The article was originally published via the Dublin Shield

For the first time in nearly 1.5 years, the Dublin High School had the opportunity to play a football game in front of their home fans on Saturday, March 20th at Gaels Stadium, with the Varsity team coming away with a 28-7 victory over Granada while the Junior Varsity team fell to the Matadors 34-6.

The game was not played under the traditional Friday Night Lights atmosphere of packed boisterous crowds of students and supportive community members. As the Gaels took on the Matadors, it was conducted in front of less than 200 parents for both the Varsity and Junior Varsity teams, with crowds needing to empty out between games to maintain crowd limits and social distancing. 

“Playing at Dublin is very special, the support of the student body, administration, and parents” provide a real motivation boost to the players, said Gaels Headcoach Brandon Black. 

The Gaels came off a heartbreaking loss to California in both the Varsity and JV games in its season-opener, but there were positive signs for the Gaels after their early lead in the Varsity game. Last week, Head Coach Brandon Black told GaelsTV, “We played a great 9 minutes of football however the game is 48 minutes.”

Against Granada, the Gaels were able to establish their run game from the start. A major improvement came from the offensive line, with running back Jayden Petrus and TJ Costello combining to rush for four touchdowns. During pre-game warm-ups, there was a definite emphasis on offensive line play. 

“We are always undersized up there, so we just got to use our techniques and play with effort and energy,” said Coach Black. “If we can do that, we should be ready to rock n roll.” 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Gaels attempted to convert on 4th down on four separate occasions through the game. This very aggressive strategy paid off, as this allowed Dublin to sustain drives while controlling field position. Since the Matadors run a Wing T Offense, known for its time-consuming drive and its “ground and pound” medium for moving the football, this also helped minimize Granada’s time of possession.

Despite giving up 63 points last week to the Grizzlies, going into the game the Dublin coaching staff were still encouraged they could stop the Matadors. This week during practice, the Gaels really emphasized defense, with coaches preaching the message of teamwork. From the outset of this game there was much improvement, with the tone being set early when Dublin forced a fumble on Granada’s 2nd play from scrimmage. 

“Everybody on the defensive side of the ball has a job to do,” Coach Black stated. “If one person doesn’t do their specific job and tries to be a hero that’s where it bites you. It’s all predicated on each individual.” Even from the press box, you could hear the team communicating with each other, taking to heart what they were told in practice. Communication is what enabled the defensive team to secure two turnovers, many stops for no gain, and one massive sack for a 10-yard loss by Costello.

Although Dublin’s stifling defensive performance and ability to move the ball throughout the night were cause for celebration, Dublin did have its challenges. The Gaels suffered from two turnovers, a touchdown-nullifying penalty, and three drives which stalled in the red zone that didn’t produce any points. These factors helped keep Granada’s hopes alive, and despite Dublin’s dominance throughout, the Gaels were only clinging to a 14-7 lead heading into the 4th quarter. The Gaels then recovered from their mistakes to finish strong, scoring two more touchdowns to put the game away for a 28-7 victory.

The Gaels will be back in action next Saturday, March 27th, as they travel to face Foothill. The Varsity team is looking to get above .500 for the first time this season, while the JV squad is looking to notch its final win. Dublin’s second and final home game will be the following Saturday (April 3rd) as the Gaels take on Livermore. More info will be forthcoming on ticket availability and live-streaming for both contests.