It’s like déjà vu all over again for the Serra Padres.
When Serra hit the championship trifecta in 2017, the team had to go through its toughest West Catholic Athletic League opponent in St. Francis-Mountain View to do it. The Padres defeated the Lancers on the final day of the regular season to clinch the WCAL title outright. Then, in the Central Coast Section Open Division I championship game, the two teams met again, with Serra prevailing to take the CCS crown en route to winning the program’s first state championship two weeks later.
This year, the opponent may be different, but the formula is essentially the same. Just four weeks removed from Serra clinching a share of the 2019 WCAL championship with a 10-0 victory over Valley Christian, the two again collide in the CCS Division I championship game, Saturday night at Independence High School in San Jose at 8 p.m.
So much changed for No. 1-seed Serra going into that Week 9 matchup with No. 2 Valley Christian. The Padres were riding an undefeated 8-0 record, but lost their offensive superstar in quarterback Daylin McLemore to a broken collarbone the previous week.
Serra’s offense struggled to find its footing with sophomore Dom Lampkin taking over for his first start at varsity quarterback. Yet, the Padres’ defense gave the young sophomore plenty of room for error, notching Serra’s third shutout of the year, though this one was extra meaningful in not only clinching a co-WCAL championship, but shutting down Valley Christian in the Warriors’ first loss of the year.
Lampkin has since found his sea legs, with the Padres scoring 69 points through two CCS playoff wins over Half Moon Bay and Wilcox. Serra’s air attack is still a work in progress, though. Lampkin was just 11-of-23 passing for 81 yards with a touchdown and an interception last Saturday against Wilcox.
The Serra defense, though, has been 11 deep with a different star emerging seemingly on every play. Padres coaches and player have raved about the play of senior linebacker Will Mauer, and rightfully so. But just as critical through the second tier has been the play of junior linebacker Finn Williams, who is showing the promise that a tradition of stellar Serra linebackers in recent years — in 2017, senior TC Lavulo and junior EJ Lahlouh had a similar chemistry — will carry over into 2020.
The x-factor heading into Saturday night’s 8 p.m. kickoff, however, will be just that, the 8 p.m. kickoff. The Padres have been riding home-field advantage through the CCS playoffs, with both wins coming at home on Freitas Field for Serra’s traditional 1 p.m. start times.
Said Mauer after last Saturday’s win over Wilcox: “We knew they were going to get tired. They don’t play a lot of day games. And we use the day games to our advantage. … I think they got day-gamed, essentially.”
Serra fans ought not fret should their teams stagger early, however. Since the Nov. 2 win over Valley Christian, the Padres have gone on to play from behind in each of their next three games. They caught each Half Moon Bay and Wilcox to win the day.
And in the regular-season finale against St. Ignatius, the Padres technically overcame a 14-point deficit to tie it 14-14 inside the final minute, but accepted a penalty on a point-after try to take 1 point off the scoreboard with a chance to win it on a 2-point conversion. Serra didn’t get into the end zone and lost 14-13 in an outcome that forced a three-way tie for the WCAL crown with Valley Christian and St. Ignatius.
Still, the Padres have staked quite a claim as comeback kids in recent weeks.
“First of all, we play great teams,” Serra head coach Patrick Walsh said of the Padres’ ability to come back. “We play Valley Christian, we played SI, we played a [playoff] game against Half Moon Bay, we played Wilcox; all these teams are great teams. So, these are like prize fights in boxing, sometimes you lose a round or two. These kind of title fights, you’ve got to win 15 rounds.”
Terra Nova is still standing
After dropping their first two games of Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division play, the Terra Nova Tigers are one of two PAL teams still alive in the CCS playoffs.
The No. 2-seed Tigers face that other PAL team in No. 1 King’s Academy, when the two collide in the CCS Division III championship game Saturday night at Westmont High School in Campbell.
TKA may hold the higher seed, but when the two teams met in Bay Division play Nov. 1, Terra Nova enjoyed a 35-16 victory.
Terra Nova has won four CCS titles all-time, the last one coming in 2014 at the Division IV level with a kid named Anthony Gordon at quarterback.
TKA won its first CCS title last season playing in Division V.