There are special moments that decide games, shape seasons and become part of rivalry legend.
The 2019 Dena Bowl gave Pasadena one of those moments to remember.
Kayla Alexander’s 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter on November 1 propelled Northeast to a 9-7 win over Chesapeake in 43rd edition of the rivalry, which came as both the Eagles and Cougars were in a fight for playoff positioning in the 3A South.
The Eagles (4-5) received a monster rushing night from Myles Macon, who carried 25 times for 204 yards, and an early touchdown from Cody Edmondson to set Northeast up for the rivalry win.
In many ways, the game was a battle to see which team could minimize mistakes and capitalize on its opponents’ errors, but the ugly football didn’t change the appreciation for the win for Northeast coach Brian Baublitz.
“This game, if we would’ve won 1-0, it would have been pretty to me,” said Baublitz. “There was some ugly football. We’ve had an ugly year this year as far as our football has not been up to our standard. But the kids came out, they persevered through a lot. We were down five starters tonight, our quarterback, two wings, and I’m not making excuses, I’m just saying these kids persevered and believed in the next-man-up philosophy. I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”
It took overcoming early-game miscues for the Eagles to come out victorious. Starting with possession, Chesapeake fumbled after a completed pass to give the ball away on the game’s first drive.
Macon was the one who recovered the fumble. He made a nice run to get Northeast into the red zone moments later but coughed the ball up on his ensuing rush to the goal line. Chesapeake regained possession with no damage done.
The next turnover was forced, as Northeast cornerback Connor McGregor jumped the passing route of Chesapeake quarterback Nathan Rosado, leaping to snare Rosado’s pass for an interception. McGregor returned the pick inside the 10-yard line, and Edmondson bruised through tacklers at the goal line for a 7-yard touchdown. Alexander’s extra-point attempt was blocked, and Northeast led 6-0 late in the first quarter.
Chesapeake’s Zach Baumann blocked a Northeast punt attempt in the second quarter, but the Cougars couldn’t turn it into points. Northeast had a chance to go ahead by two scores as the half wound down, but Alexander pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide, and Northeast held a tenuous 6-0 lead at half.
Victor Listorti got Chesapeake’s running game going in the second half, but still the Cougars couldn’t get on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Logan Peapos gave his Cougars an opportunity with a recovered fumble near midfield, and a pair of strong runs by Listorti got Chesapeake into Northeast territory as the fourth quarter began. A 20-yard run by Kyle Lane put the Cougars at the 1-yard line, where Devin Forrester took a handoff and crashed though linemen and linebackers for a touchdown. Baumann’s extra point gave Chesapeake a 7-6 lead with 10:02 to play.
Northeast needed a winning drive. Macon produced a long run through the middle of the field and was aided by a personal foul penalty on Chesapeake that tacked on another 15 yards.
That put the ball in the red zone, and after a series of stopped runs, Northeast had a chance to put Alexander on the field for a go-ahead kick from 26 yards out.
Her kick was pure. It cleanly split the uprights with plenty of distance to spare, and Northeast led with 6:55 left.
The junior kicker, who began her football career in August to mounting media fanfare, said the competitor in her relished the chance to help her team win.
“In my head I was thinking just don’t let my team down,” Alexander said. “I knew it was a very important kick, and I could of course feel the pressure. But, I love the chance to kick a game-winning field goal. I absolutely love it. I love the pressure. I just always never want to let my team down, and that’s what I did, I didn’t let them down. It feels amazing.”
Having seen her miss her prior kick, did Baublitz have any hesitation sending Alexander out to kick with the game hanging in the balance?
“Heck no,” Baublitz said. “Because Kayla’s got ice in her veins. The coaches didn’t even go talk to her after she missed that first one, because we know we don’t have to. She nailed it. It was pure, straight through. I’m so happy for her.”
The Eagle defense still needed to make plays to preserve the win. Northeast’s Cole Souvenir made sure of it, bursting through the line and sacking Rosado, with tackle help from Nick Oliver and Stephen Haley to finish the play.
The defense held up its end of the bargain to give the Eagles a chance to win.
“The way the defense came out and the game plan coach Brian Brown put together was just amazing tonight,” said Baublitz. “He had those kids flying around the football field, and he had adjustments already made for the second half. Once they started getting those runs on the corner, he already had the adjustments already made. I’m extremely proud of him and happy for him.”
Northeast regained possession and needed first downs to kill the clock and ice the win. Macon ran up the middle and swept to the outside for a pair of first downs, and the Eagles took victory formation to burn the clock and etch the win in stone.
Macon said the blocking was key to his big game and that the Eagles never lost confidence even when trailing in the fourth quarter.
“I’m constantly following anyone I can, seeing a block, getting behind them and then cutting it out with perfect timing,” said Macon. “I wanted the whole team to know we can’t let our heads fall. We gotta keep pushing. It’s still a close game, and there’s no reason that we should have doubt in ourselves. [Winning the Dena Bowl] feels absolutely amazing.”
Highlights were limited for Chesapeake (4-5), which couldn’t string together enough plays to threaten offensively. Listorti carried 17 times for 102 yards, and Lane had five carries for 47 yards. Lane led the team with seven tackles.
Chesapeake coach Rob Elliott said the team couldn’t minimize its mistakes enough to tilt the outcome in their favor.
“Our issue this entire season has been turnovers,” said Elliott. “We’ve got to take care of the football. We set them up on a short field. But give it up to them. They outplayed us. They won the game, they deserved it, they outplayed us. They were more mistake-free than we were. We talked a good bit about what usually decides these games is penalties and turnovers. You’ve got to play true.”
Chesapeake still leads the all-time matchup 23-20 in 43 Dena Bowls, but Northeast has won the last two and three of the last four. Before winning Dena Bowl XL in 2016 in Baublitz’s first year as head coach, Northeast hadn’t won the matchup since 2010, and the Eagles are enjoying their spell of success in the rivalry.
Senior lineman Brandon Baublitz said the team and the Eagles seniors are proud to come out victorious in front of the community.
“You can’t explain the energy out there in a Dena Bowl game,” Baublitz said. “It feels fantastic to win two years in a row. Not many people can say that.”
Alexander said she is enjoying the unique odyssey of being a girl and, not just playing high school football, but helping her team win.
“It’s been crazy between just being a girl and being [on an] all-male team, and you feel the pressure,” she said. “But, the teammates I have and the coaches I have, they make the pressure kind of go away. It’s absolutely amazing. I could have never asked for a better group of coaches and people to play with.”
Coach Baublitz said Alexander has been a consummate teammate and individual throughout the season.
“She is such a pleasure to coach,” Baublitz said. “Since day one when she emailed me and said, ‘Do you mind if I come out and play football?’ I said, ‘No doubt, that would be great.’ She’s just such a pleasure. She comes in, she does her work, she’s great with the kids. She’s just perfect.”