The Half Moon Bay High School Cougars evened their record at 3-3 with a decisive 42-12 win over rival Terra Nova on Friday. In truth, the results will never tell the story of a season no one associated with the team will ever forget.
Senior Tristan Hofmann, who closed a storied career with a 45-yard touchdown romp late in the game, put it this way.
“This,” he said, “has been insane.”
Head coach Keith Holden said he couldn’t be prouder of teenagers who behaved like men over the course of a season unlike any other in the history of the program.
“100 percent,” he said after the game. He stopped repeatedly to hug seniors who would never wear the Cougar colors again. “You build relationships with these kids — I should say young men — and it’s hard. You watch them grow up then they get their wings and they get out of here,” he said.
There is always something special about a Half Moon Bay-Terra Nova game. This one began in unusual fashion, when the visiting seniors were honored for their time with the Tigers. The road ceremony was necessary because Terra Nova (0-3) didn’t play a home game in its pandemic-shortened three-game season.
The Cougars got off to a fast start on Friday. The offense got the first crack at the ball and they made the Tigers pay. The Cougars amassed four first downs rushing in the game’s first five plays from scrimmage. Hofmann bulled in from the 1-yard line for his first touchdown of the night.
The Tigers’ next drive stalled at midfield and a shanked punt gave Half Moon Bay the ball in good field position. But the Tigers’ defense stiffened. They forced a fumble recovered by Terra Nova senior Luke Avery.
Back and forth the two teams went, with the “skull” trophy hanging in the balance.
The Cougars scored next in the second quarter on a William Moffitt keeper.
Down 14-0, the Tigers responded midway through the second quarter. Tiger Nathaniel Bendo made the play of the game with just over five minutes left in the half. From his wideout position, he swung out to the left and made a circus catch between two defenders and then outran the Cougar defense for a 60-yard touchdown. So, it was 14-6 at the half.
Connor Quosig broke two long runs in the Cougars’ opening drive of the second half and Half Moon Bay led 21-6. The defense stiffened too. Emilio Villalobos, who had a fantastic night kicking seven points after touchdown, scrambled to pick up a flubbed Tiger punt late in the third quarter, setting up Half Moon Bay in Tiger territory. Hofmann took the ball 28 yards on the next play and the home team was up, 28-6.
From there, the Cougars bunched into their nearly unstoppable Jumbo package. The Cougars capped a 65-yard drive with another Hofmann touchdown as this time he slid into the end zone untouched from three yards out.
After forcing a fumble, Tigers senior Dimitri Fabiani-Wyatt ran off tackle for a 6-yard score to cut the lead to 35-12.
The final touchdown of the season belonged, appropriately to Hofmann. He ran 45 yards with 2:43 remaining.