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 here for digital access all season long.
Theories about De La Salle as losses pile up
The era of De La Salle’s total dominance over Northern California is in the rearview mirror.
If that wasn’t clear when the Spartans lost to St. Francis and Folsom last season, it should be now after losses to Serra and Folsom in the first five games this season.
While it is difficult to pin four incredibly close losses on one thing, the latest on Friday night at home to Folsom 24-20, here are some theories:
— Football teams at the highest level in this half of the state are stronger than in previous eras.
— Dominance like De La Salle had during its heyday under Bob Ladouceur is impossible to sustain in today’s football unless you go all-in on transfers — which to De La Salle’s credit, it hasn’t done.
— The gradual turnover of the coaching staff from the Ladouceur era to the Justin Alumbaugh era has taken somewhat of a toll, which is no knock on the current staff. It’s not easy to replace decades of experience and continuity.
— Depth is a factor. The Spartans have had numerous injuries this season and in some cases, the backups are young — as in freshmen young.
With that said, De La Salle’s four losses to NorCal teams the past year were by a total of 11 points.
Serra, the top team in the region right now after its road wins over Folsom and De La Salle to start this season, lost by 22 points last year to St. Francis.
Folsom was outscored by 76 points in its four losses last season, including by 21 at home to De La Salle last October.
De La Salle has yet to lose a game like that to a NorCal team.
Yet that doesn’t ease the sting.
And make no mistake, the loss Friday stung.
“We can’t blame injuries or anything like that,” Alumbaugh said. “That’s lame. But like I said, we haven’t been able to put together a complete game. What that reason is, I don’t know. Sometimes we play with too much emotion, sometimes we’re not playing with enough. It’s this fine line that we haven’t been able to find yet.
“Part of it is if you put yourself in games that are this tight, then you’re going to open yourself up to opportunities to lose,” Alumbaugh added. “The record’s on repeat now, and we’ve got to take that repeat off and start figuring it out.”
Here’s how tight Friday’s game was:
According to De La Salle analyst Damin Esper, the Spartans ran 59 plays, Folsom 58. De La Salle gained 239 yards, Folsom 238. De La Salle ran for 197 yards; Folsom passed for 184 yards.
More Esper: The losses to Serra and Folsom mark the first time De La Salle has lost two regular-season games to NorCal teams in the same season since 1989 (St. Francis and El Cerrito).
Folsom, which beat De La Salle in a regional last season, is the first NorCal team to win consecutive games against DLS since California, Salesian and Moreau Catholic did it in 1978 (Ed Hall’s last season) and 1979 (Ladouceur’s first).
— Darren Sabedra
Serra: The path to No. 1 in NorCal
Serra is the No. 1 team in Northern California by virtue of its narrow road wins over Folsom and De La Salle. But could another NorCal team bump the Padres from the top spot by the end of the season even if the San Mateo school goes unbeaten through the regular season and Central Coast Section playoffs?
Not likely, but it’s possible.
What if unbeaten St. Mary’s-Stockton wins at home over De La Salle on Oct. 7 by double digits and then beats Folsom in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs?
Would St. Mary’s have a better resume than Serra?
After its 29-7 win at St. Francis on Friday to open West Catholic Athletic League play, Serra is ranked fifth in the state by calpreps.com’s computer. Folsom is eighth, De La Salle is 12th and Pittsburg is 18th.
St. Mary’s is 39th.
— Darren Sabedra
How Wilcox slowed M-A’s Jurrion Dickey
Wilcox was not going to allow Jurrion Dickey to beat them.
In Week 1, the five-star wide receiver committed to Oregon almost single-handedly took down Bellarmine with a four-touchdown performance as Menlo-Atherton rallied for a 48-34 victory.
So Wilcox devised an extreme but effective tactic to handle the transfer from Valley Christian.
Cornerback Mitchell Gonzalez pressed Dickey at the line, and safety Daniel Escorza lined up directly behind his teammate. Wherever Dickey went, that defensive alignment went with him.
Dickey could have lined up on the moon, and Escorza and Gonzalez would have shown up in spacesuits to bracket him.
“He doesn’t scare me, nobody scares me,” Escorza said about his mentality when defending the best receiver in the Bay Area. “I have the mentality that I have a job to do.”
Dickey still finished with a solid five receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown in a 21-20 loss.
His score came when he beat both defenders on a deep cross and ran in from 30 yards out, pulling M-A to within one point late in the fourth quarter.
The game plan also gave Menlo-Atherton running lanes into a light box, and halfback Sherrod Smith ran for 125 yards on 12 carries.
That said, the defense did what it was designed to do.
— Joseph Dycus
Santa Teresa breaks out its Turnover Chain
After each forced turnover in its victory over Overfelt last week, a Santa Teresa player or coach lifted a gold chain into the air. They would then drape it around the neck of the player who made the possession-changing play.
This scene played out no less than seven times as the San Jose school defeated Overfelt 23-6 in a defensive masterclass.
“The dog chain! It’s a celebration that makes you feel good,” said Joshua Reyes, who wore the chain after grabbing a pick-six to end the third quarter.
The concept of a turnover chain was introduced by the University of Miami in 2017. Santa Teresa’s version arrived this summer when new defensive coordinator Kenneth Threeths joined the staff.
“I’ve had it for a minute, but I hadn’t had a chance to bust it out,” Threeths said.
He asked coach Steve Papin if it’d be OK.
Papin, whose team is 3-2 this season, loved the idea, adding that it fits into his vision of a fun and team-first philosophy.
“We want to have fun, so the turnover chain is their way of telling their teammates they did a great job,” Papin said.
Noah Gardere made his biggest impact on offense, catching a 50-yard touchdown, but he is also an integral part of the defense as a safety.
“I love our defense,” he said. “We play as a family, as a unit, as brothers. We’ve got each other’s backs.”
— Joseph Dycus
Encinal: Island bragging rights
Encinal’s 19-18 victory over crosstown rival Alameda on Friday was especially sweet for first-year coach Derrick Lyons. Not only was it Encinal’s first win of the season, but it also gave the Jets bragging rights on Alameda island.
“It was great to just get our students a win, especially with the whole island being out there,” Lyons said. “We knocked off two birds with one stone and lifted a cloud over us. We showed we could do it, even if it was a battle.”
Encinal won after receiver Marques Singleton shook free on a deep route and hauled in a long touchdown. Lyons said offensive coordinator Jarmar Julien came up with a great game plan and was able to scheme several receivers open with his play-calling, even if his players didn’t always come through early on.
“Our wide receivers dropped some balls, and we could’ve given up after that,” Lyons said. “But we kept on battling, and made the big catches when we had to.”
— Joseph Dycus
Peek ahead to Week 6
Archbishop Mitty (4-0) at Serra (4-0), 7 p.m.: We’re about to find out a lot more about Mitty as the Monarchs visit Serra for the San Mateo school’s only night home game of the season.
McClymonds (3-0) at Pittsburg (3-1), 7 p.m.: Both teams had last week off. Could be one of the games of the year.
Branham (5-0) at Lincoln-San Jose (4-0), 7 p.m.: QBs William Augenstein (Branham) and Tayden Phillips (Lincoln) have been terrific.
Menlo-Atherton (2-2) at Half Moon Bay (4-0), 7 p.m.: M-A has lost two in a row heading into this SCVAL/PAL Bay Division opener.
Bellarmine (2-2) at Archbishop Riordan (3-1), 7 p.m.: Riordan returns home after its first win at Valley Christian in program history.
Clayton Valley Charter (1-3) at Jesuit-Carmichael (5-0), 2 p.m.: Clayton Valley is better than its record, but this one won’t be easy.
Menlo School (3-1) at Amador Valley (3-1), 7:30 p.m.: This game was supposed to be played on a Saturday afternoon at Menlo a few weeks ago but was postponed because of the heat wave.
— Darren Sabedra