Alphonso Conley helps Upland football team rally past Damien

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10/8/2021

Alphonso Conley helps Upland football team rally past Damien

UPLAND — As a defensive back, Alphonso Conley’s primary objective is to prevent touchdowns from happening. Friday night, Conley showed he can put points on the scoreboard, as well.

Conley gave Upland’s offense a needed spark in the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns from the Wildcat formation to help the Highlanders rally past Damien for a 27-22 Baseline League victory.

“Coach called me over and said, ‘We need you,’” Conley explained. “I just went in and did what I did.”

Upland (5-3, 2-0 in league) was facing a 13-7 deficit at the start of the second half and the score remained that way well into the third quarter.

Conley scored on a 13-yard run on third-and-10 with 1:41 left in the quarter to help Upland take a 14-13.

Elijah Cannon gave Upland great field possession after intercepting a pass by Rahim Wright II on the ensuing possession. Conley cashed that turnover into points when he scored from 21 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter.

“He’s one of our best athletes, and we need to give him the ball and see what he can do,” Upland coach Darrell Thomas said.

Sean York added a touchdown on a quarterback sneak to extend the Upland lead to 27-13 with 8:16 left on the clock.

Damien (2-5, 0-2) made things a bit interesting down the stretch. Upland elected to take a safety on fourth-and-long at its 3. Damien then cut the deficit to 27-22 when Steve Chavez scored on a 3-yard run with 2:11 remaining

Upland was able to run most of the clock down and punt the ball away with 22 seconds. The Highlander defense sealed the win when brothers Maika and Apisai Matelau sacked Wright on the final play.

“We were in the weight room at halftime talking about how we needed to be more physical in the second half,” Maika Matelau said. “We did that, and I believe that is a big reason we won this game.”

Damien took advantage of a short field late in the opening quarter, as Gonzales hit a 28-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.

Upland answered during the opening minutes of the second quarter. Zivan Ardines broke off a 41-yard run to put the Highlanders in scoring position, and York scored on a 1-yard sneak to help Upland take a 7-3 advantage.

Wright, who transferred from Upland, took over at quarterback on Damien’s third possession and helped the Spartans immediately respond. Steve Chavez broke free for a 55-yard run, and then Wright connected with Nikko Paoletto on the 14-yard touchdown pass that helped the Spartans regain the lead with 8:33 left in the first half.

Damien extended its lead to 13-7 when Gonzales nailed a 30-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the first half. Wright completed three passes for 39 yards and also ran for 25 yards on that drive.

By:

Eric-Paul Johnson