A dramatic comeback championship game was met with real life drama Friday night in the final minutes of a Central Coast Section Division I game between Serra (San Mateo, Calif.)
and Saint Francis (Mountain View)
at Westmont (Campbell), about 50 miles south of San Francisco.
Gunfire broke out in the football stadium's parking lot with less than three minutes to play. According to San Jose Police Department reports, two man were struck and reported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
Serra had just taken a 16-12 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds remaining when the public address announcer asked the near capacity crowd of nearly 5,000 fans to "stay calm" and "stay down."
The St. Francis team laid belly down on the turf while Serra players and coaches ran for cover. The game was delayed about 40 minutes until assurances from law enforcement that all was safe to continue.
School officials praised those in the stadium for maintaining calm while law enforcement controlled the situation. According to San Francisco Chronicle
, police did not have any motive or suspects as of 9:30 p.m.
After 10 minutes of warmups, play continued and Serra hung on for the 16-12 victory, which vaults them into next week's CIF Regional championships. There's a possibility that the Padres (11-1) could be the Northern California top representative to face the nation's No. 1 team and Southern California selection Mater Dei (Santa Ana) in the Open Division title game scheduled for Dec. 11.
Shortly after the game, Serra coach Patrick Walsh didn't want to focus on the shooting outside stadium — "Don't want to give it any power, but of course, yes, it was chaotic. Insane," he said by phone. "I hope no kids....anyone has to go through something like that again. But we all got through it."
Walsh's team had lost a decisive 44-21 game just three weeks earlier to the same Lancers to decide the West Catholic Athletic League championship.
In that game, Saint Francis piled up nearly 400 yards rushing, including 344 on 45 carries and two touchdowns by Viliami Teu
. On Friday, he finished with 67 yards on 20 carries and no touchdowns. At Serra, St. Francis amassed 535 total yards. On Friday, just 193.
Serra, which managed just 194, held its own on the line this time.
The Padres took a 3-0 lead on a 49-yard field goal by Leonardo Galindo
early in the second quarter before Saint Francis (11-1) went up 6-3 on a 5-yard rushing TD from Camilo Arquette
, just before halftime. The extra point missed.
threaded the needed on a 21-yard touchdown strike to Sione Laulea
midway through the third quarter, giving Serra a 10-6 lead, but the Lancers answered on a beautiful 32-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Joshua Perry
midway through the fourth. Perry faked an inside handoff and on a naked bootleg outraced everyone to the end zone.
A second extra point try failed, making it 12-10 Saint Francis.
But Lampkin (132 total yards) and Petelo Gi
(12 carries, 66 yards) led a march for the go-ahead touchdown down field, mixing the run with the pass. Lampkin rolled right on a 3-yard keeper to put the Padres ahead, 16-12. After a failed two-point try failed, the gunshots were heard, the game was halted and all crouched or ran for cover.
Talk that the game would be suspended for another day was considered, but with law enforcement assurances, administrators on both sides and section officials agreed to continue.
Saint Francis reached midfield, but several pass attempts fell incomplete and the Padres hung on for the dramatic turnaround victory. They are now 7-0 in CCS title games, six under Walsh since 2001. Saint Francis has the most CCs titles with 16 but it has lost 13 finals, including the last four in a row.
"We had to turn some things around internally after the loss," Walsh said. "We needed to work on the soul of the group. We addressed that first. I think defensively and up front we made some great adjustments from the first time. Our coordinators did a great job with their plans and changes.
"It's one of the greatest wins I've been a part of in terms of turning things around over such a short time. We made a massive adjustment."
On the possibility of either playing in a regional game next week or skipping that to play Mater Dei in two weeks, Walsh was indifferent. "Wherever they put us we'll go play," he said. "If they say play Mater Dei, we'll go play Mater Dei. The good news is we have more football ahead of us."