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Monday Morning Lights: Early look at NCS, CCS Open Division championship games

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SRV VS. DLS: TEAMS MEET FOR NCS OPEN TITLE

When that game ended with a walk-off touchdown run by De La Salle’s Derrick Blanche in overtime, San Ramon Valley hoped to get another shot at the Concord powerhouse, another chance to become the first North Coast Section team in 32 years to defeat De La Salle.

Friday night at Dublin High, SRV will get a second opportunity as the East Bay Athletic League teams meet for the NCS’s Open Division championship.

The winner will advance to a NorCal regional. The runner-up will play Pittsburg or California for the section’s Division I championship in two weeks.

Will this time be different for SRV?

Can this game possibly match or come close to matching last month’s all-time classic?

De La Salle has won nine in a row since opening the season with losses to Orange Lutheran and Serra. The Spartans have scored 48 points in each of their past two games after not topping 35 at any other point this season.

SRV has reeled off four consecutive victories since the DLS game, the most recent being a 38-31 overtime win on Friday over Campolindo in the first round of the playoffs.

Last month, calpreps.com’s computer projected SRV to beat DLS 28-21. This time, it projects DLS to win 27-21.

“We just have to be disciplined,” SRV linebacker Marco Jones said. “We had a lot of penalties last game, which I feel we took ourselves out of the game. I feel like if we fix up the mental mistakes, then we win that game, most likely.

“We’re all excited and it’s an NCS championship. We’re stoked. We have to get after it in practice all week.”

– Darren Sabedra

SURPRISE TITLE GAME MATCHUP (AGAIN) FOR SERRA

For the second consecutive year, Serra’s opponent in a Central Coast Section championship game wasn’t expected to be there.

Friday night at San Jose City College, the San Mateo juggernaut will play seventh-seeded Wilcox for the section’s Open Division title. Last season, the Padres beat Archbishop Mitty in a CCS final.

Like Mitty, Wilcox reached the final by pulling off an upset victory on the road over second-seeded St. Francis. But unlike Mitty, Wilcox will play at least one more game no matter the outcome against Serra.

The section’s new format, copied from one the neighboring NCS started using in 2021, has put Wilcox coach Paul Rosa in an awkward spot as he tries to get his team ready for top-seeded Serra.

Yes, Rosa said his Chargers are aiming to win.

But he also wants his team to be at full strength for a possible, if not probable, game against Los Gatos or St. Ignatius for the CCS Division I title and a ticket to a NorCal regional the following week.

The Open runner-up now plays in the section’s Division I final.

Rosa planned to meet with his coaches over the weekend to come up with a strategy.

“First time it’s ever happened in our section,” Rosa said Saturday. “I didn’t really think about it that much until now. Obviously, you’ve got to try to win the game. But you just hope to stay healthy. It’s just a weird situation because of how good Serra is. They’ve got so many guys. But it’s better than not playing.”

In the four opening-round playoff weekends under this format — NCS in 2021, 2022, 2023, CCS 2023 — Wilcox is the first team to beat one of the top two seeds.

– Darren Sabedra

CAMPOLINDO: COACH DOESN’T CHANGE HIS TUNE

Knowing that his team would be in the NCS’s top playoff division, the price paid for years of success at lower levels, Campolindo coach Kevin Macy insisted that the Cougars didn’t belong in the heavyweight bracket.

“I think we’ll just go to show North Coast that they’ve got to scrap the competitive equity format,” Macy said last week.

As always, Campo did nothing to show that it didn’t belong with the big boys.

It gave one of San Ramon Valley’s great teams all it could handle on Friday night, overcoming a 21-point, first-quarter deficit on the road to take a fourth-quarter lead before losing in overtime 38-31.

“It’s too bad,” Macy said after the loss. “This team should be in a place where they could do more. But I’m proud of what they did. Being pushed up to D-I. With the way it started, it looked like we were going to get embarrassed right off the field.

“It came down to a couple of spots. Their quarterback made some great ad-lib plays. The thing is we just don’t have the size. We could not put any pressure on him. Up and down the field, we fought. But we just couldn’t put any pressure on him.”

Asked again if the NCS needs to change its competitive-equity system, Macy said, “Oh, God. They have to. I’ve got stronger words but I’ll bite my tongue. Our kids have been penalized for a few years now. It’s about time for someone else to get penalized.”

– Darren Sabedra

SRV: NOT SURPRISED CAMPO PLAYED WELL

San Ramon Valley did not buy what Macy was selling. The Wolves, having played tight games against Campo in the past two NCS Division II playoffs, knew that the visitors from Moraga would be no pushover.

“That’s just a coach trying to play some mind games,” SRV quarterback Luke Baker said on the field after the victory. “They’re a really good team. They came ready to play.”

It has been quite a trilogy between these teams.

Campo beat SRV 17-14 in a Division II semifinal two seasons ago. SRV won the rematch last season, defeating undefeated Campo 35-21 in the Division II title game, and then prevailed in the rubber match.

“They’re well-coached and they do a good job,” SRV coach Aaron Becker said.

– Darren Sabedra

LOS GATOS: BOXER ALWAYS PACKED A PUNCH

After covering Los Gatos’ 28-14 win over Archbishop Riordan on Friday night in the CCS Open/Division I playoffs, I interviewed one of the winning team’s standouts, Boxer Kopcsak-Yeung.

After talking about his performance in the game, I asked, “Where does the name Boxer come from?”

“It’s a pretty interesting story,” he said. “You know when I was a baby (before I was born) when my mother had an ultrasound to look at me, every single time I was punching the inside of her belly. Then when they were thinking about, like, `Can we really name him Boxer?’ Right at that moment I went, pow, pow. So they said they had to.”

Turned out to be descriptive, given the way he fights for yards as a running back.

“That’s beautiful,” I said. “A great name. Your last name’s a great name too, half Slavic, half Chinese. That’s so Silicon Valley.”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile and a laugh. “It is definitely Silicon Valley.”

– Glenn Reeves

CHRISTOPHER: DRAMATIC RIDE TO CCS D-II SEMIS

It has been a wave of emotions this month for the Christopher football team, which two Fridays ago entered its league championship showdown at home against Live Oak undefeated and then built a 21-0 lead.

Live Oak rallied to win 28-24, dropping Christopher to the eighth seed in the CCS’s Division II bracket, which meant a first-round game this past Friday on the road against top-seeded Archbishop Mitty at Foothill College.

After the Live Oak loss, coach Darren Yafai broke the news to his players that he plans to retire after the season, news he’d already told his staff at the beginning of the year.

Yafai has coached football for more than three decades, the past three as the head coach at Christopher.

With about five minutes to go on Friday against Mitty, it looked as if Yafai would not coach any more games. Mitty just scored a touchdown. Christopher, which had never beaten a West Catholic Athletic League school in its 14 years of varsity football, trailed by nine points.

But then Amari Bluford injected energy into a deflated sideline, returning the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. William Rizqallah followed with a 7-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds left.

When the defense knocked away a pass in the end zone on the final play, Christopher won 32-28, giving its coach at least one more game.

“I’ve been everything from a freshman and JV assistant to a head varsity coach a couple of different times,” said Yafai, 55. “But after 33 years, I am ready for a little break. For it being my last season as a head varsity coach, it feels pretty good for us to be in this situation. We’re 10-1. We just knocked off a West Catholic school.”

Christopher will now visit fifth-seeded Menlo School in a semifinal on Saturday. Menlo edged fourth-seeded Live Oak 30-28 on Friday.

“Menlo’s a really, really good team,” Yafai said. “It will be an evenly matched game, I think, because us and Live Oak were evenly matched. Every season it goes down to the final play against Live Oak for us. We lose at the end of the game last week. Menlo wins it at the end of the game this week. It should be a pretty good battle.”

– Darren Sabedra 

MT. DIABLO: TURNER SURPASSES 3,000 YARDS

Herschel Turner saw his season end in the first round of the NCS Division IV playoffs, but the section’s all-time leading regular-season rusher surpassed another milestone in the 56-14 loss to Acalanes.

Turner rushed for 70 yards on 16 carries, bringing his season total to 3,027 yards and 42 rushing touchdowns. Turner also passed for a 45-yard touchdown late in the game. The three-star running back has offers scholarship offers from Utah, Yale and Air Force, among others.

According to statistics inputted into MaxPreps, he finished the regular season leading the country in rushing yards.

– Joseph Dycus

ODDS AND ENDS

— Los Gatos coach Mark Krail won his 200th game on Friday. Before taking over at Los Gatos in 2013, he coached at Pioneer starting in 1998 and then at Santa Clara.

— SRV quarterback Luke Baker announced last week that he de-committed from a baseball offer at Santa Clara. “Signing day, I wasn’t ready to sign,” said Baker, a two-sport standout. “I need to finish the season with my guys before I make that kind of decision.”

— Serra is 8-0 in CCS championship games, including 7-0 under longtime coach Patrick Walsh.

— De La Salle will be seeking its 31st consecutive NCS championship on Friday.

— Darren Sabedra

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