Fremont relishes chance to stop McClymonds streak
Terry Hendrix Jr. was at home last Friday, the day after knee surgery, when he called his brother to come and get him. Forget the doctor’s orders, the FremontOakland High football coach decided. His team had a game, an Oakland Athletic League opener, and he wasn’t going to miss it.
Hendrix, known to his guys as Coach T, led the team from a wheelchair.
Fremont beat Oakland 36-0 to improve to 6-0 on the season and set up the game everyone on the Fremont team has been thinking about for months: McClymonds. Mack, as the school is commonly called, has not lost an OAL game since 2009, a streak that reached 36 when the reigning Division 5-A state champs routed Castlemont 65-0 last week.
Fremont has lost 12 in a row to Mack, but a handful of them have been by single digits, a detail that will provide some hope on the Fremont side when the teams meet Friday afternoon at Curt Flood Field.
“We’re hungry,” said Fremont senior Antonio Lion Faaeteete, a running back and linebacker. “It’s what we have been waiting for, to be honest. It’s what we’ve been waiting for all four years. Take down Mack. We feel pretty confident about taking them out this year.”
If Fremont’s players need extra inspiration, they’ve got it. Hendrix was in a PE class at Fremont, running an obstacle course to try to stay in shape when he collided with a hurdle. He injured a patella tendon and had surgery last Thursday. The recovery timeline is 4-6 weeks, he was told. But Hendrix, 29, couldn’t skip even one day.
He was still hurting Monday when interviewed about the McClymonds game but planned to attend practice all week to get the players ready for the biggest game on their schedule.
“I’ll be at practice, for sure,” he said. “I can’t leave these dudes hanging. These are my babies. These are my boys. They’re performing well. I have three kids who are being recruited Division I. I can’t slack on them. I can’t get around, be my usual energetic self, hooting and hollering, doing what I do, bringing that fire to practice. But I’ve got to do what I can.”
The players appreciate Hendrix’s determination.
“That’s an amazing coach,” said linebacker and running back O’Dale Hickman, a transfer from Hayward. “He’s young. He always looks out for us. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He does everything for us, to be honest.”
Fremont has only 24 players on its roster but doesn’t lack for talent. Lineman Jonathan Latu is 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds. He has a 3.8 grade-point average, according to Hendrix, and is being recruited by Hawaii, Cal and Boise State, among others.
“Four-year starter, left tackle, hasn’t missed a down,” Hendrix said.
Faaeteete also is a college prospect. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, including 210 in the win last week.
“He’s the real deal,” Hendrix said.
Hickman has given Fremont another talented and experienced piece. In Hayward’s 12-6 win last season over Encinal, all Hickman did was make 12 tackles and two sacks, block a punt that was returned for a touchdown and cause and recover a fumble that he returned for a TD.
“I came over here because of my living situation,” he said.
Defensive end Filao Finau also has contributed consistently. Hendrix calls him the “X factor.”
“We’re a tight-knit group,” the coach added. “I didn’t know what to expect from this group. This group being a smaller group, not as flashy as past years. We are young in certain positions, a 24-man team. But what I can say about these guys is they play together and they play hard. These guys continue to surprise me week in and week out.”
Fremont has had only one game decided by single digits this season, 18-11 over San Lorenzo Valley. But McClymonds is easily the toughest opponent the Tigers will face, a battle-tested and accomplished group that has wins over Moreau Catholic, Sacred Heart Prep and Vanden and is led by the dean of OAL coaches, Michael Peters, a man Hendrix deeply admires.
“He’s like an uncle to me,” Hendrix said. “He’s taught me a lot since I first took over at 23. I call him Mr. Miyagi.”
Peters said his team is starting to get healthy, noting that running back Jarmar Julien, a touted transfer from Oak Grove, is just getting back into form after injuring a toe in the opener.
McClymonds takes its OAL dominance seriously and is determined to not see it end any time soon.
“Of course, you know that,” Peters said. “They don’t want to be the team that loses the streak. All the other kids come back and watch. We look at every game as an important game for us. We prepare the same way like we did for Castlemont. Fremont, Oakland High, we still have to prepare every week.”
To hear Hendrix tell it, Fremont doesn’t mind the underdog role.
“Going into a game,” he said, “you’ve got to understand we’re 24 deep, he may be 40 deep. They may have three running backs, I may have one. Our guys have to be at our very best. We’re not going to lay down.”
Fremont-Oakland High football players, from left, cornerback Gregory McFarland, running back/linebacker Antonio Lion Faaeteete, lineman Jonathan Latu, linebacker O’Dale Hickman and free safety Shoody Nails, will try to lead their team to a victory over Mack.