St. Ignatius players and fans celebrated after beating Serra for the first time since 2005.
Ethan Kassel

Best moments of the CCS football season

April 5, 2020

With the sports world currently on hold, almost every channel that would be showing live games is instead showing greatest games, giving fans a chance to fill the void by reliving epic finishes and iconic moments that still live on today.

Here at Prep2Prep, we’re no different, but before we get into the 10 best football games from the Central Coast Section this year, it’s worth remembering what makes these games so special. By themselves, they’re a collection of exciting plays with an interesting ending, but when combined with the backdrop of an entire season, they’re the culmination of months of work, often writing new chapters in stories of rivalries that have been played for decades.

Please note that the following list only contains games played between two CCS teams. Otherwise, NorCal and state championship games would dominate the list, and Carmel’s 69-61 loss to Templeton in September would also rank highly. Even without those games, whittling it down to just 10 was rather difficult and left out a few worthy candidates, including Dominique Lampkin’s heroic performances for Serra and Mt. Pleasant’s two-overtime win over Prospect, a pivotal game that paved the way for the Cardinals to win the BVAL West Valley crown.

10) Leland edges Lincoln in a shootout

The back-and-forth dance between the Lions and Chargers made for one of the best Thursday night games of the year, with the two teams trading touchdowns and turnovers back and forth before Leland took the lead for good when Alex Cheng dove on a bad snap as Lincoln was set to punt with 2:42 remaining. The Lions lost despite gaining over 560 yards, with Adam Arenas setting the tone by running for a 56-yard score on the game’s first play. He would finish with 144, while Epoki Fakaosi gained 238 on just 11 runs. They even had a prolific air attack as Gavin Somerville threw for 178, but his pass for Arenas on the final play of the game was tipped away by Corbin Yates to seal a 42-35 Charger victory. His older brother, Carson, threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Noor Haroon, while picking up 84 yards and a fourth score on the ground.

9) Bellarmine stands tall in double OT

The 285th of Mike Janda’s 286 wins at Bellarmine was one of the most exciting across his 36 seasons leading the program, with the Bells topping Riordan 28-27 in double overtime. Trailing 14-7 late in regulation, a Nicho Domine interception set up Aizon Henry to tie the game on a four-yard run with 1:01 left. Fazon Ruth ran for a Crusader touchdown on the first play of OT, but Joaquin Moreno answered from a yard out and another Henry TD gave Bellarmine the lead, which held up as the winning score as the hosts found the end zone again but went for two and the win, coming up short as the pass was tipped away.

8) Prospect’s seniors go out on top

Senior captains returned from a torn ACL, fractured collarbone, broken hand, torn labrum and spinal microfractures to play one last game with their teammates as the Prospect Panthers came together for a 50-28 win over Gunderson to close their season at .500. That incredible barrage of injuries meant there would be no postseason for a senior class that had banded together at the JV level under nationally recognized head coach Rob Mendez and entered 2019 with high hopes, but saw most of those hopes come crashing down as they were repeatedly led off the field by trainers. Still, they managed to pull the gang together for one last ride, a win in which Gabriel Wirnowski had 249 yards and three touchdowns. Chad Howle and junior Devin King each also rushed for over 100 yards in the winning effort.

7) Lucas Meredith and Jalen Camp trade blows

Burlingame and Terra Nova’s running backs would put together one of the best displays of smashmouth football the Bay Area would see all year, with Jalen Camp leading the Tigers to victory in an incredible 311-yard performance. Two of his 36 carries ended up in the end zone, a four-yarder in the third to get the hosts on the board and a 23-yarder in the fourth for a two-score lead. Terra Nova would hold on to win 29-25 after the last of Meredith’s four touchdowns, a two-yard plunge midway through the fourth. Meredith had 199 yards on 24 carries and ran for all four of his team’s touchdowns, including runs of 45 and 55 yards. The 45-yarder gave Burlingame a 19-7 lead in the third, but the Tigers went on to score 22 straight to take the lead and ultimately hang on.

6) Riordan opens its new field with a flourish

Two months passed between the Riordan Crusaders’ second and third wins, but that wait was nothing compared to how long it had been since they had played on their own field. Their November 9 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral, a 44-7 rout, was the first home win of any sort since 2013 and just their second on-campus home game since 2014. From 2015 to 2018, first poor field conditions and then renovations left the Crusaders as nomads, playing home games between City College, Jefferson and Terra Nova. The prior week’s loss to St. Francis was a soft opening, and their season finale was an enormous celebration as Mark Modeste closed out his first season as head coach in style.

5) Seaside earns a share of the league crown in three overtimes

The final regular season game in the entire Central Coast Section was one of the absolute best, with a fumble setting up Rusty Finona to run for a 10-yard touchdown as Seaside topped Monte Vista Christian 29-23 to split the PCAL Mission crown three ways, along with Alisal. That fumble and Finona score finally pulled the teams apart on a night where they were otherwise inseparable. Nate Renggli’s 65-yard pick six had put the Mustangs ahead midway through the fourth, and MVC blocked an extra point that would have put the Spartans ahead late after Kefu Leander’s one-yard touchdown run to tie it. Neither team scored in the first overtime, and after both Austin Kilinski and Brayan Salazar hit field goals, Dylan Olivares forced a fumble and Glenn Beal Jr. recovered it.

4) Salinas beats Palma for a third year in a row

It’s good to have a Richardson under center.

Carl Richardson threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winning 11-yard pass to Cade Smith with 1:44 left as Salinas topped Palma 38-35, the third year in a row the Cowboys defeated their archrivals. He went 2-0 against the Chieftains, while his older brother, Jack, won a pair of games in the series for Palma in 2014 and 2015. Richardson’s performance helped offset an incredible night from Anthony Villegas, who ran for 235 yards and all five Palma scores, including a six-yard run with 4:11 left to put his team up 35-31, the first time the visitors had led all night. Salinas had led 14-0 before Villegas got going, ultimately tying the game at 21 on a two-yard plunge. Luke Silva’s 40-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the first half put the Cowboys back on top, and they went up by two scores again in the third on the first of Smith’s two touchdown receptions.

3) Wilcox and Menlo-Atherton play a thriller in the CCS Division I Quarterfinals

From the moment Troy Franklin took the opening play from scrimmage for an 80-yard touchdown, it was clear that the CCS Division I Quarterfinal between his Menlo-Atherton Bears and the Wilcox Chargers was going to be special.

Even the most optimistic and eager of fans couldn’t have guessed just how great the latest installment in what had become a thrilling playoff rivalry in recent years, with Wilcox finally getting the better of the Bears with a 42-35 thriller. It was a game that had a little bit of everything, from eight touchdowns in the first half to an 18-minute delay caused by a power outage and more than a few dazzling plays. Jalen Moss sent the hosts into the break even at 28 after a dazzling 51-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the opening half and Paul M. Rosa threw for a 73-yard touchdown on a trick play. Playing in his penultimate high school game (the Chargers would lose to Serra the next week), he ran 37 times for 235 yards, including the go-ahead eight-yard score on the second play of OT.

Overtime was only necessary because of yet another stellar play from Franklin, a reception on fourth-and-goal from the 8 on which everyone knew the ball was coming his way. That would turn out to be the final catch of his junior season, and with an overthrown pass on fourth down, M-A failed to score in overtime, allowing Wilcox to advance.

2) King’s Academy stops conversions in back-to-back weeks to win the CCS Division III Championship

There are some players that teams can prepare for throughout an entire week, but when it boils down to it, those players are just too talented to stop.

Noah Short is one of those players, and he proved it in back-to-back weeks as he stopped two-point conversions in the final minute from both Aptos and Terra Nova to lead King’s Academy to the CCS Division III Championship. In the semifinal win over the Mariners, he ran for 89 yards, grabbed 70 more on receptions and had 11 tackles. Against the Tigers eight nights later, he accounted for both touchdowns, one on a nine-yard run and one on a 61-yard punt return, and after collecting another 10 tackles he finished the game off by stopping the conversion after a valiant Terra Nova drive.

1) St. Ignatius stops Serra at the goal line

For all the great games and individual performances, not just within the Central Coast Section but across the entire Bay Area, it would be hard to find any that come close to the wild ride that the St. Ignatius Wildcats and Serra Padres took fans on when they met on November 9.

The final 5:16 of the game alone is enough to be talked about for decades. Starting at their own 3 after trying to return a blocked field goal instead of letting it go for a touchback, the Padres faced a 14-7 deficit and kept the offense on the field on a fourth-and-7 before calling a timeout, sending out the punt team, reconsidering and sending the offense out again. Dominique Lampkin escaped a collapsing pocket, ran for a first found and managed to dive forward with just enough yardage despite being grabbed by Andrew Cummings three yards shy of the marker. He then completed three passes to Terence Loville, including two for 23-yard gains, before two screens to Hassan Mahasin took Serra into the red zone. A six-yard touchdown pass to Loville in the front corner of the end zone on third-and-goal made it a one-point game, and the teams appeared to be headed for overtime after Damon Lewis drilled the extra point.

The events that followed seemed to last a lifetime, as the referees discussed a penalty and ultimately ruled roughing the kicker. After thorough deliberation, Serra decided to take the point off the board and go for the conversion, needing just a yard and a half to complete the first 10-0 season in school history and win the outright West Catholic Athletic League title for the second time in three years. The Padres sent a quick toss to Nate Sanchez along the right side, but he was stopped by a mix of Beau Gardner, Deven Enos, Nick Glafkides and Jafer Snipes, who had been called for the roughing the kicker penalty. Mike Harrison recovered the onside kick, and with Serra down to just one timeout, all the visitors could do was watch their rivals run out the clock and celebrate a share of their first league title since 2006, one that the two teams split along with Valley Christian.

It was the first time the Wildcats had beaten Serra since 2005, and aside from the crazy finish, they did it the same way they had avenged past losses to many of their opponents throughout the season, racing out to an early lead and then riding the defense. Danny Ryan caught a pair of Teddye Buchanan touchdowns in the first half, part of a nine-catch, 121-yard performance that made him the outright holder of the all-time WCAL receiving record, a mark which was previously held by Mitty’s Mitch Haniger, who made the 2018 MLB All-Star Game as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Considering that the win snapped a 13-game head-to-head losing streak and came against an eventual NorCal champion, it’s certainly one SI won’t let the Padres forget anytime soon. When the schools reconvened for basketball in January, the Wildcat student section was filled with football jerseys and players.

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