Serra hands De La Salle its worst shutout defeat in 44 years, takes charge with a 99-yard TD drive
SAN MATEO — Serra left no room for doubt.
There was no need for a dramatic comeback, nor was there any need to sweat out the final minutes of another Northern California heavyweight match against De La Salle.
Serra had two defining moments in its 28-0 victory over the storied Concord opponent on Saturday: a 99-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half that broke a scoreless tie and a relentless defense that kept pounding and pounding until it became the first team to shut out De La Salle since Clovis West in 2005.
It was the Spartans’ worst shutout loss since Salesian defeated them 32-0 in 1979.
Serra had completed a sweep of its closest rivals in NorCal’s hierarchy, De La Salle and Folsom, by the end of Saturday’s game for the second year in a row.
But, unlike a week ago, when the Padres started fast but didn’t finish the game against Folsom, the San Mateo powerhouse was pleased with its performance on Saturday.
“Of course, the game’s signature was the defense,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said. “However, the offense’s signature drive was a 99-yard drive.” When things come together on West 20th Ave., it’s almost like poetry to me. It’s simply stunning.
“I was so happy to overcome some of the issues we had last week against a very good De La Salle team.”
The game was scoreless after a hard-hitting first half when De La Salle — ranked No. 2 by the Bay Area News Group — punted from midfield four minutes into the second quarter.
The home team muffed the ball, and both teams scrambled for possession near the goal line.
If De La Salle (0-2) had recovered, the visitors would have been inches away from a touchdown, potentially changing the game’s outcome.
However, top-ranked Serra (2-0) gained possession, and despite being in the shadow of their end zone, the Padres went on a drive that could be a defining moment in their season.
“It’s not a good feeling to be standing in the wrong end zone,” said Maealiuaki Smith, who threw for 237 yards. “We made it out of there.” We kept our cool and got the ball in the end zone.”
The march down the field took 16 plays and seven minutes.
Serra converted two fourth-down opportunities. When Smith connected with his favorite target in the game, tight end Cole Harrison, for 34 yards to the De La Salle 39, it converted a third-and-seven. Harrison had seven receptions for 123 yards.
Smith completed the drive with a 4-yard pass over the middle to Harrison for a touchdown.
In a gimmick formation, the Padres lined up for the extra point. Nano Latu took the snap on the left side of the field and raced across the goal line for an 8-0 lead.
“You can’t give them a 99-yard drive, and that’s exactly what we did,” DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “I was hoping that with them pinned down right on the one-foot line, I could keep them down there and give our offense good field position, shorten the field, and put some points on the board before halftime.”
“But giving up that 99-yard drive, that was a game-changer.”
De La Salle attempted to respond before the half, but missed their second field goal of the half.
Early in the third quarter, the visitors got what appeared to be a huge play when Jaden Jefferson intercepted the ball and returned it to the Serra 38.
The Spartans kept the ball on the ground and advanced to the third. However, quarterback Toa Faavae was held to no gain on third down. His pass into the end zone fell incomplete on fourth down.
Jefferson’s second interception put the ball at Serra’s 48.
Serra’s defense stood firm once more, De La Salle punted, and Serra marched 80 yards for another touchdown, bringing the score to 15-0.
Smith’s 49-yard bomb to Braden Agosta put the Padres on De La Salle’s 1 yard line.
With 11:27 remaining, Jabari Mann scored from the bunch formation on the next snap.
Thomas Gooch’s two field goals from 28 and 38 yards made it 21-0, and Jermaine Barrett returned the second of his two interceptions for a touchdown with 2:07 remaining.
“We kept giving our offense chances throughout that entire third quarter,” Alumbaugh said. “When we have to start throwing the ball all of the time, that doesn’t play to our strengths.”
The game was emotional for Walsh, who dislikes playing against his alma mater but knows he has to because the programs are consistently among the best in NorCal.
“I don’t enjoy it,” said Walsh, whose team rallied from 14 points down to beat DLS 24-21 last season in Concord. “I know how it feels over there. De La Salle is one of my favorite authors. “I adore it with all of my heart.”
After the game, Bob Ladouceur, the legendary DLS coach who retired after the 2012 season, told Walsh that he was proud of him.
“It made me cry,” said Walsh, a Ladouceur running back and 1992 DLS graduate. “I was a kid, looking up to this man.”
Prior to the game, the teams remembered Walsh’s former De La Salle teammate Peter Buck Shea, who died in a surfing accident last spring, and Jennifer Fadelli, the mother of Serra player Andrew Fadelli, who died this week after a 16-year battle with cancer.
“Buck has been a friend of mine since I was 8 years old,” Walsh said following the game. “It’s been extremely difficult for us as a Spartan community.” That ’92 team is a big group. It shaped a generation of football players, and losing one of them is heartbreaking. But I know Buck wouldn’t want us wallowing around in misery, feeling sorry for him. He was a world traveler, a surfer, a waterman.
“We didn’t do that today on either side.” “I thought the Spartans performed admirably.”