“That was probably the weirdest weekend football-wise I’ve ever had,” said Chase, now a Portland State receiver after a redshirt 2019 season at Nebraska.
And he’s talking about more than the game. Northern California wildfires meant Union took detours and spent several more hours than anticipated traveling by bus — to and from California. Even a planned dinner with El Cerrito players and coaches was scrapped since Union arrived in the area around midnight.
But there’s a reason why head coach Rory Rosenbach scheduled the trip. Not just for the game, but for players to take away a larger experience. The trip also included attending a UC Davis home game.
“It forged a really strong bond that we really hoped would get us through a long season, and it did,” Rosenbach said.
For Chase, part of the experience echoed what he eventually soaked in during his first season at Nebraska. Union set up rooms for last-minute film sessions, held a day-of-game walk-through and attended a movie together.
Once at the stadium for the game, “then it got crazy again,” Rosenbach said.
No game officials were assigned. Players and coaches waited almost two hours for an officiating crew.
“All of a sudden,” Rosenbach said, “this lone zebra comes running in and you thought he was carrying the Olympic torch. It was like a standing ovation.”
More officials arrived one by one after their near-by games were completed. Union and El Cerrito kicked off with three officials. By halftime, it had a full crew.
The game didn’t disappoint.
The back-and-forth contest featured four lead changes the final 12 minutes, and after El Cerrito took a 29-27 lead late, the Gauchos kicked the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff. Instead of taking the ball near the 40-yard line inside a minute left, Rosenbach and his staff had El Cerrito kick again.
Waiting for the return were Chase and Jojo Siofele.
Chase said what fueled him on the play came on the prior defensive series. He played cornerback and the touchdown that gave El Cerrito the two-point lead came on his watch.
For redemption, Chase felt there was no better option than scoring. It was one of two special-teams touchdowns he had on the season.
“I got the ball and honestly from there it went blank,” he said. “I remember running full speed, seeing a few blocks … once I got past all the defenders, it was pretty much it from there.”
That was one of seven games the Titans won by seven or fewer points on their way to a 14-0 season.
But a four-day weekend trip also taught the Titans how to handle what’s thrown their way.
Said Chase: “Nothing fazed us after that.”