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Mitty still gritty in wild season-opening victory over James Logan

Mitty still gritty in wild season-opening victory over James Logan

UNION CITY – Archbishop Mitty’s players were tired of hearing about last season’s success story, when the team went from 1-9 to 9-4. 

The 2023 roster featured fresh faces after most of that senior core graduated in the spring. They were players ready to prove that the Monarchs were more than just a one-year-wonder or feel-good story. 

“We definitely have a different identity, and each team brings something different to the field,” senior running back AJ Cenizal said. “I feel like we’ll forge our own identity.”

But if Friday’s wild 20-12 victory over James Logan was anything to go by, “gritty Mitty” showed it still had that familiar resolve, plus some magic, on gameday. 

That magic? Just a ho-hum 60-yard onside kick return touchdown by junior Alec Grimaldo, who scooped the ball up off a perfect bounce, and rather than fall on it like his coaches wished, ran up the right sideline to make it 20-6. 

“I was a little nervous, but I powered through it,” Grimaldo said. “I saw the opportunity and hit the hole.”

SAN JOSE – Mitty running back AJ Cenizal runs through a hole. Archbishop Mitty and James Logan played in a high school football game at James Logan high school in Union City Calif. on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

The grit? A bruising rushing attack led by senior tailback Cenizal, who rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown, which opened the passing game up for senior Joey Campagna, who threw for 179 yards and a touchdown on an efficient 9 of 13 clip. 

A four-yard Cenizal run with 3:08 left in the first quarter made it 7-0, and Mitty went up 14-0 when 6-foot-2 tight end Caden Allard caught a 16-yard fade for a touchdown to cap a short three-play drive with 1:11 to go in the quarter. 

The Mitty defense, led by energetic safety Billy Hutton and a host of hard-hitters, held James Logan to without a first down until 4:27 left in the half. 

“Jonathan Craft made some plays,” Mitty coach Danny Sullivan said. “It was tough work for our defense, but we test them pretty much every day in practice.”

SAN JOSE – James Logan quarterback Jonathan Craft runs out of a sack. Archbishop Mitty and James Logan played in a high school football game at James Logan high school in Union City Calif. on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group) 

The slugfest turned into a sprint during the final six minutes of the fourth quarter. James Logan, led by quarterback Craft, drove his team downfield on a drive that finally ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass. Logan missed the extra-point with 2:30 left in the game, the score sitting at 14-6.  

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Craft, who consistently turned Mitty tackles for loss into Logan gains, passed for 144 yards and rushed for 73 more behind blockers such as Giovanni Valverde. His numbers would have been even better had his receivers not dropped a number of catchable passes. 

“We prepared and practiced hard,” Valverde said. “We did what we were supposed to do during the week, but I don’t think that translated enough on the field.”

Whatever momentum the Colts had was immediately undone by Grimaldo’s return, but that didn’t stop Craft from willing his team downfield for another TD drive, one where he completed six of eight passes and threw his second scoring pass.

This time, Mitty recovered the ensuing onside kick and fell on it, the most conventional part of a thoroughly entertaining game. Archbishop Mitty (1-0) will host Aptos next Friday, and Logan (0-1) will host California. 

SAN JOSE – Mitty receiver Billy Hutton signals a first down. Archbishop Mitty and James Logan played in a high school football game at James Logan high school in Union City Calif. on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023. (Joseph Dycus/Bay Area News Group)