Championship game with Pinole Valley set for Thursday
The players on the Berkeley High football team admitted it all week: they were looking past Friday’s opponent, Richmond, to a potential showdown for the league title with Pinole Valley next Thursday. And on Friday, the Oilers put up little resistance to the ’Jackets’ dismissal, handing Berkeley an early lead and falling 68-14.
Berkeley piled up 516 total yards, including 442 on the ground, while holding Richmond to just 147 yards, most of them well after the game had been decided. Six different Berkeley players scored touchdowns in the rout.
“We feel pretty good about tonight’s game,” Berkeley head coach Matt Bissell said. “We did what we were supposed to do.”
Berkeley is now 5-0 in league play, and Pinole Valley went into Friday night’s game against Alameda undefeated in the ACCAL as well. Assuming the heavily-favored Spartans won their game (the result was unavailable at press time), Thursday’s game at Berkeley High will decide the league title and an automatic berth in the North Coast Section playoffs.
“We knew it would come down to us and Pinole all along,” said Berkeley’s Lee Franklin. “We started out rough (the ’Jackets were 0-3 to start the year), but we got it back on track.”
Berkeley’s biggest challenge will be to slow down Spartan running back DeAndre McFarland, who is the fifth-leading rusher in Northern California, averaging more than 150 yards per game.
“We plan on shutting (McFarland) down,” Berkeley linebacker Leonard Scarborough said. “Every time he gets over 150 yards, they win. So if we stop him, we’ll win it.”
Berkeley’s defense certainly shut down the Richmond running game on Friday night, as the Oilers managed just 55 rushing yards in the game despite running a wishbone offense designed to pick up yards on the ground. Defensive tackle Robert Hunter-Ford set the tone early, stuffing the first two Oiler plays for a net of -7 yards.
Hunter-Ford is playing tackle for the first time this year, having been moved inside when mammoth junior Jamal Lucas-Johnson went down with an ankle injury three games ago. The 300-pound Lucas-Johnson, who should be back for the Pinole Valley game, has been tutoring Hunter-Ford on interior play since his injury.
“I can’t replace the big man. He’s taught me everything I know,” Hunter-Ford said.
Friday night’s game turned into a laugher quickly. When their first drive died a quick death, the Oilers called on the punt team. But the snap was low, and Berkeley recovered the ball on the Richmond 14 yard-line. Three plays later, tailback Craig Hollis ran one in from four yards out, and the rout was on.
The next Richmond drive resulted in another three-and-out, and this time the punt snap was good. But Scarborough broke through and blocked the punt, recovering the ball on the 1. Fullback Roger Mason plunged over the goal line for another Berkeley score on the next play.
Berkeley would score two more touchdowns in the opening quarter to take a 27-0 lead, and the ’Jackets coaches began pulling their starters to rest up for next week’s big game. Quarterback Raymond Pinkston didn’t play in the second half, while starting tailback Germaine Baird sat after just nine rushes, although he did pile up 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Second half highlights included two long touchdown runs by Mario Mejia, who has now scored all three times he has touched the ball this season, and a 36-yard reverse for a touchdown by speedy wideout Sean Young.