ATHERTON, CA. November 17, 2023. The M-A Bears Varsity Football fell to the Palma Chieftains 28-21 in the 2023 CCS Division III semifinals. Photo by Bob Dahlberg, @bobd_photo.

Low Student Section Turnout as Bears Suffer Defeat in Semi-Finals

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On Friday night’s CCS Division-3 semi-finals, the football team lost to the Palma High School Chieftains in a tough defeat of 21-28, ending the Bears’ season. 

Stands seven minutes into the game

Following new policy changes by school administration after numerous incidents of student intoxication at football games, all students were searched prior to entry. Breathalyzers and alcohol strip tests were performed on both targeted and random students. No bags or bottles were allowed in the game.

At most football games, the student section is packed, with little to no empty space. At Friday’s rainy game, however, only the first three rows of seats were filled, and 12th Man’s usual chants and energy was missing. Athletic director Steven Kryger described the attendance in the student section as the “lowest in 15 years.” 

Masuisui running the ball in

Members of the football team were disappointed in their peers’ lack of school spirit. Junior defensive end Devin Hyde said, “Unfortunately, people care more about drinking and getting high than the heart and passion that goes into football.” 

Despite the lack of a student section, the Bears had an impressive performance in the first half. With 8:33 remaining in the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Teddy Dacey connected with junior wide receiver Angelo Marin in the endzone, giving the Bears an early lead. After a successful extra-point by senior kicker Aiden Mulcahy, the Bears kicked off to the Chieftains, leading 7-0.

Marin’s performance extended to defense, as he intercepted a pass thrown by Palma, giving the Bears great ball positioning at the Palma 11-yard line. Senior running back Jordan Masuisui ran the ball in, putting the Bears ahead 14-0. 

Unfortunately, the Bears were unable to hold onto their momentum, allowing the Chieftains to score twice before the end of the first half, ending 14-14.

The third quarter started with Chieftain possession. Despite strong resistance by the Bears defense, the Chieftains scored again, putting the Bears down 14-21.

Despite this, the Bears did not give up, with Dacey completing multiple passes to senior wide receivers Alek Marshall and Aaron Becker. Palma’s defense ultimately prevailed, intercepting a pass by Dacey with 2:56 left in the third quarter. 

After multiple fourth down conversions by Palma, they eventually scored again with 7:37 left in the final quarter, increasing their lead to 28-14.

When the Bears got the ball back, they flew down the field, with Dacey completing a 30-yard pass to Marshall, combined with a roughing the passer penalty on Palma. Unfortunately, unable to hold onto the momentum, Dacey’s next pass was intercepted by Palma. 

However, the Bears were able to recover the ball, and Masuisui ran it in for a touchdown, with 4:30 left to go, reducing the deficit to 21-28. Hyde said, “In the second half, sometimes we were on fire and we were playing hard, and the two touchdowns and great fumble really rejuvenated us.”

Dacey looking for an open receiver

The Chieftains had the ball with 4:00 left, but the Bears strong defense stopped their run and forced a punt, getting the ball back with 54.1 seconds left.

In a nail-biting final ten seconds, senior tight end Owen van Loben Sels caught a 20-yard pass, giving the Bears hope for a comeback. With six seconds on the clock, a holding penalty gave the Bears 15 more yards. 

As time expired, Dacey was unable to connect with his receivers but was saved by a horse collar penalty on Palma. Extending the game by a final one play, Dacey’s pass to Marshall was intercepted, ending the game and season with a 21-28 loss.

It was an emotional loss for the team. “We fought really hard, but we lost the momentum for a bit. But kind of like our team’s motto, we will always claw to the end and put up a fight. We were really close, and I love this team so much. Although our record is not the best, this is a step in the right direction culture-wise, and I think the program is only going to go up from here,” said Becker. 

This game concluded the season for the Bears. About next season, Hyde said, “Morale needs to stay at its highest from when the game starts to when the game ends. But, we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves because we messed up. The fact that there was love for everybody on this team all the time is what I really loved.”

Tessa is a junior in her second year of journalism. She enjoys co-writing for the Bears Doing Big Things column and the social trends happening at M-A. Tessa also enjoys playing tennis and is on the varsity team.

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