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Monday Morning Lights: After Serra, who is the next-best WCAL team?

Monday Morning Lights: After Serra, who is the next-best WCAL team?

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. Your contributions keep us going.

WCAL RACE STARTS THIS WEEK

Serra was a unanimous choice to repeat as West Catholic Athletic League champion before the season and nothing has changed as league play gets started this weekend.

The San Mateo powerhouse followed a seven-point season-opening win over Folsom with blowout victories over De La Salle and Central Catholic-Modesto.

Serra’s resume is so impressive that calpreps.com’s computer ranks the team No. 1 in Northern California and No. 5 in the state.

Among WCAL schools, the closest team to Serra in calpreps’ state rankings is St. Ignatius (No. 61).

That seems about right.

The real question about the WCAL might not be whether anyone can beat Serra. It could be: Who will finish second?

Now that could be a heck of a race.

Valley Christian and Archbishop Mitty are the WCAL’s only other 3-0 teams. But their resumes are nothing like Serra’s.

Valley, coming off a one-win season in 2022, has beaten three traditionally strong Central Coast Section public schools: Wilcox, Salinas and Hollister.

Mitty, which made a surprise run to the CCS Division I final last season after winning one game itself the previous year, beat three teams that entered last weekend a combined 0-9: James Logan, Aptos and Santa Teresa.

Per calpreps, Mitty’s strength of schedule as of Friday afternoon was a minus-13.7. By comparison, Serra’s was 35.9, St. Francis’ 31.9 and St. Ignatius’ 25.5.

Mitty’s visit to St. Francis on Friday night will tell quite a bit. The same with St. Ignatius’ trip to Archbishop Riordan on Saturday afternoon.

Riordan is ranked fifth in the WCAL by calpreps, at No. 103 in the state. St. Francis (75) and Valley (87) join Serra and SI in the Top 100. Mitty is No. 137, followed by Bellarmine (212) and Sacred Heart Cathedral (271).

For the record, here was the Bay Area News Group’s predicted order of finish when it published the league preview on Aug. 18: Serra, St. Francis, SI, Valley, Riordan, Mitty, Bellarmine, SHC.

— Darren Sabedra

ST. FRANCIS: BATTLE-TESTED, FOR SURE

St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno did what he could to have his team ready for seven WCAL games. He scheduled three challenging non-league opponents — Helix-La Mesa, Monterey Trail-Elk Grove and De La Salle — to make sure his young team would be prepared.

The Lancers (1-2) had a bye last weekend after losing to De La Salle 35-17 on Sept. 8.

Asked what he expects moving forward, Calcagno said, “No weeks off. No weeks off. Everybody’s good and everybody could beat everybody. That’s hard when you’re playing with 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids, too. They’ve got to be up every week. That’s pretty tough. But our job is to get them ready to go.”

— Darren Sabedra

MEETING HALFWAY: WILCOX TO PLAY IN BAKERSFIELD

Wilcox coach Paul Rosa was scrambling to find a game after The King’s Academy canceled its home game against the Chargers on Sept. 15. 

The team was staring at almost three weeks without football between a Sept. 8 game against Sacred Heart Cathedral and a Sept. 29 matchup with Mountain View, so Rosa started making calls. 

Edison-Huntington Beach coach Jeff Grady picked up the phone and agreed to a game on Sept. 22, but a drive down to the Orange County school wasn’t feasible for Wilcox. 

That’s when Rosa came up with a solution. 

“About three days went by and I was like ‘Maybe we can meet halfway?’ so then it turns into a one-day trip for both of us,” Rosa told Bay Area News Group on Saturday afternoon. 

After looking at locations in San Luis Obispo and other places near the middle of the state, the teams settled on Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium, a double-deck, 20,000-seat facility that played host to Pittsburg’s regional loss two years ago to Liberty-Bakersfield.

Pittsburg lost to Liberty-Bakersfield in a CIF Northern California Division 1-A regional title game at Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium on Dec. 4, 2021. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

It’s a four-hour drive south for Wilcox, and a three-hour trip north for Edison through SoCal traffic. 

“They’re excited about playing good competition, and playing somebody different since you don’t play teams from down south very often,” Rosa said, adding that the kickoff may be changed from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. because of the long trip back to the Bay Area. 

— Joseph Dycus

SAN RAMON VALLEY: NOT LETTING HYPE AFFECT ITS PLAY

Given the number of key players returning from last season’s NorCal 2-A championship team, San Ramon Valley has had the proverbial target on its back this year.

Through four games, the Wolves have exceeded the lofty expectations.

The latest team to lose to San Ramon Valley, Oakland powerhouse McClymonds on Friday night, had given up just 41 yards while routing Bellarmine 40-0 and Bishop O’Dowd 45-0.

SRV started slow on Friday — it was 0-0 after one quarter — but went on to a 35-7 victory. The Wolves have won all their games this season by no fewer than 23 points.

Junior linebacker Marco Jones called the win over McClymonds big, adding, “I definitely think that it kind of showed that just because we had a little adversity, that doesn’t mean we’re done with the game. Just because something happens — we get punched in the mouth a little bit — that we can’t come back and punch back.

“I definitely think it shows other teams that you guys may go up or be even or it may be a close game, we’re still here to play.”

Now up to No. 21 in calpreps’ state computer rankings, SRV has two games left — home against Liberty on Friday and at Clayton Valley on Oct. 6 — before what could be a historic matchup at home against DLS on Oct. 13.

No team from the North Coast Section has beaten DLS since 1991.

DLS is ranked No. 19 by calpreps.

— Darren Sabedra

DE LA SALLE: SPARTANS READY FOR “HORNET’S NEST”

De La Salle against Folsom has evolved into one of the best rivalries in NorCal, the teams playing in each of the past four regular seasons, and again in the past two regionals. 

Friday, the Concord school will make the trip up to Folsom in what should be another fantastic game. The past three matchups have been decided by a total of eight points

“It’s gonna be a hornet’s nest,” De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said about the place where De La Salle won the NorCal 1-AA title 17-14 in December. 

Folsom coach Paul Doherty spent the Bulldogs’ bye week in the Concord stands, watching the resurgent Spartans dominate high-powered St. Mary’s-Stockton 24-10 in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated.

Alumbaugh’s team has scrapped a more balanced attack from the first two weeks, instead returning to its trademark methodical veer. De La Salle has rushed for over 200 yards in wins the past two weeks against St. Francis and St. Mary’s and now seems re-energized to take on Folsom. 

“They’re a great opponent,” DLS running back Dominic Kelley said. “But we’ll work hard this week. We hit well, we’re physical, and we’ll outwork them.”

— Joseph Dycus

CASTLEMONT: A PLAYER’S HELMET GOES TO HALL OF FAME

Castlemont’s Danielle Johnson made history during her team’s recent trip to Los Angeles.

Johnson, the Oakland school’s first female tackle football player, will have her helmet displayed at the California High School Hall of Fame at the Rose Bowl, as first reported by KTVU.

“She wrote history. She wrote her own story, and that’s the beautiful thing,” coach Ed Washington told the TV station.

Castlemont, which defeated Dorsey-Los Angeles 27-16 on Sept. 8, became the first high school football team to visit the display.

Johnson is about 5-foot and 100 pounds and lines up as a safety. She said about competing against the boys, “They’re way bigger, but I still play with them.“

— Joseph Dycus

PEEK AHEAD TO WEEK 5

Friday

De La Salle (2-2) at Folsom (3-1), 7 p.m.: The teams have split their past four meetings dating to 2021.

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Photos: high school football Week 4, 2023

Liberty (3-1) at San Ramon Valley (4-0), 7 p.m.: Liberty’s loss was by one point to Los Gatos.

Archbishop Mitty (3-0) at St. Francis (1-2), 7 p.m.: Rematch of CCS Division I semifinal last season, which Mitty won in dramatic fashion.

Oakland (3-0) at Washington-San Francisco (2-1), 3 p.m.: Oakland entered this season on a 21-game losing streak dating to 2019.

Campolindo (1-1-1) at Monte Vista (3-1), 7 p.m.: Campo had the weekend off. Monte Vista lost a thriller at Amador Valley.

Saturday

St. Ignatius (2-1) at Archbishop Riordan (2-1), 2 p.m.: SI has looked really good since opening the season with a 42-14 loss to San Ramon Valley.

— Darren Sabedra