Fre­mont rel­ishes chance to stop McC­ly­monds streak

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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.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF TERRY HEN­DRIX JR.

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.

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