A team with just 23 players on its varsity roster, Salesian College Preparatory was reportedly predicted to go 5-5 this year. That prediction didn’t pan out — at all.
The Pride are now 12-2 and making history, having won the North Coast Section Division VII title last month with a 50-29 victory over Ferndale, and having booked its ticket to the Division 6A CIF State Championship by defeating Santa Cruz High 35-14 on Friday.
The Pride have now won six NCS championships, in 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2019.
The Pride will face Bishop Union High School in the state title game on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Salesian’s Selway-Martin Field. Kick off is slated for noon.
Salesian also won the TCAL Rock Division Championship.
“The Northern California Regional Championship is a first for the Salesian program, which began playing football in 1960,” said Salesian Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Chad Nightingale.
Salesian has endured a small roster in part due to the loss of talented players who left the team in 2017 to focus on basketball or to transfer to other schools, according to a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle.
But those who remained came together in a remarkable way, according to Nightingale.
Quarterback Ronald Robertson, for example, was supposed to start on the JV team in 2017 but instead started on the varsity. He now has the most TD passes in school history, according to Nightingale.
“This year’s squad is led by a solid group of nine seniors, most of whom have been together playing varsity football since they were sophomores,” the coach said. “Over the past three years, the team has matured into a cohesive group of players.”
In a media interview with the Santa Cruz Sentinel following the victory over Santa Cruz High, Lineman Princeton Toki, set to play next season at UC Davis, credited the team’s hard work at practice for the success.
“Everything we do in the week, all the conditioning, and all the banging with our own teammates, we don’t know anyone as physical as us,” he said. “And we don’t underestimate our opponents….we come in humble. We come in ready to play.”
He added, “My sophomore year, we weren’t really good at all. Everybody was young. We took every loss, every feeling we felt, and then we just turned that into good energy in our senior year.”
And now, history is being made.
“Our sophomore year everybody doubted us. We were considerably one of the worst teams in Salesian history and now we’re here making history,” Robertson told the Sentinel.
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