Monday Morning Lights: Serra coach Patrick Walsh addresses Mater Dei rumors

Serra coach calls Mater Dei speculation ‘flattering’

Serra’s Patrick Walsh has been mentioned as a possible “outside-the-box” candidate to succeed retiring Bruce Rollinson as Mater Dei-Santa Ana’s next football coach.

He addressed the speculation Sunday.

“I am a human, it’s flattering, but I have had zero phone calls from Mater Dei, to be honest,” said Walsh, whose team will play Mater Dei’s rival, St. John Bosco-Bellflower, for the Open Division state title on Dec. 10 in Mission Viejo. “But the fact that someone on this planet would mention my name or consider me being worthy of a job (where) they’re arguably No. 1 in the country year in and year out, it is flattering.

“But at this point, it’s not reality.”

You’re happy at Serra?

“I love Serra,” said Walsh, the school’s football coach since 2001. “There is blood, sweat and tears at Serra. My son’s a senior at Serra. There’s life at Serra. There’s wonderful humans at Serra. There’s a foundation and pillars dug deep like the Golden Gate bridge foundation at Serra. I am honored to be a part of that and the wonderful people that went into all that is something that has me grounded and rooted in San Mateo.”

CIF SoCal Regionals schedule, and CIF State Open Division teams, will be announced Sunday AM. Look for St. John Bosco vs Serra/San Mateo in Open Div game (12/10, Saddleback College, 8 pm). Will Serra coach Patrick Walsh be looking at potential Orange County residences?

— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) November 26, 2022

Walsh’s older son, William, is an elite golfer who has committed to play at Pepperdine after graduating from Serra in the spring. His younger son, Charles, started playing football this year and will be a high school freshman next fall.

“His first year this year was with the Bayside Broncos,” Walsh said, referring to a youth football organization on the Peninsula. “In his first game, he scored three touchdowns in three different ways. It was like, ‘Wow, this kid might be good at football.’ He just really, really bought into the game. He struggled in the classroom with COVID and the next thing you know he is on the honor roll because if you don’t have good grades, you can’t play football.

“I have seen through the spirit, mind, heart and body what football can do now from the inside out, even though I have seen it through other kids for 22 years here at Serra. That’s always been part of the reason why I love this game so much and why I am a part of it — because it does change lives. Now I have seen it with my own son.”

Starting next year, Walsh will see it from the inside out on a high school field.

“Seeing Charles Walsh in Padre blue and gold will be maybe four of the best years of my life, sharing that experience with my own blood,” Walsh said.

— Darren Sabedra

Pittsburg relieved to get a home game

Pittsburg Victor Galli celebrates the championship win with his players. Clayton Valley and Pittsburg played in the NCS championship game on Friday, Nov. 25 2022 in Brentwood Calif. (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group)Pittsburg Victor Galli holds the trophy after his team beat Clayton Valley Charter on Friday night for the North Coast Section Division I title. (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

When Pittsburg’s Victor Galli announced just before the playoffs that he would step down at the end of the season, it was unclear when he’d coach his final home game.

Sunday, he found out.

The Pirates will be at home on Saturday night to face Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion Manteca, with the winner advancing to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to play for a state championship.

Win or lose, Galli now knows the NorCal 1-A regional will be his final game in Pirates Stadium.

For Galli, that sure beats last season when Pittsburg was sent on the road to play Liberty-Bakersfield in a regional. Liberty won 35-7.

“I am doing better now, better than I was last year at this time when they told me I was going to Bakersfield,” Galli said.

Now, the Pirates could give the man who has led the program for 21 years a dream send-off with a victory Saturday.

“It’s awesome, man,” Galli said. “It’s setting up to be a pretty phenomenal finish. But it’s a pretty daunting task. A really good football team that we’re going to face.

“But no matter what happens, nothing is going to take away from this incredible journey that I have been on with this community and the people that have helped me accomplish really some wonderful things here in Pittsburg. Nothing can take away from it.”

— Darren Sabedra

San Ramon Valley vs. Marin Catholic: They finally meet

San Ramon Valley senior Mikki Castillo, left celebrates his team's victory with Riley Gann, right, at Dublin High School in Dublin, CA on Friday, November 25, 2022. San Ramon Valley defeated Campolindo 35-21 for the NCS Division II Championship. (Don Feria for Bay Area News Group)San Ramon Valley senior Mikki Castillo, left, celebrates with Riley Gann, right, at Dublin High School on Friday. The Wolves defeated Campolindo 35-21 for the NCS Division II championship. (Don Feria for Bay Area News Group) 

When North Coast Section Division II champion San Ramon Valley plays host to the section’s D-IV champ, Marin Catholic, on Saturday night, it will mark the first time the teams have met in the MaxPreps era (2004 to present).

But that’s not for a lack of trying.

“We’ve reached out to each other before in the preseason, but we’ve never been able to make it work with available dates,” SRV coach Aaron Becker said Sunday. “It’s gonna be a good matchup, and the kids will be ready on both sides of the ball.”

Marin Catholic (13-0) has scored a shade over 44 points per game this season, but San Ramon Valley’s defense could be up to the task. The Wolves held Campolindo to 21 points on Friday, half the amount Campo scored a week earlier in the semifinals.

“I think that confidence the kids have right now, that they can go out there and get some stops in critical situations, that’s going to be needed moving forward,” Becker said.

— Joseph Dycus

Santa Teresa, Palo Alto to play in all-CCS regional

Santa Teresa's Richard Salazar (0) holds the Central Coast Section Division IV football championship trophy as the team celebrate winning their game 23-15 against Branham High in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)Santa Teresa’s Richard Salazar (0) holds the Central Coast Section Division IV football championship trophy as the team celebrates a 23-15 victory over Branham at San Jose City College on Saturday. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) 

It’s been quite a journey for coach Steve Papin, who in the past five years has gone from Independence to Menlo-Atherton to Independence and then to Santa Teresa.

Saturday, he led the South San Jose school to its first Central Coast Section championship. Now, his team is a victory on the road over Palo Alto on Friday night from playing for a state championship.

Papin had already done his homework on Palo Alto when we reached out to him Sunday.

His message to the team: “Well, after watching film, buckle up. Palo Alto is huge.”

Papin added, “It’s funny, we’ve never really said NorCal, state. We’ve always been about CCS. Yesterday, we were on the bus and we’re riding back going, ‘Hey. we’re playing with house money now. We got what we came for. No big deal.”

Later Saturday, while out with his coaches to celebrate the win over Branham in the CCS Division IV final at San Jose City College, Papin said something changed.

“We looked at each other and it was almost like magical,” Papin noted. “We all said, ‘Let’s go get this.’ I think the motto is, ‘CCS champion sounds great. But to be able to sit there and say you’re a state champion, it’s a little bit more fulfilling.’”

Palo Alto's Kalev Vaska(75) celebrates after winning their Central Coast Section Division V championship football game against Palo Alto at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif., on Nov. 25, 2022. (Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group)Palo Alto’s Kalev Vaska (75) celebrates after the Vikings won the Central Coast Section Division V championship over Monterey on Friday night at Sequoia High. (Thien-An Truong for Bay Area News Group) 

For Palo Alto, the journey from a 1-6 start to playing at home in the 6-AA regional final is something that the team’s first-year coach, Dave DeGeronimo, said is a pretty good spot to be in.

Palo Alto won the CCS Division V title on Friday with a 27-24 victory over Monterey.

“The parents are excited, the players are very excited,” DeGeronimo said. “Obviously, the way we started there wasn’t much an expectation for a CCS title. Week to week, we kind of talked with the kids to let them know about the history of Palo Alto back to ’99 when I was there. I have been a part of some of these runs and would fill them in on the history and give them perspective as we went along.”

Until Friday, Palo Alto hadn’t captured a CCS title since 2010. That season, the Vikings went on to win a state championship, beating Centennial-Corona in one of the all-time great upsets.

— Darren Sabedra

El Cerrito: Gauchos clear stubborn hurdle

El Cerrito head coach Jacob Rincon lifts up the first place plaque as they celebrate defeating Windsor in the NCS Division III Championship game at Benicia High School in Benicia, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. El Cerrito defeats Windsor 34-27. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)El Cerrito coach Jacob Rincon lifts up the first-place plaque as the Gauchos celebrate defeating Windsor in the NCS Division III championship game at Benicia High on Friday. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

After coming close the past few seasons, El Cerrito finally kicked down the door and made it back to a NorCal regional for the first time since 2013.

The Gauchos held off Windsor on Friday in the NCS Division III final one year after their rally fell short in the semifinals against the North Bay school.

The school lost in the NCS playoffs in 2019, went 5-0 in a shortened 2021 spring season and then was bounced by Windsor in the second round last autumn.

On Friday, coach Jacob Rincon’s team held on to a 34-27 win against that same Windsor team in the Division III championship.

“This was one of those years where I was like, ‘It’s time to finally get over the hump,’” said coach Jacob Rincon, who is in his sixth season. “We finally got over it, and the players have done a great job.”

El Cerrito’s defense, outside of what Rincon called “hiccups” against Windsor, has been almost impenetrable this season. The team is 13-0 and has only given up 89 points.

“We should be ready to go with the game plan, and all of us are on board,” Rincon said.

El Cerrito’s reward for its first NCS title since 2013 is a home game Friday against Grant-Sacramento, the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III champion. The Pacers bounced back from a one-win season in 2021 to return to its winning ways. The school won a state championship in 2008.

“Both programs have a lot of history and tradition, and it’s gonna be an honor to be able to line up on Friday night and play for the region,” Rincon said.

— Joseph Dycus

Menlo: Coach sees advantages to a small roster

Menlo School coach Todd Smith expects around 30 players to suit up for the school’s NorCal 4-A regional at San Marin on Saturday evening.

That is up from the 22 healthy players the Knights had a few weeks ago.

No matter, Smith doesn’t see his small roster as an issue.

“We’re here together, and we’ve talked about this like being tied to the mast of a ship,” said Smith, who is in his third season. “Whether we have smooth sailing or go through storms or if it sinks, we’re all there together. I think there’s an accountability piece to it because you’re really counted on to be there when the numbers are that low. You have to be your best at all times.”

A week after traveling 90 minutes south to Salinas for the CCS Division III championship, Menlo will trek the same distance in the opposite direction to Novato to play San Marin.

“Our kids are going to be on a nice bus, and we’re going to have our community provide some pregame snacks and make sure we do this the right way,” Smith said. “We did it last week too, so there’s going to be no excuses for us.”

— Joseph Dycus

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