It was a memorable night, indeed, for the Peninsula High football team.
Playing under the lights at home for the first time in the last 15 years, Peninsula put its nonleague inconsistencies behind it before handing Leuzinger a 20-0 Bay League opening loss.
“It was a really special night for everyone,” Panther quarterback Jack Haworth said. “It’s something that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
Behind an opportunistic defense, Peninsula (2-4, 1-0) forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown on a blocked punt late in the fourth quarter.
“The defense played awesome (Friday),” Haworth said. “They gave the offense the opportunities we needed to be able to execute.”
Following Anthony Augello’s second-quarter interception, Haworth connected with Luke Seymour for a 51-yard touchdown that gave Peninsula a 10-0 lead with 8:09 to play in the first half. Haworth finished with 131 yards on 8-for-12 passing.
“Our offense still sputtered, but there was more continuity,” Peninsula coach Dave Young said. “We got back to throwing the easy ball. Jack did a nice job trying to stretch the field, and we’re still trying to find the right mix on the (offensive) line.”
Peninsula got a huge boost from Joseph Rhodes. The Panthers kicker converted field goals from 34 and 40 yards, and his 56-yard punt with 8 minutes to play pinned Leuzinger at its own 6.
“(Rhodes) did a great job kicking,” Young said. “He missed a couple of field goals, but he overall he did well. He really helped us with field position all night.”
Leuzinger (3-3, 0-1) was able to get a first down before a botched snap and a Caleb Chang sack made it fourth-and-long from the 10.
Following a bad snap on the ensuing punt, Peninsula blocked the kick before Trevor Brunn fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a Panthers TD.
“The defense played hard, and they did what they had to,” Young said. “We had to stop (Pita Tukutua) and put eight in the box. We did a better job tackling, and that’s something we hadn’t been doing in nonleague.”
Tukutua was held to 62 yards on 16 carries, and Leuzinger was held to 180 offensive yards.
“We stunk it up,” Leuzinger coach Thomas Barnes said. “We need to change everything.”
Peninsula’s Brandon Smith had a fumble recovery and Nico Anvaripour had an interception.
“The turnovers feel like the defense is playing offense,” Smith said. “And the offense turned them into points.”
While Peninsula put its nonleague woes behind it, the night was about playing under the lights, and honoring alumni from Rolling Hills High.
“The atmosphere was electric. I wish we could do this every week,” Young said. “The support was awesome, and (Friday) was everything I hoped it would be.”
The Panthers savored the moment, taking postgame photos and hanging out on the field following the game, knowing how special a night like Friday was.
“Playing under the lights (at home) was a completely different atmosphere,” Smith said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”