If Dublin High football coach John Wade needed a poster player, Gaels quarterback Edward Achziger has fit the bill, spectacularly in Red, White and Navy blue.
Achziger arrives early for practice, and stays late. He works hard in the weight room; studies film, and has essentially done all he can do to absorb Wade's offense.
The extra work has paid off. Achziger has delivered in the clutch as a passer, runner, and a leader.
"He's been one of the hardest working quarterbacks I've been around," Wade said of the three-year starter who also runs track.
Off the field Achziger is a top student who's active in school politics and a community volunteer. He has applied to Princeton in the Ivy League.
"It would be a dream to go to an Ivy League school, and if not I'd go to another good academic school where I could get a degree and be able to make it good in the real world after I'm done playing football," Achziger said.
He said he attended a Princeton football camp, when he developed a really good rapport with Tigers coach Bob Surace and offensive coordinator James Perry.
The Gaels (5-4, 2-3 Diablo Foothill Athletic League) are trying to start their own legacy of success. They started the season fast with four wins in their first five games, but have since dropped three of their last four against tougher competition.
Last week Dublin fell to formidable Miramonte 34-14. Wade previously coached the Matadors, a perennial DFAL power, for nine years.
Achziger, who is 6-foot and 185 pounds, accounted for four touchdowns in the Gaels' thrilling 32-29 win over Acalanes on Oct. 28. He also scored the winning touchdown in overtime against Moreau Catholic on Sept. 23.
Wade emphasizes an even-keel approach, not wanting his players to get too up after a good play or too down after a bad one.
"I think early on we didn't want to go into it saying we need to win a number of games; we wanted to focus on being able to compete for an entire game," Wade said. "The kids needed to learn how to win football games."
The Gaels, who will host rival Dougherty Valley (3-6, 0-5) on Thursday night to close the regular season, are gunning for their first North Coast Section playoff berth since 2005.
Their leading man, Achziger, will be key to their hopes.
"From a leadership standpoint he keeps everybody focused during games. I'm really impressed," Wade said.
BINGHAM'S BLAST: Ex-California goalkeeper David Bingham's big kick generated 2 million hits in two weeks. Imagine that.
Bingham, the San Jose Earthquakes' rookie goalkeeper who was selected to the U.S. under-23 men's national team camp last week, is perhaps best known for an amazing goal he scored at Buck Shaw Stadium on July 13, in which the ball traveled 90 yards.
Bingham kicked the ball off the grass just outside his penalty area, and the ball skipped over the head of West Brom of England goalkeeper Boaz Myhill for the first goal in San Jose's 2-1 exhibition victory. Predictably, Bingham's blast went viral on the Internet.
Thus the guy who backed up goalkeeper Jon Busch all season in Major League Soccer became an international celebrity of sorts -- without the paparrazi that is.
In terms of the big picture, Bingham's call up to the under-23 national team is much more significant. U.S. coach Caleb Porter, in the early stages of creating a player pool for 2012 Olympic qualifying, included Bingham on the 31-player roster for a Nov. 7-16 training camp in Duisburg, Germany.
"I was excited, I wasn't expecting it all," said Bingham, who also starred at UC Berkeley and with Mustang Soccer League. "Just to be given a chance to go over there and play with the under-23s and hopefully to make the Olympic team is a great opportunity."
Of his surprising brush with fame on the long goal, Bingham said it was really his first touch on the ball in his first game.
"I don't think you could ask for a better start than that, so it was a pretty indescribable feeling when that went in," he said.
Looking back at EBAL play, Bingham said he had a lot of fun on some tremendous California teams.
He marveled at the fact that his Grizzlies team sent five players to Division I soccer and three to MLS.
SNEAKY SOPH: Monte Vista sophomore Marco Zamora stole the show on the Mustangs senior night. He had five receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns in a hard-fought 12-7 win over visiting Foothill last week that clinched a North Coast Section Division I playoff berth.
The Mustangs (5-4, 4-2) travel to arch-rival San Ramon Valley (7-2, 5-1) on Thursday.
Zamora is quickly becoming hard to ignore for opposing defenses bent on stopping the Mustangs senior wideouts. His spectacular 78-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Jeff Lockie brought the winning margin against the Falcons.
"He made a good play," Zamora said of Lockie's throw. "He threw it deep to me. They were only playing one-on-one on me, thinking that I wasn't going to be open, that I'm the weak link on the team. I'm the younger one and they should guard the older guys."
Zamora added of the win: "All the seniors loved it."
Contact Matt Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.