Liberty Wins Honor Bowl Finale

Liberty of Brentwood players hoist Honor Bowl trophy after overtime victory against Clayton Valley of Concord on Saturday in Union City. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Three-game event at James Logan High in Union City on Saturday ends with state No. 11 Liberty of Brentwood topping No. 47 Clayton Valley of Concord in an overtime thriller. Earlier contests were won by Campolindo of Moraga and the host Colts.


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In the seven years and perhaps more than 100 games played in the annual showcase series of games in California known as the Honor Bowl, there hadn’t been one that went to overtime until Saturday in Union City.

Honor Bowl director Mark Soto wasn’t even sure that an overtime had been agreed to by the two coaches, but got that confirmation from the game officials when it became apparent that Liberty of Brentwood and Clayton Valley of Concord were going to be tied at 21-21 at the end of regulation.

Liberty, last year’s CIF D1-A state champion and ranked No. 11 in the State Top 50 coming into the night, wound up on top of state No. 47 Clayton Valley by a count of 28-27.

After all the carries he had, Clayton Valley’s Mekhi Gervais was probably as tired as he was disappointed following game vs. Liberty. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Clayton Valley was at match point so to speak with 1:41 left, facing a fourth and 13 from its own 19-yard line and trailing by 21-14. After a time out, Liberty brought an all-out blitz. But the Ugly Eagles had a perfect play called against a blitz as junior quarterback Jake Kern lofted a perfectly timed screen pass to Makhi Gervais over the on-rushing defenders and Gervais then put on the after-burners for a stunning 81-yard touchdown. After the extra point, the score was tied.

The Lions still had plenty of time to score themselves before the end of regulation as Oregon-bound quarterback Jay Butterfield completed four passes to get them to the Clayton Valley 33. They couldn’t get closer for a possible field goal, however, and a fourth down pass fell incomplete with eight seconds left.

In the overtime, Butterfield didn’t throw at all. It was simply a case of the Lions turning to their offensive line to grind 25 yards to the end zone. They did as senior Darrion Bartley carried five straight times and scored. The PAT was then converted by Logan Croteau for a 28-21 advantage.

Needing a touchdown and PAT to keep the game going, Clayton Valley got a fourth down conversion on 9-yard pass from Kern to tight end Connor Barnes that put the ball on the 10-yard line. Gervais then ran the ball to the 2 and on the next play Kern dove into the end zone for the score. The Ugly Eagles weren’t able to get their PAT, however. They were 3-for-3 on those earlier in the game, but on the fourth one a low snap and a bobbled hold prevented kicker Shane Nelson from getting a clean strike. The ball missed badly to the right of the goalposts and Liberty had survived.

“This was the first overtime game I’ve been part of,” said Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge, whose team improved to 3-0 following earlier victories over Vacaville and Oakdale. “I’d say we were stuttering and doubting ourselves on offense for most of the second half and some of the penalties killed us.

“At the end, we challenged them to finish in overtime and they did. Especially with some of the injuries we have, a lot of guys who haven’t played that much really stepped up.”

For losing a game in overtime in what would have been a signature win for the Ugly Eagles, head coach Tim Murphy was still quite pleased with how his team played.

“We were down two touchdowns at halftime, but our defense was playing good,” he said. “I felt good how we were doing. We just had to keep doing what we were doing.

“I always judge the kids by how hard they play and I can’t find fault with that. I knew we’d be playing with a lot of underclass starters this year. We knew we could battle with them the whole time and we did.”

Both Bartley and Gervais had busy nights for their teams.

Bartley got the Lions on the board first when he grabbed a short, attempted pooch punt by Clayton Valley’s Kern on the 35-yard line and took it for a touchdown. He later scored on a 5-yard reception on the final play of the first half and he had 18 rushing attempts for 103 yards. Bartley also played defense at left corner the entire game.

In addition to going 81 yards to the end zone on that screen pass, Gervais got the ball on handoffs a whopping 47 times and nearly rushed for 200 yards (unofficially at 192) including overtime.

Liberty has another solid opponent coming up next when it will face 3-0 and state-ranked Monte Vista of Danville. Clayton Valley (1-1), which based on this performance may be a threat to win the East Bay Athletic League title (De La Salle of Concord is not going to be officially playing league games once again this season), plays next against Overfelt of San Jose and then will travel to play Canyon Springs of Las Vegas.

“Today was special because they brought out a dad of a former Liberty student (who was killed in the line of duty) for the battle cross (ceremony),” Partridge said. “The stories they tell the kids about the soldiers are just amazing.”

Award Winners: Darion Bartley (Liberty) MVP, Mehki Gervais (Clayton Valley) MVP, Beau Dionio (Liberty) Character, Kavika Baumgartner (Clayton Valley) Character.

Chase Sims scored the same number of touchdowns on Saturday as his jersey number. Photo: Willie Eashman.

In earlier games played at the Honor Bowl:

James Logan (Union City) 48,
Heritage (Brentwood) 7

Senior running back Chase Sims was called the “bell cow” of the James Logan High football team by head coach Ricky Rodriguez after this game and he certainly rang it up on the Patriots.

With Sims looking more like a sleek thoroughbred than a ponderous beast, he raced through Heritage for touchdowns of 2, 11, 2, 5 and 43 yards in leading the Colts to their second win of the season against one loss.

Logan was never in doubt in being the superior team as it led 13-0 after the first quarter, 28-7 at halftime and 41-7 entering the final quarter.

“After the first two games we didn’t know what we have, but we came out today and put everything together,” said Rodriguez, whose team lost its opener (16-14) to Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga before beating Dublin (52-41) in week two. “We really liked how our passing game came around. We played both quarterbacks and they both did a great job.”

Heritage dropped to 0-3 and figures to have a tough time the rest of the season in the Bay Valley Athletic League.

Rodriguez also commented on his school being involved with the Honor Bowl for the first time.

“By far, this is one of the best things I have ever done,” said Rodriguez, who wore a U.S. Navy sweatshirt in honor of a grandfather who was in the Navy for 20 years. “As long as I’m coaching, I want to be a part of it.”

Award Winners: Chase Sims (James Logan) MVP, Kendrick Shaw (Heritage) MVP, Jeremiah Johnson (James Logan) Character, Hanai Muhammad (Heritage) Character.

Will Windatt follows blocking for Campolindo touchdown with inflatable U.S. Marine looking on. Photo: Willie Eashman.

Campolindo (Moraga) 27,
Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 16

With its two leading defensive players not in the lineup, Cougars’ head coach Kevin Macy was particularly pleased with his team’s win over an Amador Valley team that had a win over Antioch in its opening game.

SMU committed defensive end Mason Mastrov suited up but barely played with what was described as a hip flexor injury. Linebacker Charlie Craig also sat out after receiving an ejection in the previous game.

“We’re a young team and it was a bit agonizing out there at times, but our defense played surprisingly well,” said Macy, who has guided Campolindo for a pair of CIF state titles during an outstanding career. “Mason was only in for a couple of plays and Charlie is our team captain and emotional leader.”

The game turned squarely in Campolindo’s favor late in the second quarter. Leading 10-0, quarterback Grant Harper was nearly sacked but just got the ball out of his hands and instead connected with receiver Joey Schmidt, who broke a tackle and scored on a 56-yard play.

The Dons answered with their highlight moment of the day when Eric Hunter III took the ensuing kickoff and brought it back for a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown. It then looked like Amador would get the ball back again for an attempt to make it one score game before halftime. That plan was ruined when Harper went to Schmidt on a screen pass who took it 40 yards to the 5-yard line. A one-yard TD plunge by Will Windatt ensued for a 24-7 halftime lead.

Campolindo improved to 3-0, but will have a bigger test next week when it travels to play McClymonds of Oakland (winners of last year’s CIF D4-A state title and winners already this season over Marin Catholic of Kentfield).

“We’re going into an environment in which our kids are going to learn a lot,” Macy said. “It’s going to be tough.”

Award Winners: Grant Harper (Campolindo) MVP, Eric Hunter III (Amador Valley) MVP, Jack Daugherty (Campolindo) Character, Kannon Dote (Amador Valley) Character.

Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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