Cougars start slow against Sutter but dominate the second half in 35-14 victory that gives them a second trip to Carson to play in the CIF Division III state bowl game.
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With a Stephens at quarterback in 2011, Campolindo of Moraga played in the CIF Division III state bowl game representing the north and lost to Washington of Easton.
With a Stephens at quarterback in Saturday night’s CIF Northern California Division III championship game held at Acalanes High in Lafayette, Campolindo earned a chance to go back to the same game with a 35-14 win against Sutter.
Jack Stephens is the latest from his family to get the Cougars to the StubHub Center in Carson – where they will meet El Capitan of Lakeside (14-0) – in the Division III final on Saturday at 12 noon. He had some difficult moments and poor throws against Sutter, but more than countered that with several picture-perfect “drop-in-the-bucket” passes down the sidelines.
With Stephens completing 12 of 21 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns, Campolindo improved to 15-0 and could rise a few spots from No. 25 overall in the state.“Jack just battles,” said Campolindo head coach Kevin Macy. “He knew before the start of the season we literally had nobody to be the quarterback and he knew somebody had to take over. He’s just a battler. He keeps his composure. He could have folded early in the game, but he didn’t.”
Campolindo’s entire team, in fact, could have folded early, but didn’t. It’s not like the Cougars were playing a vastly inferior opponent, either.
Sutter came into the night at 13-0 and had one extra week to prepare for Campolindo after winning the CIF Northern Section Division III title 42-7 over Lassen of Susanville.
Looking fresher and more precise, head coach Ryan Reynolds’ squad took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards in 10 plays, capped by Jacob Gildea’s two-yard plunge.
The two teams then traded interceptions before Sutter scored again on a 19-yard scamper by Ty Prince. Campolindo was down 14-0 and looked lost trying to stop Sutter’s offense.
“I think once we proved our offense could move the ball against them, that helped our defense,” Stephens said. “After that first TD we scored, it settled them down on defense.”
That first touchdown came on a pass from the 1-yard line to Adam Remotto. Sutter answered with a negative yardage series, then a nine-yard punt and then an 18-yard pass from Stephens to Remotto quickly tied the score at 14-14.
Sutter’s next series was again three plays and a punt, but the Cougars had to start their following possession at their own 22. All that did was set up the play of the game when Stephens launched a 50-yard bomb right on the money to a streaking Caleb Whalen, who completed the 78-yard touchdown.
With Campolindo leading 21-14 at halftime, the Cougars took the second-half kickoff and drove 68 yards in nine plays. That TD came courtesy of a 4-yard run by Nick Fadelli. The lead was up to 28-14 and Sutter never seriously threatened to get back into the game.
“They were fresh, rested and sharper than us early in the game,” Macy admitted. “It took us awhile to settle in.”
Campolindo’s final score of the night came with 4:46 left in the third quarter on a seven-yard run by Conner McNally, who played well on both sides of the ball while playing with a pulled groin.
Stephens’ older brother, Brett, did not have to win a NorCal regional bowl game to advance to Carson, but Jack now has done just that and will attempt along with his teammates to take it one step further.
“We’re very proud because when we went the last time I said it probably was going to be the last time a neighborhood school like ours would play there,” Macy said. “It was a miracle year then and I really doubted we’d ever get back.”