SAN JOSE –The Serra football team left no doubt. In regards to the Central Coast Section,, there’s Serra, and then there’s everyone else.
Serra won the CCS Open Division championship Friday at San Jose City College by a 63-27 margin over Wilcox.
It was Serra’s fourth consecutive championship in the CCS’ top division.
“A lot goes into the DNA of a championship,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said. “But at the end of the day it’s the players. These guys have exceeded everyone’s expectations. This senior class is arguably the best to ever play in the CCS. Everyone who watched us play got to see some of the most fantastic football players the San Francisco Peninsula has ever seen. I’m honored and proud they decided to come to Serra.”
Serra (12-0) will almost assuredly have the next two weeks off before playing in the state championship game Dec. 9 against the Southern California finalist. The CIF will make the official announcement Nov. 26, but with Serra having beaten both De La Salle and Folsom the first two weeks of the season, who else but the Padres could realistically be chosen to represent Northern California?
“That’s the best team I’ve ever played against in all the years, and we’ve played some pretty good teams,” Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said. “They’ve got talent at every position and they’re focused. That’s tough to deal with.”
Wilcox (8-4) will play league rival Los Gatos, a 21-17 winner over St. Ignatius, on Friday at SJCC for the CCS Division I title. Wilcox lost to Los Gatos 24-21 on Oct. 27.
Heading into the matchup with Serra, Wilcox was coming off a terrific performance the previous week, scoring the final four touchdowns of the game in a 52-28 upset win over St. Francis. But the Chargers were never in this one. Serra led 49-13 at halftime and a running clock was in use the entire second half.
Rosa was asked if there was any benefit in playing Serra before moving on in the playoffs to take on teams at its own level:
“I’ll let you know next week,” he said. “I think sometimes it can be. You kind of figure out who can play against real players. There’s definitely some positives.”
Wilcox needed to be effective with the ground game out of its veer-option offense and control time of possession to have a shot against Serra. But the Padres’ defense was up to the challenge, forcing three-and-outs on Wilcox’s first two possessions and scoring both times they touched the ball: on a 21-yard run by Danny Niu and an 8-yarder by Joseph Latu for a 15-0 lead a little over five minutes into the game.
“Our focus first was to tackle the dive, that’s the most important thing,” said Niu, a standout at linebacker on defense. Our defense is tremendous, the best defense in NorCal.”
Wilcox got on the scoreboard on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Tyson Bonilla to Maulidi Saleh on the last play of the first quarter.
Serra responded with five touchdowns in the second quarter. Latu scored the second of his three touchdowns to get it started. Maealiuaki Smith threw a pair of touchdown passes to Kyon Loud and ran for another. Marley Alapati returned an interception for another score.
Serra’s defense limited Wilcox to 37 yards rushing on 19 carries in the first half.
“I thought that was absolutely unbelievable,” Walsh said. “The week before when I watched them run through St. Francis, that was a really scary thing. This defense has showed up time and time and time again. And they’ve done it in different forms, sometimes defending the pass like against Folsom, sometimes defending the run like against Wilcox. We have an amazing group of defensive coaches and players and that was a masterpiece, I thought.”
Smith. A 6-foot-4 senior quarterback headed to Oklahoma State, completed 11 of 15 passes for 145 yards. He has 20 touchdown passes on the season with only two interceptions.
“He should be a Northern California player of the year,” Walsh said. “He doesn’t have the numbers because we’ve had eight running clocks this year. But when he’s had the opportunities he’s delivered.”
Eight Serra ball carriers combined to rush for 221 yards on only 16 carries. And that’s kind of been the story all season.
The Padres went into the Wilcox game having scored 30 rushing touchdowns, averaging 155 yards rushing per game and over 6 yards per carry without any one individual having rushed for 500 yards. Talk about the Serra ground game and you’re talking depth.
Seventeen different Serra players have had carries this season.