photos by Ethan Swope
Tam football opened its season by beating the Sonoma Valley Dragons 13-2 on August 26 at Tam. This was a highly anticipated first game, with the return of the Mitchell brothers, a new free safety in senior and Redwood transfer Leonjae Silas, the addition of junior Oscar Corona, and a new quarterback, junior Jackson Moore.
With the bleachers packed with Tam students, everyone was hyped for the game. But head coach Jon Black was thinking of the bigger picture. “The significance [of this game] is that this is the first game of the season,” Black said, “and for a lot of our kids, this is their first varsity game, so I would imagine for a lot of kids, it’s a moment that they probably won’t forget in their football lives.”
Black also mentioned that one of his main goals main goals was to keep the turnovers to a minimum, which Tam did. However, it didn’t appear that way at kickoff. The very first play was a fumble by senior Braxton Mitchell. This would be his only mistake all game, as he proved why his return was so highly anticipated. As running back, he was the team’s workhorse, getting almost every carry and contributing to a lot of defensive stops.
The Hawks were determined to get the ball back, and a few plays later, they forced a fumble and got back on offense. However, the ball was recovered at their own one yard line, and they were pushed back for a safety, giving the Dragons an unconventional 2-0 lead in the first quarter. The Tam defense stood tall once again and forced Sonoma Valley to punt to the Tam offense, with Jackson Moore in charge.
Moore only needed a couple throws to warm up before he launched one downfield towards senior Jordan Smith, who lost his defender, caught the ball, and waltzed into the endzone untouched to give the Hawks a 6-2 lead.
Tam drove down the field once more, lead by numerous carries by Braxton Mitchell and a big screen pass to senior Jack Dickson. Moore heaved the ball once more towards Jordan Smith, who came up with another catch and another touchdown to make it a 13-2 game after a successful PAT by sophomore Sam Uriarte in the second quarter, the final scoring for either team. The rest was all the Hawks defense.
WIth just minutes before halftime, Sonoma Valley took a chance deep and made what seemed like a big completion in the middle of the field. However, upon receiving the ball, the Dragon receiver was met by Leonjae Silas who delivered a huge hit and broke up the pass.
The game got very physical after the hit by Silas. At halftime, something changed in the mindset of juniors Tristan Mitchell and Pedro Mira. Both on the defensive line, they attacked the quarterback as if it was the last football game of their lives. Wearing out the offensive line, they were able to break through and deliver big hits play after play. After each hit, Mira would pump up the defense. His roaring approval could be heard in the last row of the bleachers.
The Dragons made one final push towards the end zone, marching downfield. But as they reached the red zone with hopes of scoring, Junior Gabe Villavicencio delivered a big hit that sucked the confidence out of the Dragons. It came down to 4th and goal for the Dragons and they took a shot towards the end zone. Dragons receiver Rocko Wetzel came up with a beautiful one handed catch but landed just shy of a touchdown, handing the ball back to the Hawks, who ran the clock out for the win.