Serra of Gardena wins the battle of Serras over Serra of San Mateo in the top game of last weekend at the Honor Bowl, which was held in the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time. There were four other games held over two nights at St. Francis of Mountain View in which teams from the CIF Central Coast Section came up with mixed results. We have why certain players were named MVP and why all of the players and coaches we talked to were humbled to be playing to honor those who have served in the military.
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Football teams at Del Oro of Loomis, St. Francis of Mountain View, Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Liberty of Brentwood all captured their first Honor Bowl wins during a busy weekend of games last Friday and Saturday at St. Francis.
And then there was Serra of Gardena. Playing in an Honor Bowl game for the sixth time, the Cavaliers took on their namesakes from Serra of San Mateo and looked like yet another elite team from the CIF Southern Section Division I playoff grouping with a 41-22 triumph.
The Honor Bowl is a series of high school football games that is part of a greater effort to raise awareness and raise dollars for programs that serve the needs of military veterans and honors those who have given their life in service to their country.
There will be three more Honor Bowl games this Saturday at Cathedral Catholic High in San Diego. In addition to the host Dons playing Serra of Gardena, Oaks Christian of Westlake Village (which moved up to No. 5 in this week’s state rankings) is meeting Eastside Catholic of Sammamish, Wash., and Helix of La Mesa is going up against Saguaro of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Here is a recap of the five games played last weekend at St. Francis:
Del Oro (Loomis) 58, Oak Grove (San Jose) 20
With a new coach and new direction, it was thought that it might be a tough afternoon for the Eagles of Oak Grove and it was as the Golden Eagles of Del Oro posted an easy victory.
Del Oro (2-0), which came into the game at No. 34 in the State Top 50, scored on the opening kickoff as special teams standout Johnny Guzman grabbed the ball at the 9-yard line and weaved his way for a 91-yard touchdown. Guzman had another long punt return later in the game and scored on a touchdown reception from quarterback Carson Jarratt.
“So far, so good,” said Del Oro head coach Jeff Walters, who is starting his second season and knows the schedule will get a lot tougher in upcoming Sierra Foothill League games. “We have a new offense so we had a little issue with some of the plays, but we’re going in the right direction.
“The most important part of us being here is the mission of the Honor Bowl,” Walters continued. “For more and more of these showcase events it’s more about the event, but the Honor Bowl is always about the mission. It’s always about them, the people who defend us every day.”
One of the only chances for Oak Grove and new head coach Marcus Reese, a former standout at the school and later at UCLA, ended when Del Oro’s Kal Lunders stepped in front of a pass just inside the end zone and wound up returning the interception for a 101-yard touchdown. Junior quarterback Justin Munday, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, did show some flashes of strong play and would be someone to watch as the Eagles (0-1) play the rest of the season.
The Golden Eagles represent the legacy school of the Honor Bowl since Mark Soto, the founding member of the Honor Group and Honor Bowl, was once an assistant coach. They had never won an Honor Bowl game before, however, since they’ve tended to have been paired against more highly ranked opponents. This time, it was Oak Grove that had to stomach a tough matchup.
St. Francis (Mountain View) 23, Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 12
With the host Lancers clinging to a 14-12 lead and with the Knights threatening to take the lead, standout defensive end Josh Pakola came up big with a pair of sacks that stopped a drive and then his teammates took over on offense to secure the win.There were questions about the St. Francis offense with new quarterback Jack Perry taking over for graduated Reid Vettel and with running back Darrell Page (more than 2,200 yards rushing last season) no longer on the team. But the Lancers (1-0, No. 18 in the state this week) still have a powerful offensive line, they still have receiver Evan Williams and they just gave the ball more often to bowling ball running back Opeti Fangupo.
Fangupo, who ended with 100 yards on 16 carries, scored on a 4-yard run with 9:06 left, but St. Francis couldn’t get a nine-point lead on the PAT due to a bad snap. Following another stop by the defense, however, and a 31-yard run by Fangupo, there was a 22-yard field goal by Michael Leahy the pushed the lead to 11 points.
Since this was the Lancers’ first appearance in the Honor Bowl, it obviously was their first win too.
“It’s great to have Mr. Reliable running the ball,” Williams said of his teammate (Fangupo). “We know he can carry the load.”
Fangupo could have said the same thing about Williams making tough catches in the end zone. He did it twice when the Lancers topped Grace Brethren of Simi Valley in last December’s CIF D2-A state final and he got them on the board with a similar diving grab against Notre Dame.
“It’s been great,” said St. Francis head coach Greg Calcagno of being the host school and his team playing in the Honor Bowl for the first time. “I didn’t know all of the experiences they would provide for the kids. They did a great job honoring Matt Manoukian (a former St. Francis player who was killed in action in 2012). It’s good for them (the players) to understand that there is life after football.”
Notre Dame (0-1) put a jolt into its fans early in the second half when running back Christian Grubb broke loose down the sidelines right in front of St. Francis players and raced for an 80-yard touchdown. The Knights didn’t get a two-point conversion, though, and couldn’t prevent St. Francis from pulling further ahead.
“We feel fortunate to have been in the Honor Bowl both times,” said Knights head coach Kevin Rooney, who won his 300th game last season. “They took us to Camp Pendleton last time and this year we heard from some wounded warriors. It’s really important for the education of these kids to see the sacrifices that these people make.”
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 42, Oakdale 14
The first game on Saturday turned into being a Bey Day for the Monarchs. Playing in the first game of his junior season, quarterback Shamir Bey showed off improved skills in all facets of his game in leading Archbishop Mitty to the triumph.
Bey confounded Oakdale’s defense all day with his scrambling to escape pressure. He also had three touchdown passes and one touchdown run. One of the key moments of the game was when he found junior teammate Joseph Vaughn for a 9-yard TD with 9.8 seconds left in the first half for a 26-0 lead. A fumble by the Mustangs also helped set up that score so instead of Oakdale perhaps trailing only by 19-6 or 19-7 and with the ball to start the second half it was a 26-0 hole.
“We’re still young so we’ve just got to play,” said Mitty head coach Sione Ta’ufo’ou, who won in his first game as the Monarchs’ head coach and whose team moved up to No. 47 in this week’s state rankings . “We got in rhythm, we played well and we played hard.”
Mitty not only won in the first Honor Bowl it has ever played in, but dominated a team that was 10-2 last season and had won its first game this season 49-0 over Sonora.
“It was an honor to play for the soldiers,” Bey said. “Being part of this event just feels great.”
Leo Ayala scored Oakdale’s first touchdown on a 6-yard run in the third quarter that made the score 26-7. By the time the Mustangs scored again, though, it was 40-7. The last two points for Mitty came on a safety.
Liberty (Brentwood) 57, Gilroy 0
This was the biggest mismatch of the weekend and it would have been even if the two had played last year when Gilroy went 13-0 and won the CIF Central Coast Section Division V title.
That’s because Liberty is a CIF North Coast Section Division I team and has loads of returnees from a squad that won the section title but wasn’t in the NCS Open Division (where mighty De La Salle of Concord resides) and therefore didn’t go to a CIF regional bowl game.
Not only did Gilroy win a section title in a lower division of the CCS, but the Mustangs had their previous coach leave and were hit hard by graduation (with the exception of running back Joseph Barnes).
The Lions (2-0 and up to No. 16 in this week’s state rankings) led 29-0 at the end of the first quarter after a 19-yard TD pass from junior Jay Butterfield (one of the top junior QBs in the stat) to senior Sione Vaki. Butterfield was 9 of 11 for 211 yards and four TDs when he was pulled with six minutes left in the first half and his team ahead 50-0. The Liberty defense was equally crushing as it rang up 10 sacks in that half, including four by linebacker Nicky Einess.
“We tried to get some of our guys out earlier, but we’re in the Honor Bowl and we also wanted to get some reps for others,” said second-year Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge. “Some guys who have a hard time getting much playing time went out there and did well. Isaiah Dortch was in for one play today, but he was able to get an interception. I was proud of him.”
Butterfield, who was given an MVP trophy for the game immediately afterward and like all of the MVPs during the weekend was glad to be signing game balls, was equally proud of his teammates.
“This means something to me because it’s from the Honor Bowl, but it’s really a team MVP,” Butterfield said. “It’s great to play here just for everyone who has served. It’s humbling to leave here with this experience. We’re also here representing those from our school who went through it. We know some guys didn’t come back.”
Barnes, who placed eighth in his weight class in the 2018 CIF state wrestling championships and is one of the top dual-sport athletes in Northern California, already was looking forward to Gilroy’s more natural competition just a few minutes after walking off the field.
“It means a lot to be in this game,” he said. “We’re supporting the troops and doing this for a good cause. It is only the first game and we’ve still got the whole season in front of us.”
Serra (Gardena) 41, Serra (San Mateo) 22
The battle of Serras wasn’t lost on anyone and before the game started the principals of both schools spoke and praised the other school.
Although Serra of San Mateo is coming off of a CIF D2-AA state title, Serra of Gardena (1-0) showed that coming from the CIF Southern Section Division I playoff grouping (which only gets to send its winner to the CIF state bowl games) is just a different level of football.
The Padres )0-1) had a difficult time trying to cover all of Serra’s speedy, quick, sure-handed receivers. They were helped in the first few possessions of the game by junior QB Doug Brumfield being inaccurate with his throws. But after an 0-for-4 and 2-for-9 start, Brumfield turned it around and finished with 371 yards and four touchdowns.
Melquan Stovall, who caught 80 passes for 1,487 yards and 21 TDs last season at Paraclete of Lancaster, had eight catches for 145 yards and one score in his first game for the Cavs. Stovall also scored on a 5-yard reverse.
It was a difficult first game for Stovall, however, because it came just nine days after the death of his 19-year-old sister, Melkyra, who suffered serious injuries in a car accident two weeks earlier.
“My teammates pushed me and helped me to stay strong,” Stovall said. “I know she was here watching over me.”
Justin Lockhart had two of Brumfield’s four TDs and also ended with five catches for 121 yards.
San Mateo Serra got a 5-yard TD run by senior David Coker in the second quarter that cut the Cavs’ lead to 14-7, but it was 21-7 at halftime and then in the third quarter after the Padres were stopped on their first series, Gardena Serra scored again on the reverse by Stovall and the contest was effectively over.
It wasn’t a completely great trip for the Cavaliers, either. Senior cornerback and receiver Max Williams appeared to suffer a knee injury later in the third quarter. Then when the team returned to Southern California, those fears were confirmed. A player who’s served key roles for Serra since he was a freshman will be lost for the season.
“This is a big win because we have such great respect for Coach (Patrick) Walsh who always has great teams,” said Cavaliers’ head coach Scott Altenberg, who team moved up to No. 10 in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports state rankings. “We were excited to come here to be in this event.”
“It’s always fun to play somebody you’ve never played before, particularly where we have the same patron saint,” said Walsh, whose team still remains one of the favorites in the CIF Central Coast Section this season despite the loss and is still at No. 35 in the state. “But it’s more of just focusing inward and developing what we gotta do to be good for this year. And playing a team like Serra, names aside, kind of reveals who we are really quickly.”
Walsh was part of one of the funniest moments of the weekend when he was yelling for team manager Garrett Bagby to come over to the team gathering after the game. Then Bagby was announced as Serra’s Character Award winner, a rare honor for someone who doesn’t wear a uniform.