Football

Former Bay Area high school stars to play for Michigan, Washington in national title game

When Bay Area high school football fans tune into the college football national championship game between Washington and Michigan on Monday night, they’ll see some familiar faces on both teams.

Washington lists 11 players from the Bay Area News Group’s coverage area, and Michigan has three.

De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh, having coached a player on both teams, won’t be picking sides.

“I’m rooting for a good game,” Alumbaugh said while laughing during a conversation with the Bay Area News Group this week.

Redshirt senior Tuli Letuligasenoa has been an integral part of Washington’s defensive line rotation for years since graduating from the Concord powerhouse in 2018.

“Tuli is 24 years old now, man, and I coached him when he was 16,” Alumbaugh said. “When he takes off his helmet, he looks like a man. I remember when he was 14, so it’s just surreal.”

De La Salle football defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa, left, signs his college letter of intent with Washington at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. To the right is 400 and 800 track runner Nohl Patterson, who signed with Claremont McKenna College. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Meanwhile, Michigan sophomore Zeke Berry has carved out a role on special teams since being named BANG defensive player of the year after his final season at De La Salle in 2021.

“I’ve talked to (MIchigan coach Jim) Harbaugh, and he said Zeke’s found a great role on special teams,” Alumbaugh said. “He’s going to be out there on the field in a national championship game, so he’s doing something right.”

Unlike Alumbaugh, Pittsburg coach Charlie Ramirez has an easy choice when deciding who he’s pulling for on Monday night.

Ramirez, who earned his master’s degree in education from Washington, will be rooting for two former players on the Huskies roster.

“It really is a treat to see guys, kids that you coached, playing on that stage,” Ramirez told BANG on Tuesday.

Pittsburg's Jacob Bandes (55) reacts after sacking Narbonne quarterback Jalen Chatman (17) in the first quarter of their 2017 CIF State Football Championship Division 1-A Bowl Game at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calif. on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)Pittsburg’s Jacob Bandes (55) reacts after sacking Narbonne quarterback Jalen Chatman (17) in the first quarter of their 2017 CIF State Football Championship Division 1-A Bowl Game at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calif. on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

When Ramirez was an assistant coach on the Pittsburg staff, he worked with defensive tackle Jacob Bandes.

Since leaving the East Bay, Bandes has developed into a rotational player on Washington’s interior, and Ramirez said Bandes was “reinvigorated” once Kalen DeBoer’s staff took over in 2022.

“He’s always had a great motor and a great work ethic,” Ramirez said. “The great thing about him, coaching him and then watching him, is that he does also have an IQ for the game. With him being with guys who are teaching him, Jacob is flourishing.”

Rashid Williams, named first-team all-BANG in 2022, dominated for four years at Pittsburg before the four-star prospect committed to Washington. Williams has had two catches in his freshman year in Seattle.

Ramirez said that his former player has still made an impact for the Huskies despite limited playing time.

“For a true freshman, whether or not he’s getting any significant minutes or not, he’s suiting up for a reason,” Ramirez said. “It’s in case they need to throw him in, and they’re not just having anybody suit up.”

Outside of Pittsburg and De La Salle, a litany of other Bay Area programs will be represented in Houston.

Freedom alum Giles Jackson, a senior, has hauled in 14 receptions for Washington this season as an experienced option in the Huskies’ loaded receiving corps, while tight end and Bellarmine product Griffin Waiss has also played in all but one game this season.

Valley Christian’s Jackson Berman, St. Francis’ Anay Nagarajan and Sacred Heart Prep’s Jackson Girouard saw action this season for the Huskies.

Nico Andrighetto, who scored the game-winning touchdown for St. Francis against Berry’s De La Salle team in 2021, could get in on special teams for Michigan.

Jesse Madden, grandson of legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden, has played at Michigan since graduating from Bishop O’Dowd in 2021.

The Bay Area has a storied history of supplying both schools with great talent.

Tom Brady (Serra) and Amani Toomer (De La Salle) both starred for Michigan, and D’Marco Farr (Kennedy-Richmond), Jacque Robinson (San Jose), Dave Hoffmann (Pioneer) and Eric Bjornson (O’Dowd) played for Washington.

More recently, Vita Vea (Milpitas) and Ben Burr-Kirven (Sacred Heart Prep) won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year awards while wearing purple and gold in Seattle, and Marcus Peters (McClymonds) was all-conference for the Huskies.

Neither Alumbaugh nor Ramirez will be able to attend the game, but both said they will be cheering on from afar.

“I’ll be watching, and I’m so proud of our guys,” Alumbaugh said. “You want to see your guys succeeding at the highest level of whatever they’re doing, and Zeke and Tuli are both doing that.”

Washington (14-0)

Jacob Bandes, Pittsburg

Jakson Berman, Valley Christian

Soane Faasolo, Menlo-Atherton

John Frazier, St. Francis

Jackson Girouard, Sacred Heart Prep

Giles Jackson, Freedom

Tuli Letuligasenoa, De La Salle

Anay Nagarajan, St. Francis

Teddy Purcell, Sacred Heart Prep

Griffin Waiss, Bellarmine

Rashid Williams, Pittsburg

Michigan (13-0)

Nico Andrighetto, St. Francis

Zeke Berry, De La Salle

Jesse Madden, Bishop O’Dowd

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