Bright lights shine on the football players scattered on Witter Field as day turns to dusk. The roar of the crowd is audible from blocks away as seemingly the entire school has packed into the stands, overflowing out of the student section. Raucous chants have begun well before kickoff and will continue throughout the game.
The Piedmont football team has a 5 – 3 record overall as of Oct. 27, with three games remaining in the regular season schedule. This year the team made the move from the Shoreline Division of the West Alameda County Conference to the more competitive Foothill Division.
Acknowledging that he would obviously like the team to have more wins, head football coach James Holan said he is proud of how his team is doing thus far.
“It’s bittersweet,” Holan said. “We’re playing much better competition than we’ve ever played [in Piedmont], so while we don’t have as many wins as we had at this point last year (as of Oct. 10), the quality of teams we’re playing is much higher.”
However, Holan believes that the team is more talented than the record shows, and is capable of doing better.
Senior Brandon Lew agreed with Holan, and said that a lack of talent is not the issue.
“We’ve had some self-inflicted wounds that have led to losses,” Lew said. “Our main problem is doing too much. We’re trying to play out of what we know how to play.”
However, Piedmont moves on quickly from their losses, captain senior Nick Pacult said.
“Our team motto has been ‘next play’,” Pacult said. “We can’t go back and change the losses, we just have to focus on the next game. Once the game is done it’s done. We can’t dwell on the losses and we can’t let the spoils of victory stop us from progressing.”
The mentality of progression and moving on was something Holan instilled in the team early on.
“My goal for the kids is to get better every week,” Holan said. “The goal isn’t to win ‘x’ amount of games or score ‘x’ amount of points. The goal is that every week we get better and better so that by the time we’re in the playoffs, we’re peaking.”
However, one of the losses that was harder to move on from was the 24-21 loss to Moreau Catholic High School on Sept. 9. Piedmont lost on a penalty revoking a last second touchdown.
“We like to say it was on the refs, but it’s really on us,” Lew said. “It was us playing out of our norms, people doing too much on the field, not playing to their responsibilities and their roles on the team.”
Holan echoed Lew’s sentiments, and said he felt the game was especially hard due to the emotional toll.
“To go from that high of thinking we won the game all the way back down to realizing we lost the game on the last play of the game… it was a hard pill to swallow,” Holan said.
On the flip side, the game against Bishop O’Dowd High School on Oct. 7 was a highlight of the season for Lew, Pacult and Holan, despite it being a 37-19 loss.
“The best memory was the O’Dowd game,” Pacult said. “Just the atmosphere, the build up to the game, a lot of the town was out, a lot of the school was there, one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played in front of. It was more than a game; it was a rivalry.”
Pacult appreciated the growing support of the fans this year and hopes the crowd will sustain or grow as the year goes on.
“I definitely think our fans have been great this year,” Pacult said. “I know two years ago they were great. Last year was okay. But this year the senior class is leading people to the games, and people are enjoying themselves at the games. It really helps us, we love playing in front of a crowd.”
Crowd noise helps to disrupt and demoralize the opposing team, Pacult said. However, on top of this, it also helps motivate Piedmont.
“It makes it more fun for us,” Pacult said. “When you make a play, you’ve got your friends, your classmates watching. High school football, it’s your school, it’s your town that you’re playing for.”
Despite O’Dowd being a heavy favorite, with several nationally-ranked recruits, Piedmont played well, Holan said.
“That’s a team that physically should outmatch us, and we hung with them for three plus quarters, so I’m really proud of our effort and where we’re at,” Holan said.
Piedmont played O’Dowd for the first time in decades due to Piedmont’s move from Shoreline to Foothill. Pacult said he has enjoyed the change in opponents thus far.
“Every game we play in is a big game,” Pacult said. “Looking back on a high school career, you don’t remember the blowouts. You remember the close games, you remember the big games. What I like about this league is that you’re always the underdog. When Piedmont is the underdog, it brings out another side of us that we don’t get when we’re the favorites.”
Holan has talked to his team, especially his seniors, about the importance of making memories while playing.
“These are the games that will stick with them forever,” Holan said. “Nobody is going to be able to take that away from them.”