SAN MATEO – Joseph Bey and Jabari Mann spent this fall headlining one of the Bay Area’s all-time great high school teams, leading powerhouse Serra to a fourth consecutive championship in the Central Coast Section’s top division.
When pen hit paper in the San Mateo school’s gymnasium on Wednesday, it became official that the duo would be staying close to home for college as the hard-hitting defenders donned San Jose State hats.
“What kept me committed there is that it looked a lot like Serra to me,” Bey said. “I’ve talked to a lot of players there, they’ve said that this really is a brotherhood.”
Mann had an offer from Oregon State and originally wanted to go somewhere outside of the Bay. But in the end, the three-star linebacker couldn’t pass up a chance to play with his Serra teammate down the road.
“That’s my guy, and I love him to death,” Mann said of Bey. “We’ve got that trust from freshman year, and we’ve got four more years.”
Bey and Mann were the crown jewels and highest rated players in San Jose State’s NorCal-centric early signing day class, which also included Los Gatos wide receiver Jaylen Thomas, Clayton Valley Charter lineman Manuel Serna and Aragon blocker Tevita Manukainiu.
Serra coach Patrick Walsh, who lavished praise upon each individual player at the signing ceremony, was thrilled that his alma mater decided to invest in local talent.
“It brings NorCal to our NorCal college,” Walsh said. “I love when guys go off to college, but we have some amazing colleges right here in the Bay Area, and it’s always great to see our guys stay home.”
Bey and Mann were joined by teammates Maealiuaki Smith (Oklahoma State), Danny Niu (San Diego State), Marley Alapati (Army) and four other teammates during Serra’s signing ceremony.
Smith proudly wore an Oklahoma State Cowboys shirt as he signed with the Big XII program, and beamed with pride when reminiscing about his three years on campus.
“It’s been a long journey and everyone has put in the work,” Smith said. “To see it all come to where it is now, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Junipero Serra High School quarterback Maealiuaki Smith is congratulated during a national early signing day ceremony for football players at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. Smith, a 3-star player, signed with Oklahoma State University. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Cole Harrison was Smith’s favorite target, and the 6-foot-5 tight end will try to build that connection with a new quarterback at the University of Tennessee.
Walsh believed Harrison was the first player in Serra history to commit to a school in the Southeastern Conference, and the tight end said he was ready to make the jump to arguably the best conference in America.
“I wasn’t able to do this by myself,” Harrison said. “My teammates helped me along the way, and my coaches especially helped me along the way.”
Cal got a signature from Acalanes wide receiver/defensive back Trevor Rogers, who helped lead the Lafayette school to the 3-AA state championship this month. Rogers, an elite sprinter on the track team, is the Bay Area’s top football recruit, according to 247Sports.
Across the Bay, Stanford’s recruiting class was headlined by early signee Elijah Brown, the quarterback who led Mater Dei to a rout of Serra in the state Open title game two weekends ago.
Luke Baker was the Bay Area News Group’s player of the year in 2022, and the San Ramon Valley senior won’t have to go too far to continue his college football career. Baker signed with Sacramento State on Wednesday afternoon.
“So thankful for the friends, family, teammates, and coaches that have helped me along the way,” Baker wrote on social media. “Also thankful for the amazing community and media that have supported and covered our team the past two years! Let’s go to work!!”
Junipero Serra High School head coach Patrick Walsh talks about his players during a national early signing day ceremony for football players at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Junipero Serra High School football player Joseph Bey smiles as he is introduced during a national early signing day ceremony for football players at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. Bey, a 3-star player, signed with San Jose State University. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)