The Friday Night Lights event, sponsored by Black Bear Diner and produced by the San Francisco 49ers, drew 11,115 fans to sparkling new Levi’s Stadium last Friday with another 8,906 who came on Saturday. The likelihood of a similar event seems high and we’ve got some ideas of which schools with a 49er twist should be among those invited soon.
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The first Friday game between Wilcox of Santa Clara and Santa Clara produced a tie in the state record category for most interceptions by one team on defense as Wilcox collected nine of them in its 67-20 win.
The other games during the weekend were between Jesuit of Carmichael and Elk Grove (Jesuit won 41-38 in Friday’s second game); Oakdale and Manteca (Oakdale won 42-21 in Saturday’s first game); and De La Salle of Concord and Logan of Union City (DLS won 51-7 in Saturday’s second game).
In talking to at least one 49er official on Saturday, the concept of bringing in local high school teams to experience the thrill of playing at Levi’s was from team Chief Executive Officer Jed York himself.
The 49ers also released a statement on Wednesday expressing their interest in having other high school football games played on their home turf.
“Our Friday Night Lights event was a tremendous success with more than 20,000 fans coming to Levi’s Stadium during the weekend to watch a couple hundred student athletes have the experience of their football lives,” 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido said. “With the reception we received from the schools, their players and their fans, we certainly plan to host more high school football events moving forward.”
It didn’t seem like the 49ers, however, are interested in converting their Friday Night Lights event into something like an annual De La Salle-involved series with the Spartans taking on some nationally ranked powerhouse from outside of the Bay Area and Northern California.
It appears to us that it’s more about giving back to the local communities and letting as many local schools, their players and their fans get the experience of playing and being inside the stadium.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions we have to possible future matchups in the Friday Night Lights series. These are done with 49er history in mind and with the condition that the games will be scheduled earlier in the season and would not be league games like they were this year due to the earlier cancellation from Aug. 30.
6. Bellarmine Prep (San Jose) vs. Milpitas
The Bells are the closest West Catholic Athletic League school to Levi’s Stadium and would be a natural choice at some point to have a game there. Milpitas also is just to the east of Levi’s on 237. These two CCS power schools also don’t usually play. Their last meeting came in the CCS playoffs in 2008.
5. Rocklin vs. St. Francis (Mountain View)
Rocklin is where the 49ers did their summer training for many years before Rocklin High even existed. St. Francis has been where the sons of several former 49er players (such as Ronnie Lott) have played in the past.
4. Palma (Salinas) vs. Edison (Fresno)
They’ve got to get Fresno Edison into this deal somehow since the Tigers are where 49er Super Bowl winners Tim McDonald, Charles Young and Greg Boyd all went to high school. Palma is the alma mater of 49er Super Bowl winner Chris Dalman, who is now Palma’s dean of students. His son, Drew, also is a promising 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore lineman.
3. Valley Christian (San Jose) vs. Pittsburg
Like St. Francis, Valley Christian has tons of 49er connections and may have more than any other school. Three straight head coaches – Steve Mariucci, Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary – all had sons who played there. Plus, former 49er QB Trent Dilfer has a daugher, Maddie, who led VC to a state title last year in volleyball. And there also are former 49ers who’ve been coaches there, including current offensive line coach Ron Stone. In addition, current 49er radio analyst Tim Ryan’s son, Tim Jr., played at VC just last season. Pittsburg is the home of the late John Henry Johnson, who is the greatest 49er (so far) from a Northern California high school. Johnson is an NFL Hall of Famer who still ranks as one of the top running backs to ever play for two teams – the 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. Washington (Fremont) vs. Hayward
This matchup could be dubbed the Bill Walsh Bowl similar to San Jose State vs. Stanford. Walsh is a graduate of Hayward High and later began his legendary career as the head coach at Washington.
1. Palo Alto vs. Pitman (Turlock)
This would be a competitive matchup and would involve the alma maters of head coach Jim Harbaugh (Palo Alto) and current star quarterback Colin Kaepernick (Pitman). There could be some fun locker room bets for it as well.
Note: All of the teams from WCAL, including Serra, Archbishop Mitty, Archbishop Riordan, Sacred Heart Cathedral (where Mike Holmgren once coached) and St. Ignatius also should probably eventually get a game at Levi’s.