Peyton Waters, Birmingham fall in 3-AA bowl game to Acalanes


Peyton Waters’ eyes were filled with tears on an emotional Saturday afternoon at Saddleback College. He still stood tall, helmet off and head high, even if his final high school football game ended in defeat.

He knew he had given his all for three years at Birmingham High — catching passes, making tackles, returning kickoffs, punting and leading his team to three City Section titles.

The chance to deliver a first CIF state bowl championship victory ended in a stinging 35-23 defeat to Acalanes in the 3-AA final.

“So close yet so far,” Birmingham coach Jim Rose said.

Acalanes went ahead 28-23 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Trevor Rogers caught a 33-yard touchdown pass. Later, the Patriots were driving toward a potential go-ahead touchdown at the Acalanes 22 when quarterback Kingston Tisdell had a pass intercepted for the first time in 15 games by Paul Kuhner. The Patriots (12-3) never threatened again, giving up a touchdown in the final seconds to leave City Section teams 0-9 in state finals since 2017.

“We tried,” Birmingham defensive end Maynor Morales. “I honestly don’t think they beat us. Stuff happens.”

Yes, in some ways, Birmingham has itself to blame, such as six penalties on defense for offsides and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. The Patriots were up 21-7 late in the second quarter on the strength of a 25-yard touchdown run by Dredon Fowles and touchdown receptions of 31 yards and three yards by Waters.

Acalanes (11-4) got a touchdown on the final play of the second quarter and the opening possession of the third quarter to turn the game around.

“Personal mistakes that we can control,” Waters said. “It hurt.”

The Patriots came so close. Sophomore running back Ronnell Hewitt rushed for 92 yards. Tisdell completed 14 of 23 passes for 208 yards. Linebacker Eddie Plaza kept making tackle after tackle. Waters did everything but carry the water bottles. He caught eight passes for 98 yards, made a couple of tackles, returned a kickoff 52 yards, had a 42-yard punt. As learned in last week’s miracle win over Del Norte on a tipped pass with no time left, Waters said everyone was focused on never giving up.

“This being my last game, you have to try your hardest,” Waters said.

Birmingham briefly took a 23-21 lead in the third quarter on the strangest of safeties. Rogers, in punt formation for Acalanes, ran down a wild snap over his head in the end zone. He punted the ball five yards. Birmingham’s Harold Reed tried to catch the punt, but it went off his hands back into the end zone, where Rogers fell on it.

Waters, headed next month to Washington, earned universal respect, including from Rogers, a Cal commit. The two were matched up much of the game covering each other.

“He’s an amazing player,” Rogers said. “He respects the game like I do. You live for those opportunities, playing against big-time players.

Said Morales: “Peyton is an outstanding player, great teammate, great person. He’s going to do great things.”

Rose said Waters belongs on Birmingham’s “Mount Rushmore.”

This group of Birmingham players leaves with quite a legacy, having increased the team’s City Section winning streak to 42 games and three consecutive Open Division titles.

“It was an honor to play for Coach Rose,” Morales said.

It was an equal honor for Rose to coach the 2023 Patriots.

“They had a great run,” Rose said. “It sucks to lose this way, but it was a great team.”



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