Prep Football: Cougars drop league opener to Palma 35-14

Christopher's Josiah Apolinar (16) and Anthony Lopez (23) try to take down Palma's Isaiah Blanco (10) Oct. 2 at Christopher High School.

GILROY—Interim Cougar coach Aaron Bembry gave his players a challenge at halftime. He told them they could either pack it in or show Palma their true character. They gave him an answer almost immediately and emerged as a different team in the second half. But unfortunately for the home team, it ran out of time and fell 35-14 Friday to the Chieftains.
Christopher juniors Keanu Calimpong and Ryan Adamkiewicz stole the show in the second half. Calimpong gave the Chieftains trouble, racking up 51 yards with a touchdown on five carries. Adamkiewicz, who was filling in for his injured brother Matt, was near perfect and went 13 for 16 for 149 yards with a touchdown.
“They’re probably one of the best teams that we’re going to play in our league,” senior captain middle linebacker Brendan Lerma said. “I think Ryan Adamkiewicz stepped up really well this game and filled in (his brother’s) shoes…It’s nothing to put our heads down about.”
Christopher held Palma scoreless in the second half and finally got things going offensively. Facing a second-and-12 situation on their first possession of the half, Adamkiewicz hit Anthony Rodriguez for a 55-yard gain to get the Cougars into the redzone for the first time. Junior running back Calimpong punched it in from the 2-yard line to give his team its first score with 4:34 left on the clock.
The Chieftains took over and began their march downfield, bringing the ball to the Cougars’ 36 before they were pushed back. Josiah Apolinar tackled Palma’s back-up QB Zach Flores for a loss, leaving the visitors staring at a fourth-and-30 situation.
Christopher took over and began a nine-play drive that covered 85 yards. Three stellar runs by Calimpong accounted for 47 of those yards, bringing the Cougars to Palma’s 17-yard-line. From there, Adamkiewicz found PJ Reichert in the right corner and the senior wide receiver leapt in for the final score of the game.
“It was a good night for me,” Calimpong said. “Honestly I couldn’t do it without my linemen; they helped me.”
Calimpong surprised the Chieftains, who heavily guarded the Cougars’ usual playmaker Dylan Olivares all night. They held Olivares to just 16 yards on nine carries. But Calimpong’s performance certainly was unexpected to Bembry.
“He might’ve been a surprise to those guys, but he definitely wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Bembry, Christopher’s running backs coach who is filling in for Tim Pierleoni during his sabbatical. “I work with him on a daily basis…When he got the opportunity to step in, he was right on the money.”
The first half was a much different story for Christopher. The Chieftains racked up 307 yards of offense in the first half. The Cougars seemed to have no answer for Jared Torcula, who racked up 122 yards on eight carries and reached the endzone three times.
Torculas broke free for a 26-yard touchdown to kick things off for Palma early in the first quarter. He struck again on the team’s next possession, easily scoring from four yards out to put the Chieftains up 14-0.
Two minutes later, Kevin Telford punched the ball in from the 1-yard-line, giving Palma a 21-0 lead at halftime.
The Chieftains kept their foot on the gas in the second quarter. Torculas exploded for a 51-yard gain early in the second, but was stopped at the 15-yard-line by Apolinar. The Chieftains were almost in the endzone, but fumbled the ball and the Cougars recovered.
The mishap did little to slow them down, however.
On the next possession, Jack Richardson hit a patiently waiting Vianni Frantangelo for a 42-yard score. Frantangelo broke two Cougar tackles before strolling into the endzone to put the Chieftains ahead 28-0. The senior QB went 7 for 10 for 177 yards with a touchdown.
Torculas capped off scoring as he stretched across the goal line with 3:48 left in the first half to put the Chieftains ahead 35-0.
Palma’s defense was just as strong. It sacked Ryan Adamkiewicz four times, leaving him with negative 34 yards on the ground.
“The first half started off a little rough,” Bembry said. “We figured a couple things out at halftime and I’m just excited our guys didn’t pack it in and they really rallied in the second half.”
Christopher (1-3 overall, 0-1 in league) will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at Salinas. And Bembry said he expects his team do perform like it did in the second half.
“We’ve just got to come out with the same fire,” said Lerma, who led Christopher with six tackles. “…Knowing that we have something good in our quarterback gives us hope that we’re going to have a good season.”
The defending Monterey Bay League-Gabilan Division champs (4-1 overall, 1-0 in league) will have a bye week. The Chieftains will next face off against Monte Vista Christian at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at home.