Bells rang throughout the stadium at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale. A frenzied crowd roared and yelled with joy after the Fremont Firebirds beat their rival, the Homestead Mustangs, 24-19 on senior night as they took home the “Bell” in the “Battle of the Bell” game. It was the first win for the Firebirds against the Mustangs in six years.
Bryand Arcia pumped his fist as his pass to Jonathan Soto was complete for a two-point conversion after a diving touchdown by running back Ma’ake Tuulakitau made the score 15-12 with 7:13 left in the third quarter. It was the Firebirds’ first score since the first quarter when Tuulakitau barreled his way into the endzone.
The game did not start out with smiles and fist pumps for Fremont as Homestead returned the punt to the Fremont 24-yard line. Additionally, an offside and a roughing the passer penalty hurt the Firebirds as they gave the Mustangs free yards. Then the Mustangs struck with a touchdown on the ground with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
“We talked about [the penalties] all week. We talked about not beating ourselves,” Fremont Coach Adam Herald said. “We had a lot of situations where we beat ourselves and gave them a short field in the first half and they scored both times out of it.”
The 15-12 lead was brief for the Firebirds as Homestead answered with a touchdown of their own with just a minute into the fourth quarter to make it 19-15. But Arcia lofted a pass to wide receiver Johnathan Gutierrez for a completion at the four-yard line. Then on a quarterback keeper, Arcia sped into the endzone for a lead-changing touchdown with 10:39 left in the final stanza.
The Firebird defense came up with a monster stop and forced the Mustangs to punt the ball on a 3-and-out. Then Fremont got a safety with just under three minutes left in the game and recovered an onside kick attempt by Homestead.
Soon after, the celebration began with bells clanging and players drenching their coach with a Gatorade bath after a long hiatus from winning the “Bell.”
“Hats off to them. That’s why you want to get into this profession,” coach Herald said, drenched in Gatorade.
It was an incredibly special victory for the seniors of the Fremont football team.
“It’s the best feeling in the world just to have our last year and win the bell and keep it the whole year,” Soto said.
“To go out like this, after six years of losing [the bell], there’s no better feeling than this,” Gutierrez added.
The Firebirds finish their season with a road game against Milpitas next Friday at 7 p.m. The message coach Herald had for his team next week: just have fun.