SAN MATEO Late Saturday afternoon, Serra coach Patrick Walsh took a couple of glances at the scoreboard. His team had won. It was still undefeated. And it had just clinched at least a share of a league championship.
But the scoreboard still had the longtime coach marveling:
Serra 10, Valley Christian 0
In the aftermath of losing star quarterback Daylin McLemore to a season-ending injury a week earlier, Walsh challenged his players to step it up, to do their part, to pick up the enormous void left by McLemore’s absence.
But a shutout, on this stage, against that opponent?
“When you lose arguably the star of the team, potential MVP of the league and that sort of thing in Daylin McLemore, we asked everyone to get better,” Walsh said. “As it came to fruition, the defense was the star of the game. The defense was really the anchor that picked up Daylin the most today.
“They didn’t score. I never would have guessed that we could shut out Valley Christian. But something special is happening here, with this group of kids. Something very unique and very special by the way they act. That defensive performance was special.”
Dominique Lampkin, an athletic sophomore, stepped in for McLemore, an enormous task that had the kid cramming all week as if he were studying for the SAT.
Not only was it his first start for the Padres, but he was also facing an aggressive, swarming defense that has given up very few points all season.
Lampkin got an immediate introduction. He dropped the first snap of the game and was swallowed for a 10-yard loss to the 6.
It didn’t faze him.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, go on to the next play,” Lampkin said.
On the second series, the quarterback got the Padres moving with short passes and a few runs, including a 20-yard keeper that pushed Serra (9-0, 6-0 West Catholic Athletic League) out of the shadow of its own end zone.
The drive stalled at the Valley Christian 9 and a 26-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left.
Serra, ranked third by Bay Area Preps HQ, moved into scoring position later in the half as a short punt gave the Padres the ball at the Valley 41. A 19-yard run by Hassan “The Missil3” Mahasin put Serra at the Valley 22.
But on third-and-13 from the 15, Kavir Bains intercepted a pass for second-ranked Valley (8-1, 5-1) and the undefeated teams eventually went into the locker room tied 0-0 at halftime.
The defenses continued to dominate after the break, with the game turning on … what else? A defensive play. Damon Lewis picked off a pass for Serra and returned it 25 yards to the Valley 22.
Valley’s defense rose to the occasion to force a field-goal attempt, but the Warriors jumped offside to extend the series.
Two plays after the infraction, Jackson Lataimua took a short pitch from Lampkin and followed the right side of the line for a 2-yard touchdown that gave Serra a 7-0 lead with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Lewis’ 32-yard field goal nearly five minutes into the fourth quarter made it 10-0, insurance points that came after Lampkin guided the Padres on a 71-yard drive to the Valley 15.
“I always knew he had just a high level of confidence,” Walsh said of Lampkin. “He’s not one of those kids that gets a deer-in-the-headlights type of thing. He wears his mistakes with his head high. He made some mistakes today, some poor decisions, but he also made some wonderful decisions. Some really timely throws that were impressive to see, particularly under duress and under pressure.”
Serra finished with 120 yards on the ground and 77 through the air.
Valley had an even rougher time against Serra’s defense, which recorded five sacks while holding the Warriors to 66 yards rushing and 34 passing.
“We just had trouble up front,” said Valley coach Mike Machado, whose program has not won at Serra since 2009. “We had a little bit of it in the St. Ignatius game. They had some big guys up front. But this is a tough venue to play in. We’ve experienced that now more than a few times. But you can’t go by the venue. You got to come play your game and make plays. We had a chance to make plays, and we didn’t.”
With one game left before the playoffs, Serra holds a one-game lead in the West Catholic Athletic League standings over Valley and St. Ignatius. The Padres visit S.I. next Saturday, one day after Valley closes out the regular season at home against Mitty.
If Serra wins next week, the Padres are outright WCAL champs. A loss could leave the league with a three-way tie for the crown.
Walsh’s thoughts were mostly on the outcome Saturday that assured his team of hanging a league-title banner in the gymnasium once again.
“Today was a championship game,” he said. “To me what stands out is they got zero points. That’s a defensive masterpiece.”