MORAGA — A high-scoring game between the No. 5 seed Dublin and No. 4 Campolindo came down a key drive in one scoreless fourth quarter.
With three key conversions and gritty run game, the Cougars held the ball for nearly the entire fourth quarter to keep the Gaels at bay and secure the Cougars’ 38-28 in the opening round of the NCS Division II playoffs on a chilly Friday night on Campolindo’s home turf.
The Cougars faced a Dublin defense that features middle backer KJ Sweeney without their go-to running back Greg Palamountain, out with injury. Senior running back Max Rittmann collected key carries to wind the clock down, helping keep the ball out of the Gaels hands and preserve the two-score lead.
“They were big. They were thick. We lost Palamountain, so we knew we were going to be limited,” Cougars head coach Kevin Macy said after the game. “Rittmann, at the end, he ran hard but he was wearing down. He was all we had left, we were short bodies. We squeezed out just enough running game to drain the clock. But the passing game did it for us.”
With the win, Macy notched his 10th straight first-round playoff win as the Cougars’ head coach and the team its 15th straight playoff appearance. This extends the Cougars win streak this season to five straight — their last loss coming on Oct. 8 against Benicia in a blowout. Campo also moves to 12-1 against the Gaels since 2004, now winning 11 straight against their former league rivals. Dublin made their first NCS appearance since 2017, now eliminated after a 6-5 season.
While the run game had grown into one of Campo’s strengths this season with Palamountain, their offense rode on the chemistry and efficacy of quarterback Dashiell Weaver and wide receiver Robbie Mascheroni. The pair connected for two third down conversions to extend their dominant fourth quarter drive. They also connected to create most of the Cougars’ offense.
“Our chemistry took off because this guy is a freak,” Weaver said of Mascheroni. “I don’t have to do much, just throw it up there.”
Dublin got off to a quick start with wide receiver Brandon Burns returning the opening kick 90 yards for a touchdown, giving the Gaels a 7-0 lead seconds into the game. On the next drive, Weaver found Mascheroni open down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
The game was neck-and-neck through three quarters, each side answering the other’s score. With senior quarterback Anthony Armendariz working the Gaels down the field, tight end TJ Costello rushed for a pair of touch downs — one four yards and one five — before halftime. But a handful of Dublin mistakes caught up.
First, Burns touched and let dribble a punt in the first quarter that the Cougars recovered near the goal line, prompting Weaver to punch it in for a touchdown, tying the game 14-14 at the end of the first quarter. A Costello fourth-down conversion went to waste with a fumble in the second quarter, leading to a 34-yard touchdown catch for Mascheroni to make it 21-14. In the final three minutes, Armendariz found Burns for a 20-yard touchdown and Campo answered with a Robby Horst rushing touchdown to make it 28-21 at the half.
Campolindo extended their lead quickly after the half, Weaver connecting with Sean Spillane for a 73-yard touchdown pass. And Armendariz found Costello for a deep pass to the Campo six-yard line, preceding Costello’s second rushing touchdown of the night to make it 35-28 in the middle of the third quarter. But Dublin’s rapid-fire scoring would stop there.
The Cougars’ secondary struggled most of the game, but came up with a pivotal interception to flip the script. Senior quarterback Adam Harper took over for Weaver at quarterback briefly after Weaver experienced “the worst knock of the funny bone I’ve ever felt” — a drive that resulted in a Campo field goal.
“We had to make one play in the secondary, and we got the one pick we needed,” Macy said. “Almost wasted it with some penalties. This is what a playoff games looks like. It’s not pretty.”
The Cougars will face San Ramon Valley in the playoff’s semifinals on Nov. 19.