April 13, 2024
De La Salle hasn't been the same since St. Francis beat the Spartans two years ago. Plus, what makes Serra's defense so good, Leigh's turnaround, Oakland's big win and more.

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ST. FRANCIS-DLS: THE NIGHT HISTORY CHANGED

Nobody knows how the path forward would have unfolded had St. Francis not beaten De La Salle two years ago, a monumental outcome because at the time the Concord powerhouse had not lost to an opponent from this region in 30 years.

But this much is clear:

Since St. Francis’ stunning 31-28 victory at home over the Spartans on Sept. 10, 2021, De La Salle has not been the same.

The Spartans have been defeated eight times since the loss in Mountain View, including five games to teams from this part of the state.

The latest loss, Saturday at Serra, was the most decisive yet. The San Mateo school beat DLS 28-0 one year after it rallied on the road from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to edge the Spartans 24-21.

To be clear, Saturday’s game was close much of the way. Serra led 8-0 going to the final period.

But there is no escaping these numbers for DLS:

— In the past two fourth quarters against Serra, DLS has been outscored 37-0.

— In the past five quarters against Serra, the Spartans have been outscored 45-0.

— In the past seven quarters this season, DLS has been outscored 49-0.

Having lost at home to Southern California powerhouse Orange Lutheran 35-14 to open this season, De La Salle is 0-2 as it prepares to play its first game at St. Francis since the historic result two years ago.

DLS beat St. Francis 35-3 in Concord last season.

As he spoke to reporters after the loss Saturday, DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said his team played better against Serra than it did against Orange Lutheran and will have to continue to improve this week.

“I thought our effort and physicality was atrocious against Orange Lutheran,” Alumbaugh said. “It really was. This score is a little misleading, to be honest. That was a tight game for the vast majority of the game. We hit, especially defensively. We hit. We fought. We were in a much better position.

“But there is no rest for the weary. It’s Saturday. We have a game next Friday against St. Francis who will hit.”

Alumbaugh closed by adding, “I know this. If there’s a zero on the board, we’re not going to win. So we’ve got to start putting some points on the board.”

— Darren Sabedra

MEMORY LANE: HOW ST. FRANCIS VIEWS HISTORIC WIN

While getting ready for another game against De La Salle, St. Francis coach Greg Calcango briefly reminisced about the 2021 game that sent shockwaves through the state.

It was a truly historic victory as the Lancers became the first team from this region since Pittsburg in 1991 to defeat the Spartans.

“Last time…last time it was pretty spectacular,” Calcagno said. “It was the first home game after COVID where we could have people in the stands.”

Calcagno added, “I’m sure coach Alumbaugh will remind his team of that and they’ll be ready to go.”

St. Francis is 1-1 after winning on the road Friday against Monterey Trail-Elk Grove 28-21.

— Joseph Dycus

SERRA’S DEFENSE IS LIGHTS OUT

In eight quarters this season, Serra shut out De La Salle and Folsom in seven of them. The Padres gave up 14 points in the final period against Folsom in a 21-14 victory.

What makes Serra’s D so good?

“They hit and tackle,” Alumbaugh said. “That’s the key to defense. They’re in position. They know what they’re doing. It’s hard to get them out of position, too.

“They cover each other up well. If one guy’s out of position, then another guy shows up. But they’re hitters. That’s what makes them a really good defense. They’re hitters.”

— Darren Sabedra

ROAD WARRIORS, ROAD WINNERS

Four of the Bay Area’s top teams visited Sac-Joaquin Section schools over the weekend, and all four returned home victorious.

Pittsburg defeated Granite Bay 41-21 in a game that was competitive early.

Elsewhere, St. Francis held off Monterey Trail, St. Ignatius slipped by Jesuit-Carmichael 28-27 and Menlo-Atherton’s defense was dominant in a 20-14 victory over Elk Grove.

St. Francis’ win avenged a 28-7 loss to Monterey Trail last season in Mountain View.

The Lancers got it done Friday behind — what else? — their running game. Kingston Keanaaina ran for three touchdowns as St. Francis bounced back after losing at home to Helix-La Mesa in Week 1.

“Kingston is pretty dang good,” Calcagno said. “It helps us when he gets the ball.”

As Calcagno sees it, scheduling strong opponents is important.

“The sooner you can get battle-tested, the sooner you can find things out,” he said.

— Joseph Dycus

LEIGH’S TURNAROUND: THE SIGNS WERE THERE

Leigh has been one of the pleasant surprises of the young season, starting 2-0 after going 3-7 in 2022.

But maybe it was to be expected.

The signs were already trending up late last season as Leigh won its final three games by double digits after a 0-7 start that included a couple of last-play-of-the-game defeats.

Through two games this season, Leigh has allowed seven points. The Longhorns opened with a 28-0 win over Lincoln-San Jose. Friday, they beat Pioneer 21-7.

“The defense has really taken a step,” Leigh coach Kyle Padia said. “We were young last year.”

The San Jose school still does not start a senior on either its offensive or defensive line.

Senior linebacker Reese Schuyler (two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception against Pioneer) and junior defensive end Nik Velikanovs have been among the standouts.

The defense could get stronger as some of the team’s injured players return to the field.

“If we can get healthy, we’re really excited about the rest of the year,” Padia said.

— Joseph Dycus

OAKLAND HIGH LEARNING HOW TO WIN

Oakland wasn’t exactly throwing a party on the bus ride back to the East Bay after defeating Highlands-North Highlands 16-8 for the program’s first victory since 2019.

“It was like, ‘Hey, we did it,’ but at the same time there’s no complacency,” said first-year coach Terry Hendrix, who added that many of his players were instead focused on what went right and almost went wrong.

Oakland was a few plays away from blowing a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

“It was uncharted territory for them,” Hendrix said. “We got tight.”

But the team that is used to losing, and often losing big, pushed through for the victory.

Ahmiollion Brown rushed for both touchdowns and quarterback Rah’Shaan Buffin ran for 117 yards to close out the first of what Hendrix expects to be many victories.

“I don’t want them to think this is the first and last (win),” Hendrix said. “I want them to act like they’ve been here before.”

— Joseph Dycus

MACK’S STILL MACK

McClymonds’ defense was on its game in the Oakland powerhouse’s season-opening 40-0 victory over Bellarmine on Friday at San Jose City College.

The Warriors, coming off a loss in an upper-division state championship game last season, held Bellarmine to minus-15 yards rushing and 27 yards passing. They sacked the Bells seven times.

But the schedule will toughen.

After playing Bishop O’Dowd on Friday, Mack visits San Ramon Valley on Sept. 15 and De La Salle on Sept. 29.

“I was a little punch-drunk from the state game when I took the schedule,” longtime Mack coach Michael Peters said, laughing. “I don’t know who won tonight at Bishop O’Dowd (O’Dowd beat Skyline 50-0).

“But San Ramon and De La Salle are going to be two tough games. Last year, we barely pulled it off against San Ramon. They hit us with 500 yards passing. So we’ve got to clean that up a little bit and then De La Salle is De La Salle, man.”

SRV’s Luke Baker, who passed for 513 yards and five TDs in a 45-42 loss to Mack, is now a senior.

“I call him Drew Brees,” Peters said. “We’ve got to worry about Drew Brees and the boys. We’ve got to just keep getting better.”

— Darren Sabedra 

PEEK AHEAD TO WEEK 3

Friday

Amador Valley (1-1) at Acalanes (0-2), 7 p.m.: AV shut out Campo on Friday. Third tough game in a row for Acalanes.

Serra (2-0) at Central Catholic-Modesto (2-1): Central Catholic, which lost to St. Mary’s-Stockton 42-33 two weeks ago, will present a challenge for the Padres.

Bishop O’Dowd (1-1) at McClymonds (1-0), 7 p.m.: Oakland schools meet for the first time since 2012, a 33-26 O’Dowd victory.

Los Gatos (2-0) at Live Oak (2-0), 7 p.m.: Los Gatos rallied from 20 points behind on Friday to win at Liberty. Big test for Live Oak.

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Photos: Bay Area high school football Week 2, 2023

De La Salle (0-2) at St. Francis (1-1), 7:30 p.m.: De La Salle hasn’t opened a season without a win after three games since 2004 (0-2-1).

Saturday

Sacred Heart Prep (1-1) at Palo Alto (2-0), 7 p.m.: The schedule is about to get harder for Palo Alto. Vikings play SHP, Los Gatos and Menlo-Atherton in the next three weeks.

Clayton Valley (1-1) at Oak Ridge (3-0), 7 p.m.: CV has already won one hard road game (Salinas in Week 1). Can it make it two?

— Darren Sabedra

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