Serra limits Riordan to less than 200 yards of offense, and the Padres rush for four touchdowns in their 12th consecutive WCAL victory.
SAN MATEO, Calif. — Serra’s seniors have competed in section and state championship games the last two years. The San Mateo school has speed and dynamic playmakers on the outside, but Serra’s battle-tested front seven has been the bedrock of its impressive run to the top of the Bay Area.
Serra was unfazed by its imposing West Catholic Athletic League opponent, Archbishop Riordan, with its dazzling passing attack and a mammoth offensive line that averaged more than 300 pounds per starter.
Padres starters like linebacker Danny Niu, who had a sack and an interception, had faced formidable opponents in the past. Serra controlled the line of scrimmage in a 53-7 running clock victory, just as the Padres had done in the previous 11 league games.
“We know that size-wise, we might be underestimated,” Niu said after the Padres extended their WCAL winning streak to a dozen games. “But we have a bunch of dogs in the trenches and backfield.”
Serra limited Riordan, which had scored at least 40 points in four straight games entering Saturday, to less than 200 total yards.
Despite weighing less than 220 pounds, the senior linebacking trio of Niu, Marley Alapati, and Jabari Mann blanketed the field, closing passing lanes and stonewalling the run.
The Padres players said they prepared for the game like any other this season, a sentiment echoed by longtime coach Patrick Walsh.
“There is no them, only us,” Walsh declared. “It’s difficult at times, especially in big games like this, to truly focus on ourselves.” That has been the message all year.”
Serra’s offense helped set the tone as well, running the ball on all six plays of its first drive.
Jaden Green’s four-yard sweep into the end zone, the first of four Padres rushing touchdowns, capped off a strong performance. Green had 54 yards on the day, one of nine different Padres to carry the ball. Nano Latu of Serra led all players with 80 rushing yards.
The Padres then pulled off a Madden-style fake field goal on the next drive. As the FG unit came on, Christopher Yoon pretended to be in a hurry to get off the field, and was promptly ignored by the Crusader’s special team unit.
With 42 seconds left in the first quarter, backup quarterback Brooks Trimmer, the holder on the play, popped into a passing stance after receiving the ball and lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Yoon to make it 15-0.
“I think that Jabari, my sophomore year, got Valley Christian on it, and we’ve just been waiting to use it again, to pull it out of the closet,” he said.
Early in the second quarter, Serra made it 22-0 on a 20-yard dart from Smith to Cole Harrison down the seam, one of two Smith touchdown passes. Trimmer scored on a 16-yard run, and Alapati added a two-yard run to give Serra a 36-0 halftime lead.
The Riordan offense never got going against Serra’s defense, but the passing game came alive briefly in the third quarter when Mike Mitchell Jr. connected with Chris Lawson for a 23-yard touchdown.
Adhir Ravipati, Riordan’s coach, believed the rout would benefit the young Crusaders in the long run.
“I think our inexperience on this stage (showed),” Ravipati admitted. “Serra has a very experienced team that has played a lot of games like this.” This is our first time, and we failed the test. However, as long as we learn and grow from it, it can be a teachable moment for us.”
Riordan (6-2, 3-1) will travel to St. Francis next week before wrapping up the regular season against Sacred Heart Cathedral. Serra (8-0, 4-0) will travel to Valley Christian before finishing the WCAL season at home against St. Ignatius.
Riordan is still on track to play in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs, which means the teams could meet again this November.
“They’re probably going to make it, and we’ll be ready for them and ready to go,” Niu told reporters.