By Jeremy Balan
Mission High School’s defense did everything it could to earn a win against Drake, but unfortunately for the Bears, a dismal second-half offensive effort and a failed gamble late in the game would lead to a 6-0 loss to the Pirates on Thursday at Kezar Stadium.
The Bears’ (1-2) offense was limited to just 21 total yards in the second half and 122 total yards in the game, but it was Mission head coach Joe Albano’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-two on the Bears’ own 20-yard line that ultimately turned the momentum of the game.
The called quarterback sneak came up about a foot short with 8:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, and two plays later Drake quarterback Andrew Brown connected with Ross MacAusland from 19 yards out for the games only score.
“I should have probably not went for it, but I was just figuring the first team that gets a spark was going to win this game,” Albano said. “I was just trying to get something going.”
The Bears got the ball back though, but could not move the ball again. They were forced to punt the ball after a three-and-out, but got the ball back again on a clutch defensive play.
The Pirates (2-1) were trying to run the clock down, but with two minutes remaining, Mission senior defensive lineman Darius Grays forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow senior Christian Mata, giving the Bears one more chance.
But the Mission offense failed to seize the opportunity, as senior quarterback Davon Hargraves threw his third interception of the night just two plays later to end any threat of a comeback.
Despite the interceptions, Hargraves was the lone offensive bright spot for Mission, scrambling for a team-high 68 yards on 17 carries and throwing for 35 yards, which accounted for nearly all of the Bears’ total offense.
“That’s what he’s there for and that’s what he wants to do,” Albano said. “It’s his senior year. He’s the quarterback. He has to do that.”
After Mission held the Pirates to just 49 total yards in the first half, Drake came out in the second half with an entirely different offensive scheme. Operating in the run-heavy double-wing offense, the Pirates only racked up 72 yards, but controlled the ball and the clock, limiting the Bears to just 14 offensive plays in the second half.
“They were stacking the box and we were having a hard time moving the ball, for sure,” said Drake head coach
Dan Kenivort Ethan Hough. “We tried to widen things out and that kinda worked for us.”
The Bears actually picked up chunks of yardage on many drives, with 10 plays of 10 yards or more, but it was 10 plays for loss and frequent self-destructive penalties that constantly put Mission in long-yardage situations.
The Bears also never advanced the ball past the Drake 23-yard line and only got as far as the Drake 37-yard line in the second half.
“We just played such a sloppy game,” Albano said. “That’s what shot us in the foot against Menlo and that’s just Mission High — always shooting ourselves in the foot. You don’t have something in your playbook for third or fourth and 20.”
This loss will sting and linger for some time, as the Bears are entering the a bye week before the Academic Athletic Association season begins.
Albano, who calls the offensive plays, took the full blame for the offensive mishaps and was visibly emotional in the team meeting after the game.
“I have good kids and they all know how to tackle and they’re all aggressive [on defense],” Albano said. “But zero points on the board for a team that is supposed to be scoring a lot — and when I’m in charge of that — it’s not a good night.”
D: 8:39 — Ross MacAusland 19-yard pass from Andrew Brown (kick blocked)