Football: Falcons conclude season after first round CCS loss to Palma

November 28, 2016 — by Apoorv Kwatra, Trevor Leung, and Siva Sambasivam

Entering their CCS playoff game for the second time in the last three years, the Falcons were coming off one of their best regular seasons in recent memory.

They finished with a 5-6 record, earning a bid to the CCS playoffs on a 51-20 win against Santa Clara in their second to last game of the season. However, the Falcons’ miscues in their season finale loss to Los Gatos dropped their seeding in the SCVAL league, causing them to play away at the home field of the Palma Chieftains, a Catholic school known as a traditional powerhouse on the gridiron.

Led by starting quarterback Will Liddle’s 413 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver Kian Gelickhani’s two touchdowns and 98 yards on 15 reception, the Falcons put up great fight. But in the end, their heroic efforts were not enough as Saratoga’s season came to a close with a 55-27 defeat on Nov. 11.

Saratoga got off to a rocky start, giving up an early passing touchdown to the Chieftains. However, senior Falcons running back Nolan Chao was able to counter the score with a 5-yard rushing touchdown.

The Chieftains dominated the entire second quarter, outscoring the Falcons 21-0.

“I thought we played really well in the first quarter, but the game got a bit out of hand in the second,” junior wide receiver Harrison Fong said. “Our energy level just dropped a bit, but it’s something we learned from and can work on next year.”

Saratoga made a late third-quarter push, scoring two more touchdowns: a 3 -yard pass from Liddle to junior wide receiver Will Turpin and a 4-yarder to Ghelichkhani. But the Falcons’ efforts were outdone by Palma’s three third-quarter touchdowns.

Liddle connected with Ghelichkhani for a touchdown once again in the fourth, but Palma’s run offense kept thriving and the Falcons season came to a conclusion.

This was the last game in Falcon pads for 13 seniors. Both Ghelichkhani and Liddle enjoyed stellar careers as Falcons, leading Saratoga to CCS appearances during their sophomore and senior years. They both hope to play college football next fall.

Ghelichkhani had a total of 1,446 all-purpose yards this season, fourth for wide receivers in  CCS.

“I’m happy with the way I played this season, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it with my teammates beside me,” Ghelichkhani said. “They always motivated me to be my best on and off the field.”

Liddle leads the Central Coast Section with 3,517 total yards. He attributes his success to the entire team offense, stating it was “able to put the ball in the air successfully.”

“Despite the loss, I’m proud of what our guys did this season,” senior wide receiver Rajat Vora said. “We fought hard and gave it our all in CCS, and it really reflects our mindset throughout the season.”

Some of the losses on roster are costly and include the majority of the offensive and defensive lines. The starting quarterback and most wide receiver positions will also have to be replaced, but the team believes such a transition can occur seamlessly with oncoming JV players and returners.

“Even though we’re going to lose a lot of our main guys, I’m confident in our ability to grow individually and, as a team, to have a great season next year,” Fong said. “We have a really talented team, and I have very high hopes for next season.”

 

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