Big Little Game memories: Past high-stakes games for both Antioch, Pittsburg

Antioch's Jerone Simmons, #25, can't stop Pittsburg's Robert Jiles, #6, after making a 42-yard touchdown pass in the 1st quarter during the 90th annual Big Little Game on Saturday, November 15, 2008 in Antioch, Calif. Pittsburg defeated Antioch 42-0. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

Antioch’s Jerone Simmons, #25, can’t stop Pittsburg’s Robert Jiles, #6, after making a 42-yard touchdown pass in the 1st quarter during the 90th annual Big Little Game on Saturday, November 15, 2008 in Antioch, Calif. Pittsburg defeated Antioch 42-0. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)

There’s much on the line with Saturday’s Big Little Game featuring Antioch and Pittsburg. Both teams are undefeated in league play, making this one at Pittsburg at 1:30 p.m. winner-take-all for the BVAL championship.
There are countless stories of dramatic games, upsets and fantastic finishes in the rivalry that dates back to 1924 – enough for several books. Usually the stakes are high for at least one of the two rivals. But how often both Antioch and Pittsburg had a chance at a league championship in the Big Little Game?
Here are some recollections of a few games when stakes were high for both teams (we know there are many more):
2002 – Pittsburg 31, Antioch 21. Antioch and Pittsburg met tied for the BVAL lead, and the Panthers led 21-7 at the half, recalls Ruben Luna Jr., Antioch’s starting center that day. Luna has fonder memories of the 2001 game, which Antioch won 21-19. Luna’s father, Ruben Sr., played for Antioch teams in 1977-78 that won the BLG and went on the NCS championship game both times. Those were the last Antioch football teams to reach an NCS final, creating the inspiration for the son to follow the father to Big Little Game glory.
1991 – Pittsburg went to beat Antioch 26-20 in overtime in a game where playoff berths were on the line for both teams. Longtime Bay Area sports reporter Steve Dulas, who covered this game for the Ledger Dispatch, says of this game “It may have been the best high school game I have ever seen. You don’t often see the emotional momentum carry through for all four quarters, and then into overtime.”
A diving catch by Percy McGee of a Chris Shipe pass gave the Pirates the win.
“They sold out of 10,000; they wouldn’t let anyone else in … it was amazing,” said Herc Pardi, who was in his first year as head coach at Pittsburg. Pardi recalled a standout defensive play by future Oakland Raider Regan Upshaw that set up the overtime touchdown.
Pittsburg went to beat De La Salle in the NCS 3A championship game, to this date the last time a Northern California team has beaten De La Salle.
1984 – Antioch 18, Pittsburg 6: Heading into this game, Antioch had one loss, and in winning this BLG handed Pittsburg its first defeat on a rainy field in Antioch. This created a three-way in the DVAL with Antioch, Pittsburg and Northgate. Pardi recalls that a coin-flip left Pittsburg as the odd team out, with Antioch and Northgate moving on to NCS. The result was tough for Pittsburg after going into the BLG as undefeated league leaders, and the end result of not going to NCS.
1970 – Antioch 40, Pittsburg 32. After a loss to Ygnacio Valley earlier in the season, Antioch came back and won this BLG. Tom Lamothe, coordinator of Antioch Sports Legends, recalls this shooting between future BYU quarterback Gary Sheide of Antioch and Pittsburg QB Steve Camitz.
1966 – Antioch 13, Pittsburg 13: Both teams headed into this Big Little Game undefeated. This one was staged the next-to-last week of the regular season, says Pittsburg football historian Bob Lewis, the city’s former mayor. It was Lewis’ senior year, and he recalls the game like it was yesterday.
Going into the game, Antioch had last won the BLG in 1947, before any of the current players in ’66 were born. The Diablo Valley Athletic League title was at stake. Antioch scored twice to take a 13-0 halftime lead, and Pittsburg’s star running back Carlos Harris suffered what was thought to be a sprained ankle.
On the second play of the second half, Harris, whose ankle was taped up at halftime, ran 62-yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 13-7. “Then Harris collapsed in the end zone. It turned out it was a broken ankle, not a sprained ankle. So he ran 62 yards on a broken ankle,” Lewis recalls. Pittsburg scored a second touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a holding call during the point-after on Pittsburg led to a missed kick and a 13-13 tie.
The following week, Antioch beat Pacifica and won the DVAL title, finishing the regular season 8-0-1. Pittsburg still finished undefeated at 7-0-2, but took its second tie that final week 0-0 against Pleasant Hill High, playing without Harris and then losing quarterback Butch Cattolico — who went to a fabled career as coach at Los Gatos High for 36 years– to a concussion.
– After a 6-6 tie in 1968, the pendulum swung Antioch’s way in the rivalry, with 11 straight wins from 1969 to 1979, during the heyday of legendary Panthers coach Marv Comstock. When Larry Rodriguez (later the first varsity coach at Freedom) took over the Pittsburg program, the Pirates seized back control for much of the 1980s.
– More recently, Antioch scored a 27-21 double overtime win in 2006, and Pittsburg has since won the last nine meetings, including one in the 2011 NCS playoffs.
–Last year’s 17-14 Pittsburg win was the closest margin of victory since Antioch’s 21-19 win in 2001.


Irvington football forfeits five wins

The Irvington High football team is forfeiting its five wins this season because of the use of an ineligible player, assistant principal Jay Jackson confirmed late this afternoon.
The forfeits will not affect the Mission Valley Athletic League title race. The Vikings will play Moreau Catholic on Friday, Jackson confirmed. The Mariners, at 4-1 in the MVAL, are tied for first place with American, which beat Irvington 54-38 on Oct. 24. Washington, which has a 4-2 league mark, also beat Irvington on the field.
Jackson said that the ineligible player participated in the team’s first seven games.
Irvington’s on-field victories over Lincoln-San Francisco, Hill-San Jose, Santa Cruz, Newark Memorial and Mission San Jose will be reversed. The Vikings will enter Friday’s game with an 0-9 overall record.
Jackson said that the player’s grade point average was incorrect on his transcript before he took a summer class, and after it, it was still too low to meet Fremont Unified School District standards. Jackson said the error was reported to the North Coast Section by Irvington after it was discovered.
“It was my responsibility to look grade-by-grade. I messed up. I didn’t do it on purpose,” Jackson said. “What really gets me is that (the team) didn’t make the mistake, I made the mistake and they will have to suffer the consequences. It hits me really hard. Last year the team was 0-10 … these guys worked unbelievably hard. They had this amazing season.”


Campolindo boys basketball coach scaling back duties

Campolindo High School boys basketball coach Matt Watson will be scaling back his duties with the team this season, Campolindo athletic director Tom Renno told me this afternoon.
“He is going to be the general manager of the program. His work schedule picked up this season, so he is having to scale back his day-to-day work with the program,” said Renno about the off-campus coach. “He will still be overseeing the program. We are hopeful he will be back next season.”
Kearey Smith, a varsity assistant last season, will take over the day-to-day coaching responsibilities, Renno said.
Renno said that the change was not sudden. “It’s been something that’s been in the works,” he said.
Watson did not immediately return a call regarding this news.
The successful Watson guided the Cougars to the CIF Division III state championship game last season, where the Cougars fell to Damien-La Verne 70-57. He also led the Cougars to the CIF Northern California Division III championship game in 2013
Watson became head coach of the Cougars in 2008. In the past seven seasons, his teams have a 159-54 overall record and a 68-16 mark in Diablo Foothill Athletic League play with four league championships.


Tip-Off Classic schedule

Here’s the schedule for this year’s Prep2Prep Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 28 at Newark Memorial High. As usual, this boys basketball showcase is loaded with great matchups.

11 a.m. – Saint Mary’s-Berkeley vs. Manteca

12:30 p.m. – Bishop O’Dowd vs. Dublin

2:15 p.m. – Immanuel-Reedley vs. Weston Ranch-Stockton

3:45 p.m. – Sheldon-Sacramento vs. Army-Navy Academy-Carlsbad

5:30 p.m. – Modesto Christian vs. Folsom

7 p.m. – Newark Memorial vs. Woodcreek-Roseville

8:30 p.m. – Moreau Catholic vs. Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth


Najee Harris selected as national player of the week

Antioch High football star Najee Harris was named U.S. Army All-American Bowl High School Player of the Week today after an extraordinary performance against Liberty on Oct. 23.

The junior, who has committed to Alabama, rushed for 360 yards and scored 48 of his team’s points in a 55-37 victory. He scored rushing touchdowns of 59, 37, 49, 1, 70 and 7 yards, and also reached the end zone on six two-point conversions. Harris had four runs of 46 yards or longer in the game.



Brooke Starn shines at Mt. SAC Invitational

Monte Vista High girls cross country star Brooke Starn won the Division 1 and 2  individual girls sweepstakes race at the Mt. SAC Invitational on Saturday with an outstanding time of 16 minutes, 55 seconds for the 3.0 mile course. She won by 25 seconds over second-place Mikayla Sodersten of Clovis. Starn led Monte Vista to the team title.

Monte Vista’s boys team also won the team title in its Division I boys sub-sweepstakes, led by a second-place finish by Timothy Chrisman (15:28) and fifth-place finish by Tristan Miller (15:39). James Logan’s Chester Quero had a top-five finish in a Division I boys race (16:16).

On Friday, the St. Joseph Notre Dame boys team placed third in the Division V boys sweepstakes race behind a second-place finish by Cooper Teare. His very impressive time of 14:48 was only three seconds behind winner Jack Van Scoter of Flintridge.


Nate Fripp leaves Saint Mary’s for UC Santa Barbara coaching position

Nate Fripp, who coached Saint Mary’s girls basketball program to five North Coast Section Division 4 championships and two Northern California Division 4 titles, is leaving for the college game.
Fripp discussed with me today his move to be an assistant women’s basketball coach at UC Santa Barbara. The university announced the hiring Tuesday.
“I thought it was time that I tried to do something different,” said Fripp, a 1996 Saint Mary’s High graduate who started coaching at his alma mater in 2004. “The next level of basketball is definitely something different and challenging.
“I wanted to grow. It was an opportunity to grow.”
Fripp said that he heard about the opening recently and told his team on Monday about his decision.
“It’s very difficult,” said Fripp about leaving Saint Mary’s. “It’s difficult to leave there, my friends, people I care about.”
In his 11 years guiding the Panthers, Fripp had a 281-81 overall record and 120-14 mark in league regular-season play. During that time, his teams won at least a share of five league titles. Fripp was named this newspaper’s East Bay Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in 2010 after guiding his team to a 31-4 overall record and the CIF Division IV state championship game. Saint Mary’s won five NCS titles in a six-year period between 2009 and 2014.


James Logan football coach George Zuber to step back after season

James Logan High football coach George Zuber said that he told his team today that he will be stepping back from the head coaching position at the end of this season to spend more time with his two sons, who are 15 and 12-years-old.

“I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and regret not spending more time with them before they go off to college,” said Zuber, 42. “I will still be involved with Logan football in some capacity … I will not be the head coach.”

Zuber has guided the Colts to eight winning seasons in the past nine years since he became the head coach in 2006, and James Logan has a 5-1 record this year. In his winning seasons, his teams’ worst overall record was 8-4.

Currently, Zuber has a 84-27 overall record. His teams reached the North Coast Section Division I championship game in 2012 and the NCS 4A semifinals in 2007. He had a 34-1 record in Mission Valley Athletic League play before his team gained independent status in 2012. Zuber said that he will continue to teach economics and government at James Logan.



East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (7-7): The Cougars fended off pesky Alhambra, which was ranked last week, in five games — reason enough to keep them here, especially since they’ve swept No. 2 Monte Vista. 
  2. Monte Vista (15-3): Holding off No. 12 California in five games, with the help of 32 kills from Catherine Kaylbaugh, and sweeping Livermore showed the Mustangs are cruising along.
  3. Bishop O’Dowd (12-7): The Dragons swept Castro Valley after going 3-4 at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, where they lost to defending divisional champions from Arizona and Colorado.
  4. Head-Royce (19-0): Three more sweeps means the Jayhawks go into Thursday’s match against the team that bounced them from the NCS Division 5 playoffs last year (University) looking for a 20th straight victory.
  5. Foothill: (14-5): The Falcons made a case for movement up by sweeping No. 11 Carondelet and No. 15 Granada, though they stay put because there isn’t anywhere up to go.
  6. Miramonte (13-5): Beating bubble teams Dublin (in four games) and Dougherty Valley (in five) ensured the Mustangs remain at this spot.
  7. San Ramon Valley (12-4) The Wolves swept No. 15 Granada and outlasted No. 15 California in five games, keeping them in place — the last team to do so before some ranking shakeups.
  8. Amador Valley (11-5): The Dons defeated Carondelet in four games to bump up two spots.
  9. Albany (15-5): The Cougars jump four spots because of laegue sweeps over strong Saint Mary’s and St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
  10. James Logan (15-4): The Colts swept Moreau Catholic and Washington in league play to move up four places.
  11. Carondelet (11-5): Losses to No. 8 Amador Valley and No. 5 Foothill meant the Cougars couldn’t stay as high as eighth.
  12. California (12-6): The Grizzlies kept up with No. 2 Monte Vista and No. 7 San Ramon Valley, but even losses in five games are losses, so they fall a spot.
  13. Saint Joseph Notre Dame (13-4): The Pilots swept Salesian and Swett to move up two spots.
  14. Irvington (14-6): The Vikings swept two more Mission Valley Athletic League teams, Mission San Jose and Kennedy, to advance to 5-0 in their league and enter our rankings.
  15. Granada (10-7): The Matadors were swept by No. 5 Foothill and No. 7 San Ramon Valley to fall six spots but stay in it.

On the bubble: Alhambra (14-7), Liberty (15-8), Acalanes (6-4), Dougherty Valley (10-10), Dublin (9-4).


De La Salle football will have more EBAL opponents next season

The De La Salle High football team will have more games against East Bay Athletic League teams next season.
EBAL commissioner Don Nelson confirmed today that at the EBAL Board of Governors meeting last month, it was decided that De La Salle would have five mandatory EBAL opponents and four EBAL teams will have the option to opt-out. The mandatory opponents are Monte Vista, California, San Ramon Valley, Amador Valley and Foothill. This format will be evaluated after two years, Nelson said. Dougherty Valley and Dublin will be joining the East Bay Athletic League in the 2016-17 school year. The EBAL will be one league, not two divisions, for football, Nelson said.
This season, De La Salle only has two regular-season games against EBAL teams: San Ramon Valley on Oct. 9 and California on Nov. 6. Also on its 2015 schedule is three Southern Section teams (Servite-Anaheim. Orange Lutheran, Long Beach Poly), two Sacramento-area powers (Granite Bay and Del Oro-Loomis), one Central Coast Section team (Serra-San Mateo), one out-of-state team (Trinity-Euless, Texas) and three North Coast Section squads (San Ramon Valley, California, James Logan).