strive for victory.
The Falcon offense moved the ball well but could not capitalize in the red zone, and you have to give credit to the Wildcat defense. On defense the Falcons contained El Camino most of the time, but allowed the big plays and you have to give credit to the Wildcat offense and stars like Chris Brown. On their first series the Falcons looked unstoppable with Alesi, Feeler, and Duerr picking up big gains, but the drive stalled on the Wildcat 30 where they turned the ball over on downs. El Camino seized the momentum when, after appearing to go 3 and out, the punter took the snap and ran for a first down. The drive was capped by a 37 yard touchdown run for the game’s first score.
Early in the 2nd quarter Alesi caught a pass, juked the defenders, and rambled 50 yards to the Wildcat 21 where the drive stalled and Luc D’Arcy hit a field goal to make it 7-3. Torrey Pines had another chance when Ty Helfrich, in at quarterback, ran 18 yards to the Wildcat 33 then Jacob Montes and Duerr carried for another 1st down at the 23. A lost fumble ended the Falcon threat and El Camino threatened in turn until Alesi picked off a Wildcat pass on the 9 as the half ended.
Torrey Pines opened the 2nd half and after a sack faced 3rd and 22 from their 24. Kelley hit Alesi with enough for the first down and Alesi kept going sprinting past the secondary all the way to the 3. But the Falcons couldn’t punch it in with 4 tries. On the last attempt Feeler was brought down not by a Wildcat defender but by a slick spot on the turf as he tried to make a cut. El Camino took over on their 1 foot line and on 3rd and 9 Chris Brown popped through for a 98 yard touchdown run to go ahead 14-3.
The Falcons came right back with Alesi running for 30 yards, 1st and goal at the 5. Again El Camino’s goal line defense held, pushing Torrey Pines back to 3rd and goal at the 19, when Kelley found O’Brien in the end zone for the touchdown. 14-10. Torrey Pines’ defense then held the Wildcats. Feeler read a screen pass all the way to tackle the receiver for a loss. Then Kim Murray sacked the quarterback for a loss and El Camino had to punt it away on 4th and 17 from their 21. The Falcons’ final drive was a messy one, with many good runs and pass completions but also many penalties against both teams. Taking 8 minutes on the clock the Falcons drove from their 39 to 4th and goal at the Wildcat 3, turning it over on the incomplete pass. Though all the Falcons on the field and in the stands wished for one more last minute come from behind win, we never lacked for exciting football this year.
Tristen Alesi makes 73 yard reception. Photo by Anna Scipione