Down by 10 points with a quarter left to play, Dublin High turned to senior quarterback Edward Achziger for a chance to move to the semifinals.
Achziger, who struggled in the passing game, ran all over the College Park High defense in the fourth quarter as he stiffed arm, juked and streaked past opponents.
His gutsy performance forced double overtime, where the Gaels prevailed, 49-42, in a thrilling NCS Division II playoff game.
Dublin got off to a fast start in the game played at Diablo Valley College. The Gaels put 15 points on the board in the first 10 minutes.
It began when Achziger found senior receiver Jabari Davis on an intermediate route for a touchdown.
The Gaels defense recovered a blocked punt for another touchdown and minutes later scored extra three points with a field goal.
College Park eventually found their rhythm on both offense and defense. The Falcons, led by senior quarterback Jordan Louis, ran the option offense with success as they scored 21 unanswered points in eight minutes of play.
Louis found senior receiver Miles Wood on an out pattern for a touchdown just seconds before the first quarter ended. He also connected with senior running back Rhyan Hughes for an eight-yard touchdown pass after the Falcon defense forced the Dublin defense forced a quick three and out.
On the following possession, after another defensive stop by the Falcons, Louis ran loose on a quarterback draw for a 53-yard touchdown, giving his team a 21-15 lead with six minutes left in the half.
From that moment on the Gaels and College Park went back and forth on the scoreboard, matching each other defensively and offensively.
Achziger only took 16 seconds to answer back with an 80-yard touchdown strike to Davis, giving the Gaels a 22-21 lead. The Dublin quarterback finished the night with two passing scores but struggled to complete passes and get into rhythm.
By the end of the third quarter the Falcons held a 35-25 lead over Dublin High.
That’s when Gaels head coach John Wade put his trust on Achziger’s feet.
“We wanted to spread them out and [Achziger] is a third starter, good athlete and we just saw they were gonna play zone coverage and had too many DB’s and leave the middle open so we let him run a little bit.”
Aided by his legs and the blocking by teammates, the senior quarterback led the Gaels on back-to-back scores; a field goal and a one-yard touchdown quarterback sneak. The score with 5 minutes left in the game was tied at 35 points.
Both teams had another chance with the ball but were unable to score, forcing the game into overtime.
In overtime, College Park got the ball first and scored with a touchdown pass by Louis, who found running back Daivon Ballard near the right sideline.
Dublin got their chance and faced a fourth and goal. Achziger dropped back to pass, fired a pass but a Falcon defender deflected the ball. The game appeared to be over, but a flag lay on the field.
The referees called pass interference on College Park defensive back, giving Dublin a first down at the 9-yard line.
“It’s a terrible way to lose a football game. To have a penalty on a fourth down on the end zone, when it wasn’t even a penalty,” said Falcons head coach Bill Kepler.
“Our kids did a good job at keep playing and the kids had a great season, they can’t take anything away from them.”
From there, Achziger scored on a quarterback draw as he stretched the ball over the end zone. He ran the same play on the next Gaels overtime possession, scoring another rushing touchdown from the five-yard line, giving Dublin a 49-42 lead.
“We struggled early, but we just didn’t want to go home,” said Achziger. “It’s a good feeling to know that coach put the ball on my hands. The passing game wasn’t really working for me but I was able to just put my head down and get the yards.”
College Park got their second drive of overtime, but Davis intercepted Louis near the end zone, giving the Gaels the victory.
Achziger finished the night with three rushing touchdowns.
“I’m proud of everyone on this team, this whole community for coming, it’s a great feeling I can’t really describe it right now,” said Achziger.
Dublin High will play Windsor High School in the semifinals next Friday at 7 p.m. at Windsor.