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PLEASANT HILL — The final touchdown was meaningless. The effort wasn’t.

The Analy football team fought back from a 28-0 deficit and put a scare into defending champion Campolindo in the North Coast Section Division 3 title game on Friday night, cutting the deficit to 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers came up short, falling 38-28 to the balanced Cougars and failing to bring home that elusive section championship banner. Along the way, they proved they belong with the best teams in the region.

“It’s tough to look at these guys right now,” Analy coach Daniel Bourdon said. “They put so much work in. I really, sincerely believe they deserved a win here. But when they wake up tomorrow and finally get a chance to reflect on what kind of season they’ve had, I think there’s gonna be a lot of proud faces.”

The second-seeded Tigers lost for the first time this season, but at 13-1 can claim the most victories ever for an Analy football team.

For a while, it looked as though Bourdon’s team might deliver one of the most memorable comebacks in Redwood Empire history. Trailing 31-7 at halftime, the Tigers scored two touchdowns to make it 31-21, and less than a minute later got the ball back on an interception by middle linebacker Isaac Kangas.

There was 10:54 to play, and the Analy sideline erupted. So did the healthy contingent of West County fans who braved Friday traffic to get to Diablo Valley College.

What ultimately stymied the Analy charge were the same breakdowns that had hurt the team in the first half: pass protection, dropped passes and inconsistent run defense.

Moments after Kangas’ pick, the Tigers had first down at the Campolindo 41 when, dropping back to pass, quarterback Jack Newman was nailed from his blindside for a sack. Two plays later, receiver Lucas Housman dropped a pass. Not to single out Housman — the whole Analy offense had trouble hanging onto the ball on this chilly night.

“There was a little momentum to that,” wide receiver Schuyler Van Weele said of the drops. “It’s definitely a morale that kind of spreads.”

Newman threw incomplete on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Cougars. Analy’s confidence was still sky-high. But on third-and-4 from the Tigers’ 36, Campolindo’s Niki Moore found a big hole, got another block downfield, slipped a tackle and scampered for a 32-yard gain. It took the Moraga team four tries to get it done from there (five if you count a touchdown that was called back for assisting the runner), but the Cougars finally cracked the end zone on a pass from Jacob Westphal to Max Flower.

That made the score 38-21 with 3:08 left.

No way the Tigers could come back from that, but they refused to bend. On their next drive, they converted four fourth-down plays. The last of those was a 9-yard touchdown pass from Newman to Housman.

Analy still wasn’t done, recovering an onside kick with 19 seconds left. That wasn’t enough time to cut further into Campolindo’s lead, though.

The top-seeded Cougars (13-1), one of the NCS’s most respected programs, won their second consecutive D3 title, their third in five years and their fourth championship in all.

The Tigers started fast out of the gate, but had nothing to show for it. They held Campolindo to a total of 6 yards on the Cougars’ first two possessions, and Analy got the ball in enemy territory after both of those stands. But the Tigers’ first drive ended in a blocked 27-yard field goal, and the second disappeared quickly when Dante DeLuca intercepted Newman’s pass in the end zone.

“We knew we had to play close to mistake-free football, and that’s not what we brought to the table,” Bourdon said. “That first drive, to have first-and-goal at the 2 and not be able to punch it in, that’s just a momentum killer. Might be a different postgame if we punched that one in.”

Sure enough, Campolindo recovered from its early shakiness and caught fire. Moore began finding the holes, and Westphal got hot, throwing first-half scoring passes to Madison Young and Flower. The Cougars wound up with 333 yards by halftime.

The Analy defense rose to the challenge in the second half.

“Not many technical adjustments, but our mentality,” said Kangas, who also ran for two short touchdowns. “We came out a little wide-eyed and scared. Campolindo is a very good team. But we buckled down and made a unanimous decision that they’re mortal just like we are.”

Kangas is one of Analy’s seniors. They all wanted desperately to deliver that first banner. But after losses in the semifinal round in three consecutive years, the Tigers can take pride in the fact that they took the program one step further in 2015.

“I’m not happy about losing, but I’m proud of the team,” Kangas said. “We had a great season and made some history for Analy football. There are tears falling, but I see some smiles, too. And that’s pretty good.”