San Francisco Chronicle
Bay Area coaches react to end of De La Salle’s streak
Former Foothill-Pleasanton football coach Matt Sweeney
was in a grocery store Friday, thinking about the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when someone texted him: “Did you hear? De La Salle lost.”
The third-winningest football coach in North Coast Section history said he flinched at the news of St. Francis’ 31-28 home win that ended De La Salle’s 318-game unbeaten streak against Northern California opponents.
“I was just thinking that I couldn’t believe it was 20 years since the attacks,” Sweeney said. “Then I thought, ‘Wow. It was 10 years before that, that De La Salle lost to anyone up here.’ Crazy stuff.”
Marin Catholic-Kentfield coach Mazi Moayed had just finished his team’s 28-7 win at Casa Grande-Petaluma when someone told him.
“I just went ‘Wow.’ I’m sure I did a double take, as I’m sure most people did,” Moayed said. “De La Salle losing in Northern California feels like the world is ending.”
Said Clayton Valley Charter-Concord coach Tim Murphy.
“Shock. Absolute shock.”
Reaction from coaches to the De La Salle defeat was strong and visceral, largely because of its three decades of dominance.
It’s not that there were no capable teams north of the Fresno region, where the streak (316 wins and two ties) lived. Murphy said once he heard how talented St. Francis is, especially up front, it made sense.
It’s just what De La Salle has accomplished since Bob Ladouceur took over the program in 1979 and handed it to Justin Alumbaugh in 2013 defies all logic, said Campolindo-Moraga’s Kevin Macy, who has coached 41 years, won two state titles and is approaching 250 wins.
“The loss reminds people of how special the 318 mark is,” Macy said. “People had stopped paying attention.”
Said Sweeney: “Honestly, considering everything that could go wrong during a week, a game, a season, especially with high school kids. … Not losing in 30 years could be one of the greatest achievements in America in the history of sports.”
That’s why Sweeney immediately sought Greg Calcagno’s contact information: “I was so fired up for him and his team. I was so happy for them. I know what an accomplishment that was. I won’t lie, I wish we could have done it.”
Same for Serra coach Patrick Walsh and his Padres, who have had a couple of good shots since Walsh took the job in 2001.
He was at Friday’s game scouting St. Francis, but as a De La Salle alum and a good friend of Alumbaugh, his rooting interest was firm.
Walsh was a junior on the 1991 Spartan team that last lost and a senior on the one that started the streak. He sat next to childhood friends who are the parents of a De La Salle player.
“I felt the pain for their kids and Justin and the staff,” Walsh said. “I still bleed (De La Salle) green. On the other hand, the team of 1991 lit up our hypothetical cigars because we are off the hook, baby.”
More so, Walsh said he was happy for Calcagno, the raucous St. Francis fans and the West Catholic Athletic League community, all of whom made history.
“Most of all, I was so excited for all of high school football back in the Bay Area,” he said. “It was a wonderful sight to see all of the youthful enthusiasm of a Friday night football game on the Peninsula. St. Francis does ‘Friday Night Lights’ very well.”
The rankings: For the first time since 2004, a team other than De La Salle is at the top of The Chronicle’s Top 25 Metro rankings. St. Francis leapfrogged four teams from No. 5 to the top spot.
After De La Salle’s national record 151-game win streak was snapped in 2004 by Bellevue (Wash.), a 39-20 season-opener, the Spartans sputtered, dropping to 0-2-1 and 2-3-2. They regained their footing, won six straight decisively, including a 41-0 win over previously unbeaten Amador Valley-Pleasanton, to claim the NCS title and No. 1 ranking again, a spot it hadn’t relinquished until now.