Friday night’s matchup with the Cupertino Pioneers may have been week one of the league season for the Santa Clara Bruins, but it was a much-needed victory for the squad in blue and yellow.
Santa Clara went just 1-3 in the non-league portion of the schedule, and a loss at home in the league opener would have put them in a big hole when it comes to trying to finish with a winning season overall.
Fortunately for the Bruins and their fans, they dominated the Cupertino Pioneers, led by a pristine performance from the defense. All told, the Bruins defense forced five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles. One of the fumbles was a scoop-and-score recovery by star senior Amos Talalele, and one of the interceptions was a pick-six touchdown from junior Jacob Jensen.
“The zero was more impressive than the 43 because we scored three times on defense,” remarked Bruins Head Coach Andrew Calderon. “We struggled a lot the first two games on defense giving up over 40 points, but the last three games now we’ve averaged just 14 points per game allowed on defense.”
Forcing multiple turnovers is certainly a big help when it comes to keeping opposing offenses off the board. The other three turnovers in this one for Santa Clara were a fumble recovery by Mateo Garcia and interceptions from Kedawee Teka and Matt Nguyen. The latter of whom also had a 97-yard touchdown run as the Bruins offense played complementary football to the defense.
On offense, Santa Clara didn’t turn the ball over a single time, allowing the Bruins to finish a whopping plus five in the turnover differential.
“It was pretty exhausting,” joked Nguyen on his 97-yard score. “It felt pretty good though.”
Nguyen is one of several key players for the Bruins playing both ways. The aforementioned Talalele is also a two-way player, contributing on both the offense and defensive line. Having been recruited by numerous Pac-12 schools, Talalele could have easily left to play at a different high school, but he has stayed his entire high school career with the Bruins. From the sounds of it, his teammates absolutely adore him and tell the paper that he’s a total team player despite all his individual attention from top college programs.
“A lot of people might think he gets like a big head, but he’s like the total opposite, he’s real chill, he doesn’t let that ‘fame’ get to him,” chimed Nguyen on Talalele’s character. “He’s still a big team player, helps out with guys on the team both in school and on the field.”
“I really appreciate him staying and appreciate him doing the right things,” added Coach Calderon on his star offensive and defensive tackle. “Him choosing to stay has helped our program, other guys on our team are going to get exposure as well.”
Talalele, Nguyen and the rest of the Bruins will look to expose the weaknesses in King’s Academy’s armor with another home game in Week 2 on Thursday, Oct. 6.