The only teams that had not lost a Blossom Valley Athletic League West Valley Division football game this spring fittingly met Thursday night in a season finale.
And for most of the first half, Prospect and Del Mar traded touchdowns.
Del Mar scored, then Prospect, then Prospect again, then Del Mar.
Back and forth it went.
But in the end, Prospect celebrated not only an unbeaten league season but an unbeaten season overall. The Panthers, playing on the road, prevailed 32-20 to complete a 5-0 spring and league championship.
Sophomore Zachary Crochiere threw two touchdown passes, both to junior Andre Jackson, and junior Ethan Horio ran for a TD and passed for another to lead the way.
Del Mar finished 2-2 overall, 2-1 against West Valley opponents.
All of Prospect’s wins were within the league.
In a phone interview with the Bay Area News Group on Friday morning, Prospect coach Mike Cable spoke with pride as he described all that his team overcame this school year to succeed on the field.
“This whole year — for everything that went down the way it did, with first the season being postponed and it not looking like we were going to even be able to play — was disheartening to these kids,” Cable said. “These seniors have been working for four years and to have it taken away from them, it was kind of scary.
“But we tried to keep our hopes high. We were allowed to have conditioning with small cohorts. I can’t remember when we started. Feels like forever ago. We kept working hard, we kept the hope up, we kept the team together, we kept pushing each other. When we finally got the go-ahead to have a season, it carried over. Day after day, these kids continued to show up and put in the work.”
It all led to Thursday. After a 5-5 season in 2019, the team set its sights on the program’s first above-.500 season since the school went 7-3 in 2007.
The Panthers did better than that. They plowed through the West Valley Division, beating San Jose 39-0, James Lick 39-6, Andrew Hill 50-8 and Evergreen Valley 60-6.
But Del Mar was the big test, and the game unfolded as anticipated.
“It was a nail-biter,” Cable said.
Del Mar scored first on a 35-yard run by junior Jakerion Thurman in the opening quarter. Horio answered with a 55-yard touchdown run later in the quarter.
Crochiere’s 55-yard pass to Jackson put Prospect in front 12-6 in the second quarter. Thurman’s 5-yard run evened the score 12-12.
Jackson hauled in a 30-yard scoring pass from Crochiere to make it 18-12 and Horio’s halfback pass to Jase Newton from 43 yards out just before halftime gave Prospect a 24-12 lead going into the break.
Prospect added the halfback option into the playbook for this game.
“We usually run an outside pitch,” Cable said. “We’ve been running that all season. We knew that they would be watching it on film. So we put it in this week. Championship week, we were going run that pitch and we’re going to have him throw out.”
Richard Chavez’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Thurman’s two-point conversion run pulled Del Mar to within 24-20.
Prospect sealed the victory — and unbeaten season — when Toa Tautolo caught a 21-yard TD pass from Kaiden Hoapili and Hoapili ran into the end zone on a two-point play with less than two minutes to go.
The last time Prospect had won a league championship was 1997, Cable said.
Clearly, this abbreviated season, delayed by seven months because of the pandemic, was worth the wait for the Panthers.
“Was it worth it? Absolutely,” Cable said. “To see the joy in these kids’ faces, to have something in their life — even when we’re going through it — to have normalcy in a year that everything has been ripped from them, every part of it was worth it.”
— Darren Sabedra
Look for many more Prospect-Del Mar photos at the bottom of this roundup.
James Lick 30, Yerba Buena 17
When James Lick went to the locker room at halftime trailing 17-0, Comets coach Michael Avalos delivered a quick speech to his players. “I told the kids we want to go out winners,” Avalos said.
Avalos and his three assistants aren’t coming back to Lick this fall. They want to continue coaching, preferably in the San Jose area, but none of them are on-campus at James Lick. “I’ve been here five years,” Avalos said. “Time to go somewhere else.”
The James Lick players — all 18 who were suited up — got the message. Running back Dekota Lopez scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, and 2-point conversions after both cut Yerba Buena’s lead to 17-16 heading into the final 12 minutes.
Quarterback/linebacker Somar Ramirez did the rest. The James Lick team captain scored on about a 40-yard run with about 2:2 left to play, and the 2-point conversion made it 24-17 Comets. Three plays later Ramirez returned an interception about 30 yards for a pick-six to put the game away.
James Lick finished the spring season 2-3. Yerba Buena was 0-4.
Avalos said he and his assistants will try to remain together, even if it means possibly taking a junior varsity coaching job.
— Mike Lefkow
Check back later for other games played Thursday.