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Article by Darren Sabedra San Jose Mercury News
Photo San Jose Mercury News
CAMPBELL — A season that began with a new coach and two consecutive losses ended in unforgettable triumph for Los Gatos on Saturday night.
Behind new leader Mark Krail, hired in the winter after longtime coach Butch Cattolico retired, the Wildcats rallied in the second half to beat St. Francis 31-14 at Westmont High for the Central Coast Section Division II championship.
In a rematch of last season’s Division II final, won by St. Francis, Los Gatos rode the arm of Nick Bawden, big plays from receivers Corey Olivet and Logan Chapman and Joey Wood’s hard running to win its 14th section title — one behind St. Francis.
“From 0-2 to CCS champions,” Krail told his smiling players during the celebration. “You’ve got to go through struggles to enjoy the wins. I could not be more proud. I have been doing this an awful long time. There has never been a better feeling in 27, 28 years of coaching.”
With Los Gatos (10-3) trailing by four points at halftime, the San Diego State-bound Bawden opened the second half with a 70-yard pass to Olivet to give Los Gatos a lead it would not relinquish.
Bawden’s 1-yard run with 7:34 to play stretched the advantage to 10, and Wood’s 9-yard run a few minutes later put the exclamation point on Krail’s first section championship. The win was Los Gatos’ 10th in 11 games.
“I’m so happy, so proud of coach Krail,” Bawden said. “Everybody doubted us when we were 0-2. But everybody in our locker room knew that we had it in us. We just really came out and showed it.”
That they did. The drive that might forever be etched in Los Gatos lore began on the 6-yard line. Seventeen plays and five third-down conversions later, Bawden scored from the 1 to make it 24-14.
Bawden completed passes on all five third downs in that series, including an 11-yard slant to Chapman that put the ball on the 1. Earlier, Bawden’s big arm and Olivet’s speed put the Wildcats in the end zone.
On a double-reverse flea-flicker in the second quarter, Bawden threw a 63-yard strike to Olivet that gave Los Gatos a 10-7 lead and served notice that the Wildcats were not in fear of their West Catholic Athletic League opponent.
“I’m so happy that we’re here right now,” Olivet said. “We knew we could win the entire time. We weren’t afraid of WCAL teams.”
St. Francis (9-4) opened the game with an impressive drive that featured its two primary runners, Alex Andrighetto and Landon Baty, and ended with Andrighetto’s 1-yard touchdown.
Los Gatos answered with its own standout tailback. Wood’s 46-yard run led to Chapman’s 41-yard field goal that cut the lead to 7-3.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Wood said. “We’ve been waiting all season for this, and we knew that we could win it if we never gave up. We just kept grinding, kept pushing down the field and we put up points.”
Los Gatos had two chances from deep inside St. Francis territory early in the game but came away empty both times.
The Lancers held on downs after Los Gatos moved inside the 10, but fumbled back to Los Gatos two plays later. St. Francis held again and then blocked a 27-yard field-goal try to maintain a 7-3 lead.
The double-reverse flea-flicker put Los Gatos in front 10-7, but St. Francis scored just before halftime on a 2-yard run by quarterback William Fischer-Colbrie to take a 14-10 advantage into the locker room.
“Hats off the Los Gatos, they’re a great team,” said Fischer-Colbrie, who transferred from Mountain View before the season. “I’ve played them three years at Mountain View, so I know what they’re capable of. They have 14 CCS championships now for a reason.” When the clock struck zero, Los Gatos’ bench erupted.
The Wildcats beat both CCS Division I finalists Milpitas and San Benito and now have beaten St. Francis, the only CCS team to beat Open Division champion Serra.
“This is just picture perfect for us right now,” Bawden said.
SF — Andrighetto 1 run (Fordham kick)
LG — Chapman 41 FG
LG — Olivet 63 pass from Bawden (Chapman kick)
SF — Fischer-Colbrie 2 run (Fordham kick)
LG — Olivet 70 pass from Bawden (Chapman kick)
LG — Bawden 1 run (Chapman kick)
LG — Wood 9 run (Chapman kick)
Records — Los Gatos 10-3; St. Francis 9-4.
Darren Sabedra is a writer for the San Jose Mercury News.