Monday Morning Lights: Serra-Folsom matchup is the first of several that will carve NorCal’s path to the Open state title game

Welcome back to Monday Morning Lights, our weekly feature that sheds more light on the high school football weekend and peeks ahead to the new week. If you haven’t already, please subscribe.


Eight months after Serra trudged off the Saddleback College field in Mission Viejo, beaten by Mater Dei-Santa Ana in the Open Division state championship game, high school football is back for Bay Area teams.

And why wait to set the tone?

This season will start with a heavyweight matchup – Serra of the Bay Area visiting Folsom on Friday night – and the drama will continue through the opening month and beyond.

Last year, there was a debate about which Northern California heavyweight should have been chosen by the California Interscholastic Federation to play Mater Dei on the state’s biggest championship stage.

Serra, De La Salle and Folsom were on the board.

This year, there will be no debate. All the big boys are playing one another in the opening weeks of the 2022 season.

How’s this for an opening month?

Friday: Serra at Folsom

Sept. 2: Serra at De La Salle

Sept. 9: St. Francis at De La Salle

Sept. 16: Folsom at Pittsburg

Sept. 23: Folsom at De La Salle, Serra at St. Francis

By the close of business on Sept. 23, we should know which NorCal team has the smoothest path to playing Southern California’s top heavyweight in the Open championship game on Dec. 10 at Saddleback College.

We here at the Bay Area News Group will provide complete coverage of all those games and many more as the 16-week journey to state championship weekend unfolds.

And this year, we have added a newcomer to our team.

Joseph Dycus has joined me – high school sports editor Darren Sabedra – and a staff that includes recent Fresno State grad Jesus Cano and veteran freelancers Mike Lefkow, Glenn Reeves, Phil Jensen and more.

There’s probably no better spot than the season’s first Monday Morning Lights column for Joseph to introduce himself.

So let’s give him the floor.


Hello! You may have noticed my unfamiliar name in some of the recent features and articles, so I think it would be a good idea to introduce myself. My name is Joseph Dycus and I’m the Bay Area News Group’s newest high school sports reporter, taking the spot vacated by now-Giants writer Evan Webeck.

I’ve lived around the country and won’t bore you with those details, but I can say that I lived the longest in Chattanooga, Tenn.

After graduating from UT-Chattanooga in 2019, I got to cover plenty of great high school football teams for, such as the three-time defending state champion McCallie Blue Tornadoes.

The Blue Tornadoes – yes, that’s their name – played one of the most incredible games I’ve ever watched in 2021. And it came at the expense of McCallie’s rival, Baylor. After being down 28-7 with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, a spirited Baylor team scored back-to-back touchdowns to cut the deficit to 28-20. Baylor had the ball for a third possession and looked ready to steal the game away in hostile territory. Only a last-second McCallie interception spared the Blue Tornadoes from giving away the game. I’ve never heard a crowd so deafening as McCallie’s after that play.

But having the opportunity to cover the Bay Area’s 130-plus teams was an opportunity I could not pass up. Even though I was 2,500 miles away, I had heard of De La Salle’s clinical and dominant approach to the game, PIttsburg’s high-flying attack and how stacked the region is with high school talent.

After previewing the leagues and divisions in the Bay – we previewed every single team and league in our coverage the past two weeks – I’ve never been more excited for the start of a high school football season.

I hope that my enthusiasm comes through in my reporting.

Let the games begin!

Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada takes photos with young fans after his team's jamboree scrimmage against De La Salle, El Cerrito and Jesuit-Carmichael on Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, at Pittsburg High School. (Darren Sabedra/Bay Area News Group)Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada takes photos with young fans after his team’s jamboree scrimmage against De La Salle, El Cerrito and Jesuit-Carmichael on Friday. (Darren Sabedra/Bay Area News Group) 


Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada ended a scrimmage Friday night posing for pictures with little kids. Several of them, in fact.

The four-star senior committed to the University of Miami had just completed his final dress rehearsal before Friday’s season opener against Bethel, a jamboree scrimmage on his team’s home field that included De La Salle, El Cerrito and Jesuit of Carmichael.

Afterward, Rashada made sure every kid who wanted a picture with him got one. It wasn’t until the final one was snapped that he discussed what unfolded on the field.

“I think we came out pretty good,” Rashada said. “I know we’ve got some things to tweak up before next week’s game and I can’t wait. We had a pretty good showing. Definitely could have been better. That’s the thing. We had plenty of things we could have done better. Things I want to see are more explosiveness from the offense and that will come because it’s been going on during practice.”

Rashada is clearly aiming for his senior season to be special and perhaps even historic.

“I am most looking forward to having fun with my friends, people I grew up with my whole life,” he said. “It’s really just trying to put on for this city and do something different that hasn’t been in a long time here.”

He didn’t say what that something might be. But maybe it has something to do with beating De La Salle, which Pittsburg hasn’t done in 31 years.

Rashada declined to answer questions about the NIL (name, image, likeness) deal with Miami that stirred up social media this summer when it was reported that the contract was worth $9.5 million, the largest to date.

Has the deal made him even more of a celebrity?

“I still feel like me,” Rashada said. “I’ll forever be me, Jaden Rashada. That’s why I never act too big because I was one of those kids (asking for photos). I want to let the kids in Northern California know that it’s possible.”

— Darren Sabedra


The last team huddled on the field after Friday’s scrimmage at Pittsburg was De La Salle. Yes, it was only a scrimmage. And the Spartans have had ups and downs in scrimmages before. But coming off last season’s historic losses to St. Francis and Folsom, De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh was hoping for better play than he got against Pittsburg, El Cerrito and Jesuit.

“I didn’t think enough guys rose up to competition,” Alumbaugh said. “We had trouble with that last year, and this team has been working hard. That was discouraging to see this team not rise up to competition. Jesuit’s offense came right at us, and Pitt’s defense came right at us. I wasn’t pleased with how we responded.

“We lost twice to NorCal teams last year. No one’s coming in afraid of De La Salle. These guys got to earn a reputation back, and they ain’t going to earn it back like they (played) tonight.”

The Spartans open the season Friday at Monterey Trail-Elk Grove, which lost to Folsom 47-18 to start its season on Friday.

— Darren Sabedra


Five-star wide receiver and Valley Christian transfer Jurrion Dickey has been practicing for Menlo-Atherton and was on the sideline for its Friday night scrimmage against St. Ignatius, but there’s no certain timeline for when he can actually play in a game.

Bears coach Chris Saunders isn’t stressing over when he’ll hear from Central Coast Section about when Dickey can get into a game with M-A. And, if Friday night was any indication, he’s got reason to be confident in his team even without Dickey.

Minus Dickey and standout receiver Jayden Moss playing in the scrimmage, M-A’s offensive weapons shined against SI. The highlight play came from two-way player Johno Price, who made a leaping catch over two Wildcat defenders on a deep ball from new Bears quarterback Billy Johnson. 

M-A’s offense will also feature 6-8, 210-pound junior Alek Marshall at tight end, 6-3 senior Cameron Johnson as another wideout and two different looks at running back, with senior Sherrod Smith as a speed back and 5-9, 270-pound junior Jordan Masuisui as a power back.

For Price, a team captain that Saunders praised for earning the respect of his teammates, there’s confidence in what the group who will open the season against Bellarmine on Saturday can do.

“We have a lot of great receivers that can attack you in any way — going deep, short routes, going after the catch,” Price said. “I think we have a bunch of great receivers here even without Jurrion, but he’s going to help a lot also. I think he’s a great addition to the team and he fits in already.”

Saunders added, “Even without Jurrion, I felt very optimistic about what we’d be able to do and get done.”

But that doesn’t mean Dickey won’t be welcomed. Price played flag football with Dickey back in middle school and has known him for longer. Once Dickey is able to get on the field, Price said he wouldn’t want to be a defender trying to figure out how to stop M-A.

“I’d be very nervous guarding this team,” Price said.

— Alex Simon


For the third time in as many seasons, a different head coach is walking Monte Vista’s sideline. This time, the fresh face is 30-year-old Johnny Millard, who steps into the job vacated by former NFL and Cal running back CJ Anderson, who left the Danville school to become an assistant coach at Rice University.

Millard, a former Foothill High and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo linebacker, oversaw a sideline at a scrimmage Friday against Heritage that was certainly disciplined. But the players also seemed to be having fun as teammates ran for large gains and made crunching tackles. When Ben Meineke beat a Patriots defensive back on a long gain, both the coach and sideline erupted into cheers.

Millard has won over the locker room with a style that emphasizes balance. While the team will completely focus on football during practices and games, the coach understands the importance of letting his high school athletes be, well, high school kids, too.

“Coach Millard really cares about the players, and so we start practice a little bit earlier so we can go home and chill and spend time with our families and go out with friends and stuff like that,” senior lineman Nick Jensen said.

Jensen, whom his teammates called “a dog,” isn’t the only player who has grown to appreciate Millard’s style. Quarterback Matteo Congdon, who won a three-way quarterback battle this offseason, said that he was frustrated with how Anderson’s tenure ended. But he also said he has grown close with Millard and that the new coach has brought the team together.

“The stuff we do really helps our team chemistry,” Congdon said. “The change has been tough, though, with the seniors having to learn (another playbook). But I’m loving what I’m seeing so far with coach Millard and I can’t wait to see what we come out with this season.”

— Joseph Dycus

BRENTWOOD, CA - APRIL 16: Heritage High's Devon Rivers (20) runs for a first down in the first quarter of their football game against Liberty High on Friday, April 16, 2021. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)Heritage running back Devon Rivers has gotten bigger and stronger as he enters his senior season. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) 


Devon Rivers could have taken the summer easy, stayed in decent shape, and looked ahead to his future college football career at Fresno State. After all, the three-star prospect ran for 1,175 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and had his scholarship locked up.

But Rivers didn’t take it easy.

He walked onto the field at Monte Vista on Friday with several additional pounds of muscle and more strength than the back whose junior season ended in a loss to Liberty nine months ago. In the off-season, Rivers dedicated himself to getting stronger.

“I was working out on days I didn’t want to work out, and I took my days working out from three or four times a week to five or six days,” Rivers said. “I definitely had teammates encouraging me, especially on our max days.”

Of course, working out isn’t something new in the Rivers household. His father, Ron, a Fresno State legend and former NFL running back, is as good a role model as any when it comes to football conditioning. Ron said Devon’s affinity with the weight room is as much intrinsic as it is family-related. Devon’s brother Ronnie also went on to become a Fresno State star.

“I think that just comes from watching his brother Ronnie, my daughter, and myself,” the elder Rivers said. “It’s just something he picked up from watching, and we all still work out. And I think he took a fancy to wanting to be stronger, look bigger, and be healthier.”

Aside from adding muscle, Rivers’ increased strength manifested itself in another tangible way. Heritage coach Dave Fogelstrom said the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Rivers joined the vaunted “1,000 club,” which is a group that can lift 1,000 combined pounds in the squat, bench and deadlift.

“Last year, he was in the low-900s,” Fogelstrom said. “He’s one of the four strongest guys on the team, and he’s put on weight too. He’s over 170 pounds, and he’s trying to have a really good season this year.”

— Joseph Dycus


Milpitas quarterback Tyberius Egorerua, who was first-team all-Santa Clara Valley Atheltic League De Anza Division last year as a junior, has returned to the team, Trojans assistant Vito Cangemi said Sunday. The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder began practice last week. Egorerua is expected to play on offense and defense. He was honored last season for his work at quarterback and defensive back. For now, he will share time with 6-2, 240-pound senior Zae Mims behind center in addition to his work in the secondary. The De Anza Division is deep at quarterback. Besides Egorerua, Jake Boyd of Los Gatos was the junior MVP and Armand Johnson of Wilcox was voted offensive MVP.

— Mike Lefkow



Antioch at Monte Vista, 7 p.m.: New coaches on both sidelines as Brett Dudley makes his debut for Antioch and Johnny Millard does the same for Monte Vista. Streamed by NorCalSportsTV

Central Catholic-Modesto (1-0) at St. Francis, 7 p.m.: These teams were supposed to play last year in Modesto, but the game was canceled because of poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke.

Corona del Mar-Newport Beach (1-0) at Los Gatos, 7 p.m.: Corona del Mar has beaten two CCS teams in state finals, Sacred Heart Prep and Serra. LG lost to the Sea Kings in 2016 and 2017.

De La Salle at Monterey Trail-Elk Grove (0-1), 7:30 p.m.: Which De La Salle team will show up? The Spartans beat Monterey Trail 68-6 last year. 

Palo Alto at St. Ignatius, 7 p.m.: New lights at St. Ignatius, new coach at Palo Alto.

Pioneer at Santa Teresa, 7 p.m.: In the CCS playoffs last year, Santa Teresa beat Pioneer 45-42 in triple overtime.

Salinas at Clayton Valley Charter, 7 p.m.: Clayton Valley unveils its new offense, which is expected to include more passing.

Serra at Folsom (1-0), 7 p.m.: Folsom rolled past Monterey Trail on Friday but lost Stanford-bound tight end Walker Lyons to a broken leg.


Bellarmine at Menlo-Atherton, 2 p.m.: What has become a traditional opener provided many highlights last season as Bellarmine won 56-41.

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