GSF HS Football September Teams of the Month
by: Pranav Iyer
NORTH BAY/PENINSULA TEAM OF THE MONTH
Following a 7-5 year of transition that saw a change in coaching personnel and a departure of the school’s all time leading passer (Luke Bottari) along with several other key seniors, head coach Patrick Walsh implemented a rather peculiar method of preparation for his team during the offseason. They rarely picked up a football and focused almost solely on strength and conditioning. It was to the point where they decided to forgo their preseason scrimmage for their end of the summer conditioning test.
“Offensive and defensive coordinators were wondering when we were actually going to practice football,” said Walsh with a chuckle.
Leading into their first game against the NCS’ daunting Pittsburgh Pirates, they had done zero live tackling drills. The result? A 58-21 demolition and an astronomically high 82% first tackle rate (aka the percentage of times the first defender to the ball carrier made the tackle). Looks like his strategy worked out.
The end of Bottari’s high school career had raised speculation to the future of the traditionally prolific quarterback position at the school that has featured the likes of Tom Brady and more recently, Leki Nunn (now at SJSU). Senior Daylin McLemore is now the one who controls those reigns. As a sophomore, he was sidelined for the season due to an injury and last year, he attempted just 15 passes. But that lack of experience has not been apparent on the field.
“In Daylin’s mind, he’s always been the starting quarterback,” head coach Patrick Walsh said. “He’s always prepared to be the starting quarterback. And I think you can see that mentality has filled into his performances so far.”
Led behind new offensive coordinator Darius Bell, a former UCLA quarterback/receiver who had a brief stint with the Baltimore Ravens (also formerly the QB of Archbishop Riodan and CCSF), McLemore has developed into the ‘quintessential dual-threat quarterback,’ according to Walsh. Through four games he has accounted for nearly 800 yards through the air (9 TDs) and 300+ on the ground (4 TDs). The Padres are a big play threat on any given player, due to the chemistry between McLemore and his speedy wideouts Terence Loville (21.7 yards per catch) and Nate Sanchez (47.6 yards per catch)
Collectively, the offense is putting up 48 points per game, allowing them to have a crazy average margin of victory of 33. But the defensive secondary, is where the heart of this team lies. They are anchored by two three-year starters at safety, Jackson Lataimua and Sanchez, and four-year starter Damon Lewis at corner. They have held opposing quarterbacks to a mere 50% completion percentage and just three total touchdown passes.
Now at 4-0, the Padres have had the chance to demonstrate their prowess on the big stage at Levi’s Stadium (38-13 vs. Menlo Atherton) and have kicked off league play with a convincing 41-0 win over Archbishop Riordan. But Walsh knows that being in the league that they are, they can never look too far ahead.
“Being a coach in this league for 19 years, you can only live moment to moment and game to game,” he said. “Any concept apart from that, looking ahead, looking behind, is just a foolhardy way to attack the WCAL season.
EAST BAY TEAM OF THE MONTH
From 2006-2016, Liberty had amassed ten losing seasons and had a combined record of 36-64-2. So what did Ryan Patridge do when he took over in 2017? One would expect a couple of years rebuilding and growing pains would be part of the course. But nah. Instead, he led the mighty Lions to an NCS title and then the school’s first state championship in a matter of two seasons. In a matter of months, Liberty football had gone from perennial underdogs to a perennial powerhouse. And this year, they have failed to disappoint once again.
“Embracing all expectations,” was the mindset going into the year, Partridge said. “It’s fun to have this target on our back.”
They are off to a blistering 6-0 start and have done it against some of the best competition in the region. They’ve proven time and time again that they can grit out down-to-the-wire games, winning by five points or less against the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th ranked teams in the section.
Offensively, they are led by a three year starter at quarterback, Jay Butterfield, who Patridge says has become a ‘coach on the field.’ Butterfield is a four-star Oregon commit and was ranked number one in the Mercury News’ ‘Fab 40’ to begin the season. The Lions are beginning to find their offensive identity after losing three star wideouts who combined for over 2,700 receiving yards and a 1,500 yard rusher to graduation. The fact that Patridge believes they haven’t discovered their full potential yet only makes them even scarier as the season progresses.
The Liberty program didn’t just get to where they are by setting standard expectations. And this year, Patridge, Butterfield, and the entire coalition of Lions are really trying to do it all.
“First year I got there, we won the [NCS] Division I title,” Partridge said. “Second year, it was the state championship. And third year, it’s take down De La Salle.”
SOUTH BAY TEAM OF THE MONTH
Under the leadership of head coach Steven Zenk, the Salinas Cowboys began the season with a definitive 71-7 opening week victory over crosstown foe North Salinas. They then made the three hour trek to play the Clovis Cougars in 96 degree weather. Despite the 56-28 loss, Zenk took a lot of positives away from that game including their resiliency and ability to remain ‘great Cowboys’ in times of despair.
They have now risen to 3-1 and despite the blemish on their resume, still remain one of the most talented teams in the area. Their not-so-secret weapon: three-star quarterback Carl Richardson. A stud who stepped into the starting role his junior year, Richardson has already thrown for 1446 yards and 15 touchdowns to just one interception. Oh, and he’s the teams’ leading rusher. He’s done an excellent job spreading the ball between his ‘four exceptional wide receivers’ (Cade Smith, J.J. Chin, Austin Villanueva and Landon Laporte), three of whom have at least three TD receptions.
Salinas is coming off their first repeat as league championships season since 1983, a season that featured four teams within one win of the title. Zenk knows that it’s going to be much of the same this year and that they will have to fight for every victory now that they are in the heart of league play. But their goals through it all remain the same: beat Palma (38-35 W), win league, and win section. They’re a third of the way there. Let’s see how far Richardson and the Cowboys of the south can go.
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