Inexperience Led To A Shaky Start And Some Ups And Downs, But Campolindo Football Is Back In Familiar Territory — On The Doorstep Of An NCS Final •
Dashiell Weaver half-jogged, half-walked towards the sideline, right arm hanging limp at his side. His grimace was easy to spot, and the intensity of his pain was evident.
Facing 3rd-and-14 from the 50-yard line with just under four minutes left in the third quarter against visiting Dublin, the Campolindo junior quarterback trudged to the sideline with what he’d later call “the worst knock of a funny bone I’ve ever had.” Locked in a back-and-forth battle, failure to convert meant the Gaels would get the ball back, trailing only by a touchdown, with the fate of their North Coast Section Division II playoff game hanging in the balance.
Adam Harper was ready.
Harper, a senior who split time with Weaver early in the year, didn’t miss a beat in one of the season’s biggest moments. A 20-yard completion to Scott Linden kept the drive alive, and eventually a 31-yard field goal by junior varsity call-up Egor Dobrolyubov provided critical insurance points in a 38-28 victory.
That Harper was ready when called upon was just one example of how far Campolindo has come in 2021.
In week two, a 49-0 loss to Aptos saw the Cougars commit eight turnovers. When COVID-related cancelations meant a planned week three neutral-site game against Sutter turned into a road game against Liberty-Brentwood, a 13-7 loss to the Lions left the perennial power from Moraga reeling.
“It was quiet. A lot of disappointment because we knew we could’ve done better,” junior receiver Robbie Mascheroni said of the locker room vibe early in the year. “Early in those games, we’d just shut down. Now, we’re learning how to fight back and keep it moving.”
The Cougars are indeed moving now. They lost just once more in the regular season, finishing 7-3 and co-champions of the Diablo Athletic League-Foothill Division. The win over Dublin means No. 4-seeded Campolindo now heads to No. 1 seed San Ramon Valley-Danville on Friday night with a place in the Div. II championship game on the line.
The learning curve wasn’t totally surprising given the makeup of Campolindo’s roster. A senior-heavy squad went 6-0 during the shortened spring 2021 season, and the departure of so many upperclassmen, combined with less opportunities to grow together because of COVID restrictions, left a dearth of experience for the senior class that returned.
“We were left with not knowing the pieces we could trust. That was the hardest thing. You have your summers and years of building up to know what pieces you can trust,” Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said. “And, they couldn’t trust each other. That’s probably the biggest thing. When they stepped on the field, the leaders weren’t established. Over time, they’ve learned how to trust each other and we as coaches have been able to learn more about who we can trust in certain situations.”
Nowhere is that evolution more evident than with Campolindo’s quarterbacks. An increased focus on the run game around midseason allowed Weaver and Harper to settle in, but even as Weaver emerged as the starter, Harper didn’t just fade away.
Macy credited the senior’s influence on the team as a whole, saying “He’s kept himself completely engaged in practice as a backup. He does everything. He’ll run scout team; he’s just a great team player.”
And against Dublin, with injuries to juniors Greg Palamountain and Brendan Comerford limiting Campo’s rushing options, the Cougars took to the air. Weaver passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns while also running for a score. Mascheroni was Weaver’s primary target, hauling in nine passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior Max Rittmann also shouldered the load by rushing for 56 yards, 32 of which came during an 11-minute, 50-second drive to end the game.
“I think we needed to become a team,” said senior lineman Elijah Klock. “At first, we were just a bunch of individuals playing football. We came together and I think we’re a real good team now.”