Piedmont football loses opener at Pierce

PHS Football

The 2023 PHS football team

Piedmont High School’s football team fell in its season opener at Pierce-Arbuckle on August 25, 34-21. The Highlanders were playing their first game since September 24, 2022, when a series of injuries and an extremely thin roster combined to shut their season down.

Markos Lagios ran for 126 yards and a touchdown and threw for 160 more to lead Piedmont. The Highlanders outgained the Bears, 369-298. But four turnovers hindered Piedmont’s chances.

“We had a very strong first half,” Highlander coach Jordan Seiden said. “We felt we left a lot of points on the field going in at halftime. We didn’t have a very good third quarter. We didn’t tackle well, we didn’t make a lot of plays we should have.”

Seiden said there were a lot of positives in the game and several players made contributions. He cited Lagios, Tommy Ashton, Bill Ashton and Sam Shelby, although Shelby was ejected after picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game when he celebrated after making a terrific catch-and-run play on a 52-yard touchdown.

“Everybody in the room, coaches, players alike felt like we let one slip away,” Seiden said. “We put up 21 easily and we felt we left another 21 on the field. (It was) just mistakes, executing. There’s definitely a lot to build on. Pierce is a state playoff team, with a lot of bodies coming back.”

Shelby’s touchdown reception was probably the Highlanders’ highlight play. He took a short pass from Lagios, and juked his way through the Bears defense, stepping out of several tackles en route to the end zone.

Unfortunately, Shelby already had picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty early in the game, so when he started celebrating in the end zone, he picked up a second flag, which is an automatic ejection under National High School Federation rules. And the ejection means he has to sit out Piedmont’s next game on September 1 at Miramonte. Seiden said the team will try to appeal the ejection.

Shelby’s touchdown came early in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 27-13. Pierce then went on an eight-play, 88-yard drive to ice the game on a six-yard run by Alfonzo Orozco.

The Highlanders finished off the game with a Lagios touchdown run with 6.9 seconds to go in the game.

Piedmont started off the game with a huge break. Shelby’s opening kickoff went just one yard but Pierce touched the ball and Brayden Hong eventually fell on it for the Highlanders. They went 77 yards in 15 plays with Tommy Ashton running the ball in from the 1.

The Bears answered in just three plays, with Drew Burnum hitting Roberto Ramirez for a 78-yard touchdown to tie the score.

Late in the first quarter, Lagios mishandled a snap and Isaac Tirado fell on the ball for Pierce at the Piedmont 27. Early in the second quarter, David Aguirre scored on a four-yard run. Daniel Bustamante missed the conversion and it was 13-7.

Aguirre finished the night with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

The Highlanders had multiple chances late in the half to get on the board. First, Piedmont drove to the Bears 18 when Nathan Kaba intercepted a Lagios pass intended for Tommy Ashton. Two plays later, Miguel Long picked off a Burnum pass, returning it to the Pierce 36. However, the Highlanders went four-and-out.

The Bears couldn’t do anything and were forced to punt. Danny King blocked the punt and Tommy Ashton fell on the ball at the Pierce 29. On a fourth-and-2 at the 28, Lagios tried to find Shelby deep down the left side, but Ramirez came over from safety and intercepted the ball for a touchback.

Shelby finished the night with eight catches for 114 yards and the touchdown.  Lagios completed 16 of 28 passes for 160 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. He also ran in a two-point conversion. Tommy Ashton finished with 65 yards on 21 carries.

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