- In the scheme of high school football, winning a San Francisco Section championship isn't exactly a Super Bowl.
Only eight teams make up the section and the play – as displayed Thursday at Kezar Stadium – is far from crisp or refined.
12-7 triumph over Washington in the 88th Turkey Day Game before about 1,500 brave and loyal fans was particularly intense and significant and Joe Albano finally admitted it.
The modest Mission coach's voice quivered as he made one last post-game speech to his team.
He had just led the Bears (9-3) to their first Turkey Day win since 1954, just two seasons after the program was almost disbanded due to poor grades and lack of participation.
A 17-yard touchdown sprint to the left pylon by Antione Porter off a nifty reverse call by Albano with 3 minutes, 48 seconds to play was the game-winner.
"This shows what you can accomplish if you set your mind to something and follow through," Albano told his team. "Now there are a million other things for you to accomplish in your life."
Playing their first Turkey Day Game since 1977, the Bears made history thanks largely to a stout defense that allowed a mere 106 yards, three first downs and forced three turnovers against the section's most prolific offense.
Defending champion Washington (9-3) beat Mission 28-7 during the regular season.
"We put the team on our defense's back," said Mission senior linebacker Miles Prescott, a Lincoln transfer who recorded both of his team's sacks, including one to end the game. "I'm so proud to be a part of this team."
Said Mission senior middle linebacker and quarterback Davon Hargraves: "Our goal on defense was to shut them out and that's exactly what we did."
Washington's only score came on a spectacular 93-yard punt return by Jamie McHenry with 1:50 left in the first quarter.
The way Washington's defense was playing – it gave up just 206 yards and recorded six sacks (two each by Sung Park and Charlie Yip) – the score looked like it might hold up.
But Hargraves connected with wide open Demitrius Thibeaux on a 25-yard scoring toss with 58 seconds left in the half to close to 7-6. Abraham Rivera blocked the extra point and despite gaining just 21 first-half yards, Washington maintained a 7-6 lead.
Washington maintained that lead until late in the fourth when Hargraves handed the ball to Algeron Malbrough, who pitched it to Porter who zipped to the far side and beat everyone to the pylon.
It was the perfect call for the perfect athlete – Porter added an interception and had a 49-yard TD run nullified by a penalty – and the Bears had the lead for good.
Hargraves, who was bottled up most of the night with 40 yards rushing on 22 attempts, threw a key block to spring Porter.
"I knew if I could get to the outside I could beat everyone to the pylon," Porter said. "I saw nothing but daylight. My line and (Hargraves) did a great job."
Said Hargraves: "Whatever it takes to win. … I can't tell you how great this feels. I haven't been able to get that number (1954) out of my head. I'm glad I can get rid of it now."
Albano said winning a Turkey Day Game wasn't a priority when he took over two years ago.
"My goal was to field a team and be consistent," he said. "I just figured if we got good kids and they worked hard then everything would fall into place. It just fell into place faster than I thought.
"I'm just so happy we're in the history books. The school has such a great history and I'm so happy to bring the fans and kids and community a football championship. It's been so long. It's really amazing."