Football headlines return of high school sports

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (March 17, 2021) — Local athletes this month are actually playing football, tennis, softball, lacrosse, soccer, golf and they’re also swimming, diving and running while proudly training and competing for their high schools. It may not be the traditional time of year for many sports but after nearly a year without any activity, athletes and coaches are happy to take what is available during this rapidly concluding 2020-21 school year.

Last Saturday evening, Concord’s powerhouse high school football teams from De La Salle and Clayton Valley Charter were in pads at a game for the first time since Dec. 13-14, 2019 when they each played in a CIF State Championship bowl game. This past Saturday the Spartans and Ugly Eagles both got one-score victories against strong Sac-Joaquin Section teams.

Last weekend also marked the end of the Diablo Athletic League cross country season, which made way this week for runners, jumpers and throwers to begin track and field. East Bay Athletic League XC ends this week and T&F begins this month.

Red Tier

Contra Costa and Solano counties officially moved into the COVID-19 red tier last Sunday (the last Bay Area counties to do so). After that, the EBAL released its schedule for indoor sports.

It took a legal ruling earlier this month to make indoor sports possible. A legal settlement with the state of California from a lawsuit filed in San Diego County last month by two high school football players allows all sports to return in counties with adjusted COVID-19 case rates below 14 per 100,000.

Not only are high school sports up and running, but so too are youth swimming, gymnastics, soccer and baseball programs. Last Saturday morning in Newhall Park players, officials, coaches and spectators were all wearing face coverings for a game hosted by a young girls club team from Diablo Valley Wolves.

Summer recreation swim teams are also taking signups and beginning clinics hoping to have a season after all of the 2020 season fell victim to the pandemic.

Football underway

Defending State 2-AA champions Clayton Valley Charter won a back-and-forth duel with Inderkum in Sacramento 20-15. Senior Amari Taylor, a playoff hero in 2019 when the Ugly Eagles won their first-ever State title, scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter after a costly safety had given the host Tigers a late 15-14 advantage.

CVCHS doubled Inderkum’s total offensive yards 343-163 as the Ugly Eagles defense rose to the occasion, much as they did in that memorable State championship game 15 months ago. Taylor ran for two TDs and over 100 yards and receiver Andrew Woolard got the third score on a Jake Kerns pass.

Coach Tim Murphy lauded linebackers Lukas Linkhart and Dylan Seeley for leading the defense.

Spartans start slow in opener

De La Salle is a (relatively speaking) notoriously slow-starting team renowned for building towards its inevitable state championship playoff run. The 2018 season opening 14-0 shutout of Folsom in quarterback Dorian Hale’s first varsity start is a recent exception to that rule.

This year, coach Justin Alumbaugh and his staff don’t have that playoff carrot to motivate the team. High school football teams had only three weeks of practice before last weekend’s first round of games. The Spartans veer offense demands precision to execute properly and early in their game against St. Mary’s- Stockton penalties were more frequent than first downs.

“It looked like we hadn’t played in 15 months,” Alumbaugh told the media following a 35-27 victory. “But the effort was there. … This is the happiest I’ve been for a really ugly game in the history of my life.”

The Spartans never led by more than two scores and needed to recover an onside kick by St. Mary’s late in the fourth quarter to wrap up the victory as they continued their unbeaten streak against all California high school teams north of Clovis since 1991.

The senior running back tandem of Nico Torrez and the impressive Mekhi Norfleet combined for 298 yards rushing. Hale overcame a slow start to amass 215 total yards, marred only by a fourth-quarter red zone interception.

This Saturday evening Clayton Valley begins its EBAL season at California High in San Ramon while DLS hosts league rival Monte Vista of Danville.

DAL football starts this weekend

The rest of the local high schools will get their DAL Valley Division football seasons underway this week in the first of five rounds of league games. The format has each DAL team playing three games through April 3 with the final two games scheduled based on the results of the initial three rounds.

Ygnacio Valley is at Mt. Diablo and Northgate at Alhambra this Friday while Concord visits Berean Christian Saturday in DAL openers this week.

Sports wrapping up in March

Northgate, Acalanes, Las Lomas, Miramonte and Campolindo will have a DAL swimming and diving championship meet on Mar. 26-27 with no spectators in the stands.

Cross country reacted to COVID-19 protocols and had an abbreviated season with first-ever competitive meets all on school campuses. Ygnacio Valley was the first to do so followed by Concord High. Two- and three-mile courses were designed for JV and varsity competitions on each school site.

Other schools participating included Alhambra, Benicia and Mt. Diablo.

Trying to maintain a semblance of normal, the Minutemen honored four-year runners Logan Jacobs, Brandon Simpson, Ernesto Perez, Dylan Roberts and Justin Cao and senior teammates Ryan Willsie and Ericka Martinez on Senior Day at their home meet.

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.