Skip to main content

Serra gets 'gritty' to beat Folsom in Northern California high school football Game of Week

In first game ever between two NorCal powers, No. 7 Serra uses depth and grit to beat the high-powered and host Bulldogs 17-12

FOLSOM, Calif. — There were bodies on the ground everywhere. Some were results of muscle cramps. Others were injuries. 

Serra-San Mateo football coach Patrick Walsh, even with a 78-man roster, was looking for bodies to put in. 

He called it "chaos." And "perseverance."  

Walsh also called it one of the grittiest and most chaotic wins in his 22-year coaching career, a 17-12 season-opening win at Folsom, California's eight-ranked team. 

The play on either side wasn't the prettiest. There were turnovers and costly penalties on both sides. But the intensity of both teams was unmistakable. 

Serra brought back its old scrum, double-wing offense — looks a lot like rugby — to help chew time off the clock and keep Folsom's electric offense off the field. 

Folsom moved the ball but had one big 60-yard touchdown nullified by penalty and had two key turnovers while seemingly going in for touchdowns. The second occurred with 3:04 left when Donovan Maxey-Parler was stripped at the 1, the ball rolled into the end zone where Alexander Atkins recovered. 

The Bulldogs never got the ball back. On fourth down from its own 30, Atkins took a snap and ran through the end zone for a safety. An odd, but fitting way to end this surprisingly defensive slugfest. 

Walsh said the team's chapel theme this week was "perseverance." Fittingly so. 

"They must have saw something coming because what we saw tonight was just a group of teenage kids persevering through cramp after cramp after cramp and injuries," he said. "The depth of the team really showed up. 

"The culture of 'next man up,' for us is 'bottom of the fire.' The strongest part of the fire is the bottom, not necessarily all the beautiful flames. We really saw that tonight. I was proud of the team persevering in a very difficult situation." 

The Padres, ranked seventh in the state by SBLive, were doing nothing offensively until a determined 52-yard scamper by Danny Niu in the middle of the second quarter set up a 3-yard TD run by Jabari Mann to go up 7-3. 

Niu's run seemed to epitomize Serra's will. 

Folsom (1-1) responded immediately as terrific 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Austin Mack completed a 9-yard touchdown to Donovan Maxey-Parler to make it 10-7 with 1:51 left in the half. 

Read More

The Padres, like they did all night, didn't flinch. They put together a 75-yard drive capped by a 25-yard touchdown strike from Maealiuaki Smith to Jayden Weber to give Serra a 14-10 lead. 

A 34-yard field goal in the third made it 17-10 and the Padres survived numerous Folsom threats, the last when a fumble in the Bulldogs' end zone was recovered by Alexander Atkins with 3:06 left. 

Serra got one first down, then with two seconds left on fourth down, they took a safety on the last play of the game.  

Even though the teams had never played before Friday, there was some recent history. 

Last season, the Padres were picked by the CIF to represent Northern California in the Open Division title game over Folsom, which went on to win a Division I-A NorCal title with a 28-27 win over De La Salle-Concord. 

Serra was awarded the region's top spot after winning the Central Coast Section Division I title over Saint Francis, a team that also defeated De La Salle last season. 

The Padres went on to lose 44-7 to the nation's No. 1 team Mater Dei-Santa Ana, while Folsom dropped a 33-21 state 1-A finale to Cathedral Catholic-San Diego. 

Much was made before Friday's game whether starting a week earlier than Serra gave Folsom an advantage. 

The Bulldogs opened the season last week with a 47-18 victory over Monterey Trail-Elk Grove. Like the rest of the Central Coast Section teams, Serra didn't open its season until Friday and coach Patrick Walsh also didn't scrimmage. 

The wear and tear of a long season has given many coaches reason to pause about just how much full contact — whether in practice or scrimmages — is truly beneficial. 

Folsom looked sharp in its opener last week, despite a crushing injury to its four-star tight end Walker Lyons in the first quarter. The Stanford-bound standout injured his leg and is out for the season. 

Despite that, the Bulldogs piled up 426 yards, including 342 yards passing and five touchdowns by Mack. He threw two touchdowns each to Rico Flores Jr. and Onterrio Smith Jr.

Here are photos from Friday night's game in Folsom:

All photos by Gary Jones

Serra-San Mateo football vs Folsom August 26, 2022 Photo-Gary Jones30
Serra-San Mateo football vs Folsom August 26, 2022 Photo-Gary Jones31
Serra-San Mateo football vs Folsom August 26, 2022 Photo-Gary Jones32