The Dons are currently 6-0 and 2-0 in the Peninsula Athletic League, as well as being ranked 15th in the San Jose Mercury News high school rankings. Senior leadership combined with focused mindsets have raised the team to its current level of success.
Head coach Steve Sell acknowledges the challenges the Dons have overcome so far this season.
“We replaced two of the C league teams with A league teams for [non-conference play],” Sell said. “Not only because we wanted to have better competition, but also because those were the teams that would play us.”
San Mateo and Jefferson did not want Aragon on their schedules. So instead of having easier opponents, the Dons were challenged by Aptos and Palo Alto. Aptos, who knocked the Dons out of the Central Coast Section playoffs last season, have won three CCS championships in a row. But, the Dons were able to pull off the upset on Sept. 1, winning 28-27.
“So that, in hindsight, for our first … game, was awesome,” Sell said. “I remember looking at the schedule, and thinking if we get through the [nonconference] schedule [undefeated], I’d be very happy, and we did.”
The team didn’t just get through tough opponents successfully, but they also had to continue playing during internal challenges such as injuries.
“Playing without senior guard Ian Tapueluelu pretty much all season due to a back injury, especially him being our best lineman, was really challenging,” Sell said. “The game against Sacred Heart Prep was his first game back.”
Injuries, such as Tapueluelu’s, caused many issues. While the team lacked a togetherness in its team bond, it also provided opportunities for underclassmen to fill in and gain more experience at the varsity level.
The Dons’ success was due to their focused mindset and team leadership. Senior linebacker Dante Pacini is proud of his teammates and their focus levels.
“We’re definitely more mature. We’re taking this season seriously as always, and we have to continue working hard if we want to get there,” he said. “Without hard work we aren’t going to go anywhere, so as long as we keep working hard, we’ll be good, and it should be a great rest of the season.”
Sell also attributes the team’s truimps with the increasing maturity of the team.
“That year of experience is really showing from guys like junior running back Camron Grant,” he said. “Also, our senior quarterback Gabe Campos, it’s his second year playing quarterback and he’s so much further along, he has so much more experience.”
Promoting upperclassmen from junior varsity and increasing juniors’ playing time on the team goes hand-in-hand with gaining more experience at the varsity level.
“I think what’s good is that we are far from peaking,” Sell said. “We’re getting better every year, even in this season I believe we’re improving with every game.”
Having the extra year of experience brings a whole new game to the table for the Dons, as it provides more physical abilities for players and helps them practice leadership skills for future seasons.
Junior running back Camron Grant has been with the team since his freshman season, and has noticed the seniors’ leadership.
“The seniors this year bring so much energy, even compared to last year,” he said. “They do a great job of bringing the underclassmen and the juniors up and getting us in the right mindsets.”
After remaining undefeated through tough opponents, the Dons have an extra incentive to perform well.
“There’s a lot to be excited about,” Sell said. “But at the same time there are a lot of good teams, so we’ll see where our season takes us.”
The Dons will hope to stay undefeated, as they face Burlingame on Oct. 20.