Fans in the rooting section at Foothill of Pleasanton must not have gotten the memo that Pac 12 Conference head coaches Sonny Dykes of Cal and Mike Riley of Oregon State were both on the sidelines during their team’s battle on Friday night against California of San Ramon.
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During one key play in the first half, Foothill’s USC-committed receiver/defensive back, Isaiah Langley, went up and brought down the ball on a circus catch for a 31-yard score and landed just a few feet from where Dykes and Riley were standing.
The Foothill fans chanted, “USC, USC, USC,” which they might have avoided had they known about the Cal and Oregon State honchos who were in attendance.
Then, after the game, the Foothill faithful reacted just like Cal and Oregon State fans do when their teams have beaten USC in one of those years when the Trojans were the kingpins of the Pac-12.
California is coming off of a 2013 season in which the Grizzlies made it to the CIF North Coast Section Division I final. They also have had Foothill’s number lately with six straight wins and played with the determination on Friday that they had something to prove.
“Yes, they have been the class of the EBAL (East Bay Athletic League) the last three or four years along with San Ramon Valley and not including De La Salle (now independent),” said Foothill head coach Matt Sweeney, one of the winningest coaches in NCS history.
Sweeney earlier told reporters how important it was for the team to get a win over the Grizzlies, who entered the night with four straight wins after a tough opening night loss to Pittsburg.
“I just told them I’m as proud of them right now as any team I’ve had,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun to come to work every day to coach them. It just makes you want to work harder for them.”
With the win, Foothill improved to 7-0 heading into a matchup next week at De La Salle. The Falcons should at least remain at No. 16 in the next overall state rankings and No. 2 overall in the Bay Area behind the Spartans.
While Foothill’s win was important as it tries to win the EBAL title, it wasn’t impressive to the point that De La Salle’s dominance in the region is likely to be seriously challenged.
The Falcons do have some explosiveness in their offense with both Langley and running back Isaiah Floyd operating with SMU-bound quarterback Kyle Kearns.
Kearns’ 31-yard TD pass to Langley allowed Foothill to tie the score at 7-7 in the second quarter. That came after California took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a three-yard run by Simi Hingano that was set up on a 51-yard fumble return by California’s Alec Dohmann.
The score remained 7-7 at halftime because the Falcons couldn’t take advantage of a fumble recovery at the California 26 late in the second quarter. That drive was stopped when Kearns was intercepted in the end zone by Adrian Hoeke.
Floyd made his presence known on defense on the first drive of the third quarter with an interception that set up his own 22-yard TD catch from Kearns and a 14-7 lead for Foothill. Floyd finished with eight carries for 78 yards and five catches for 43 yards.
Foothill seemingly took control of the game with 7:58 left on a nine-yard TD run by Cash Connolly. That score was set up by a 45-yard run by Floyd.
The Falcons’ 21-7 lead, however, only lasted a few seconds. Cal QB Jacob Wooldridge went deep for teammate Dohmann and the play connected for a 65-yard touchdown.
The Grizzlies also got the ball back with four minutes left with a chance to tie the score or potentially win on a TD and two-point conversion. Wooldridge moved them to the Foothill 26 on completions to Matt Snyder and Zach Guardino but penalties helped derail the chance.
With 15 seconds left and on fourth down from the 35, California had to try a Hail Mary pass but Wooldridge couldn’t get it off as he was hit by Foothill’s Matt Gates and fumbled. It was recovered by Connolly.
Kearns and the explosive Foothill offense actually was held in check for most of the night by the Grizzlies. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 190 yards and Langley was shown with just two catches (although one was that spectacular TD).
And while California ran the ball most of the time, Wooldridge ended up with 249 yards passing on 11 completions in 17 attempts.
Snyder, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end who seemed to be the reason the Pac-12 coaches were on hand, had four catches for 81 yards.