MORAGA -- Give them something to remember, that's what Analy did Friday night. They didn't back into the victory, didn't get lucky all of a sudden, or have the other team give it to them. The Analy Tigers did it the way champions do. They answered every challenge. They never wilted. They never lost direction or focus. They played so well, were so clutch, the boys played like men out there. Man up, they did.
The Tigers have reached the NCS semifinals with a game that will live long after this season. The memory of all it all — the blocked PAT, The Catch by Aaron Maher, the Kerr Johnson Jr. Redemption, I could go on and on — will make this 38-34 victory required reading by anyone who wants to know anything about Analy sports. Yes, the game was that significant, for this is how a 12-0 team plays, for this is how every coach wishes a 12-0 team plays.
"Coach always says big-time players make big-time plays in big-time game," Maher said. "That's what we did tonight. It feels surreal."
Surreal? Oh yes. Campolindo is the defending NCS Division 3 champion. The Cougars are a NCS given, always in the playoffs. Analy, meanwhile, is 1-7 in its last eight playoffs. The Tigers had baggage. Not anymore. They chucked that sucker away. That 1-7 record might as well belong to another school after Friday night.
"It's still a dream right now," said Maher, who had seven catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns, "and it'll probably stay a dream tonight. But then when I wake up tomorrow it'll be reality."
And the grin on Maher's face said it all — He can't wait for Saturday morning. Wait until he starts getting some feedback about Friday night. The secret that maybe Analy or Maher once were, is no more. Not after what he did, what they did. Friday night was no fluke and one might as well start with Maher and, as his coach Dan Bourdon said, seems like all things good for Analy start with this 6-foot-3 and half wide receiver.
"I think it kinda falls to me because I am a third-year receiver," Maher said.
Interesting choice of words "it kinda falls to me." That's Maher's expertise, he lets Darin Newman's passes fall toward him. It's a genius kind of thing these two guys have going for them — Newman throws it 10 miles and Maher chases it down. And there will never be a moment, ever, that the pair will work any better than with 6:27 left in Friday's game.
The set-up: Campolindo had just scored — pesky, those guys. Analy looked as if it had put the game in the bag just three minutes earlier when Kerr Johnson Jr. caught his first touchdown pass of the season. That's because Johnson was on junior varsity all season. His catch was worth a sonnet because, on the play before his 7-yard touchdown catch, Johnson had a Newman pass sail through his hands in the end zone. So Johnson rebounded, big-time. Analy 31, Campo 21. Game over.
But then gutty Campo scored to make it 31-28. Oops. That's when Analy got the ball back on its 20. First-down. Eighty yards to go. Run the ball. Run the clock. Run Campo out of the game. That seemed most logical. Analy knew it.