In 2014, the Dons lost to Hillsdale in heartbreaking fashion, 14-13 in overtime, to end a 23-year win streak over the Knights. Last year, the Dons were blown out by Hillsdale in the second half, losing 45-22. On Friday Nov. 4, the same narrative looked to be playing out after Hillsdale scored a touchdown off of a fumble by junior quarterback Gabe Campos to take their first lead of the game at 27-24. Hillsdale was looking for a hat trick of wins against the Dons. But Aragon was able to regain its lead, winning 37-27.
On the first play of Hillsdale’s first offensive drive, junior cornerback Brent Marin picked up a Hillsdale fumble and ran it back 40 yards for a touchdown to give the Dons an early 7-0 lead.
“It felt good to start us off with a score and especially in the beginning of the game,” says Marin. “I just wanted to put some points on the board for our team.”
Marin would add on to his dominant defensive performance with two interceptions, the latter coming on Hillsdale’s final drive of the game to seal the win for Aragon.
“I have to give a shoutout to my friend, Camron [Grant], because earlier I was doing really bad and he brought me up and he said ‘Keep your head up and you’ll do good,’” Marin explains, “After that, I got two interceptions and brought us the game back and it just felt really good.”
The second quarter turned into a classic offensive shootout, with both teams putting up a combined 33 points in 12 minutes of action while trading big play after big play. Senior wide receiver Anthony Sandoval led the way with a 62-yard catch for a touchdown.
“I knew that I was gonna get [the ball] because, one, [the cornerback] was pressing up against me and when a corner is pressing up against me, I know that I’m automatically scoring,” Sandoval says. “I know I have [a] quarterback that can throw to me and get the ball into my hands.”
Earlier in the day at the Homecoming rally, many saw senior running back Siua Tongamoa limp off after the freeze dance game, with head coach Steve Sell talking to him afterwards. Many thought he had pulled his hamstring and feared that he may be ruled out due to a serious injury, forcing the team at a moment’s notice to change its game plan. Fortunately, it turned out to be a cramp and nothing too serious.
“You know, I kinda had a little cramp,” says Tongamoa, “but Sell made me stretch it out, put some ice on it … and that was all good.”
Despite this, Tongamoa was barely used throughout the first half, rushing two times for minus-one yard while sophomore running back Paul Lautaimi did the dirty work, rushing for 87 yards in the first half.
“I trusted our offense to bounce back and when [Sell] called me, I did what he asked,” Tongamoa said.
Late in the third quarter, a bad snap sailed over Campos’ head, allowing Hillsdale to recover the ball in the red zone, and then score early in the final quarter to go up 27-24.
That’s when Tongamoa got his chance, responding with a 40-yard touchdown run to put the Dons ahead 30-27.
“I just trusted my offensive line,” says Tongamoa “I [saw] that their outside linebackers kept on biting, so I had to bounce it out. So, I faked the dive right and bounced it left.”
Tongamoa would add on another touchdown, this one a 13-yard run with 4:47 to play, before Marin would put the final nail into Hillsdale’s chances of victory and of making the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“[The win] means that we’re back on top,” states Sandoval following the victory. “I’m just happy that we kicked out our rivals out of CCS and we got a better seed as well.”
This was the last Homecoming game for the 18 seniors on the roster, including Tongamoa and Sandoval, and they ended their Aragon regular-season careers with a signature win against Hillsdale.
“I’m happy, you know,” comments Sandoval. “I balled out with my team and it’s my favorite part of the year.”
“I’m very emotional,” says Tongamoa after the game. “I’m going to miss this school. I’m going to miss the fans, everything, you know. I just love this school and I’m grateful for this opportunity.”
In their first CCS playoff game on Friday, the Dons fell short against third-seeded Aptos, losing 35-14, and closing the final chapter of the 2016 season.