There doesn’t seem to be much debate when it comes to how the 2013 Serra football team will be remembered: as possibly the best Padres squad of all time.
But don’t ask coach Patrick Walsh if this is his best team ever. You might as well ask him which of his children he loves more.
“I don’t feel like I can say that (this is my best team). It depends on what you define as best,” Walsh said. “As far as duration of a season and winning a (West Catholic Athletic League and Central Coast Section Open Division) title, then yes.
“But I’ve had a lot of great teams that I’ve coached.”
This year’s team has a chance to cement itself in at least Walsh’s top-5 when the Padres (12-2) face Del Oro-Loomis in the CIF Division I Northern California championship game 7:30 p.m. Friday at San Jose City College.
The Golden Eagles went a perfect 5-0 in Sierra Foothill Athletic League play, knocking off Northern California powers Granite Bay and Rocklin to win the league championship. They finished 12-2 overall and captured the Sac-Joaquin Section Division title with a 20-19 victory over Elk Grove.
“I just feel blessed to be coaching this week,” Walsh said. “It’s uncharted territory for us. It’s an honor to still be one of the few teams still playing for a state championship.”
Del Oro is averaging 38 points per game this season. The Golden Eagles are a fairly balanced team offensively, rushing for an average of nearly 200 yards per game while passing for about 160. Quarterback Michael Moore has thrown for more than 2,200 yards with 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Running back Dylan Kainrath has rushed for more than 1,600 yards and has found the end zone 23 times. Trey Udoffia is the Golden Eagles’ main receiving threat, with a team-high 28 catches, including nine touchdowns, averaging 17 yards a reception.
To put it succinctly, it’s yet another stern test for the Padres in a season of stern tests.
“Their whole program is built on physical and mental toughness. … They’re never going to quit,” Walsh said of the Golden Eagles, who rallied from a 19-0, fourth-quarter deficit in the section final to shock Elk Grove.
“There are a lot of similarities (to teams in the WCAL). We know exactly what we’re going to get.”
While Walsh has tried to keep it business-as-usual during practice this week, he did say he’s had to make sure his squad kept their focus on the task at hand — whether that was during the 10th repetition of the same play in practice or breaking down film of Del Oro.
“(Our goal is) to play our very best football week in and week out. The litmus test this week is Del Oro and they present different challenges than Mitty did the week before,” Walsh said. “(The preparation this week is) 50 percent Serra and 50 percent Del Oro. We’re both intertwined in this act this week.”
Walsh said what sets this team apart is their dedication to the game — both during practice and during games. Walsh was talking to receiver Hamilton Anoa’i and both agreed that the season had been a blur.
“What really stands out to me is they really, really like playing football. They’re a highly competitive group. Practice is usually never tedious,” Walsh said. “They’ve done a great job embracing the grind.”
That grinding has paved the way for the Padres to reach a level they had never before attained and with it a whole new set of challenges. As a way to get his team to really think about what they are facing Friday, Walsh played U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” for the team. Walsh never played in a game of this magnitude during his playing days at De La Salle or as a coach, so both he and the team are experiencing all this for the first time together.
“When a team has accomplished what it wanted to accomplish, what do you do?” Walsh asked. “These streets have no names, but that’s part of the enjoyment of it.
“It’s another challenge. Certainly a difficult challenge and a unique challenge, which makes it fun.”
Making those challenges a bit easier to deal with is the knowledge the Serra defense is playing lights-out right now. The Padres have allowed 17 points or less in their last five games, including four when they gave up single digits.