Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
SAN JOSE — The Northern California Division I championship game presented an opportunity for the Serra football team to build on one of the best seasons in school history.
In order to take advantage of that opportunity, the Padres needed to make the plays when they got the chance.
Del Oro had the same opportunities and when it came right down to it, the Golden Eagles took advantage of their chances in a 28-20 victory Friday night San Jose City College.
“They did what we expected them to do on offense and defense and they did it better than we did,” said Serra coach Patrick Walsh. “At the end of the day, we made too many mistakes.”
Not only were the Padres battling Del Oro, they were fighting themselves as they committed 11 penalties for 105 yards.
That being said, Serra (11-3) still had its opportunities to win the game. Their last chance came with 1:51 left in the game and the ball at its own 20. Down 28-20, Quarterback Matt Fa’aita guided the Padres to the Del Oro 32 before the Golden Eagles stood tall. They dodged a bullet when Kava Cassidy made what looked to be a diving, rolling catch on fourth down, but it was ruled incomplete with three seconds to play.
“We lost by eight points and there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of,” Walsh said.
Serra’s defense had its first opportunity to see if it could slow Del Oro’s 1,600-yard running back Dylan Kainrath, who served notice early as to what kind of night he would have when he broke off a 26-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game. He busted out of three would-be tackles and went into the end zone for a 7-0 Del Oro lead with 8:36 to play in the first quarter.
Kainrath would go on to torch the Padres for 217 yards on 28 carries.
Serra responded on its ensuing drive, converting a key fourth down to keep the drive alive. The Padres ended up going 68 yards on 10 plays, with Fa’aita scoring from nine yards out to tie the score at 7.
The teams exchanged punts before the Padres next opportunity fell by the wayside. A Padres punt pinned the Golden Eagles at their 1-yard line. They stuffed Kainrath on first down, but on second-and-10, Kainrath bolted through the line of scrimmage and went 87 yards before being run down.
On second down at the Serra 22, Del Oro quarterback Michael Moore scrambled to his right and threw a jump ball into the end zone. Receiver Tyler Meteer out-jumped Serra Hamilton Anoa’i to put the Golden Eagles up 14-7, capping a 99-yard drive.
“The 99-yard drive was a turning point,” Walsh said.
Serra tied the game again with just over four minutes to play in the first half, taking advantage of a 23-yard Del Oro punt. Kelepi Lataimua capped a 35-yard drive with a four-yard run.
Del Oro responded with another long scoring drive, taking a 21-14 lead with just seconds left in the first half. The Golden Eagles drove 80 yards on 12 plays, with Therin Heryford out-jumping Anoa’i in the left corner of the end zone.
Del Oro appeared to break the Padres’ backs when Trey Udoffia returned a punt 40 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter to put the Golden Eagles up 28-17, but when the Padres recovered a Del Oro fumble following a punt, it breathed new life into Serra.
Unfortunately, the Padres could not take full advantage of that momentum swing. After recovering the fumble at the Del Oro 26, Serra drove to the eight before stalling and settling for a Steven Bodley 25-yard field goal.
The Padres defense forced a three-and-out on Del Oro’s next possession and took over at the Golden Eagles’ 46. This time, the drive stalled out at the 17 and Bodley booted a 33-yard field goal to cut Del Oro’s lead to 28-20 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We were in the red zone and instead of scoring touchdown, we had field goals,” Walsh said.
Serra forced another Del Oro punt, taking over at midfield. But on fourth-and-two at the Golden Eagles’ 22, the Padres came up short. The Golden Eagles intercepted a pass on Serra’s next possession and then Serra saw its season end when Fa’aita and Kennedy could not hook up late in the game.
Fa’aita provided the bulk of the Serra offense. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 206 yards. He also led the Padres in rushing with 61 yards on 20 carries. Del Oro did a good job of shutting down the Padres’ ground attack, limiting them to just 120 yards rushing.
“We had our opportunities. We moved the ball in the air,” Walsh said. “I thought Del Oro played great.”