SAN FRANCISCO – The last time Balboa was able to hoist its Buccaneers flag at midfield after a CIF San Francisco Section Turkey Day victory was way back in 1984.
That all changed on Thursday afternoon at historic Kezar Stadium. Now, after a 21-0 victory over two-time defending champion and state champion Lincoln, the boys from the Excelsior District school have ended the drought, and with the triumph Balboa won its 10th championship.
Prior to its last title, Balboa (8-4) had been a dominating force in the old Academic Athletic Association. The nine previous titles began in 1957 and included back-to-back championships in 1967-68 and 1975-76 when the likes of future pro stars Wilson Faumuina and the late Calvin Jones graced a Buccaneers uniform.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I know it’s hit the alumni, and my kids, and the coaching staff,” said Balboa head coach Fred Velasquez.
Velasquez, who took the Balboa helm in 2018, inherited a team that was 0-9 the previous season. He got the team to 5-4 and 6-6 the next two seasons before the pandemic canceled football last season in the San Francisco Section.
The section title game started in a similar fashion to the regular season matchup on October 17 when Lincoln won 7-0 in a game where neither offense could get much going.
“This time we got a little more focused, my coaching staff and my players, and we watched a ton of film, and we were more prepared,” Velasquez said
The first nearly 18 minutes of the title game was a series of drives by both teams that ended in turnovers, failed fourth down conversions, or punts.
In fact, the first score of the game and the only one it turned out Balboa needed came on special teams when Orlindale Scott-Carraway fielded a punt, lateraled it back to Devondre Black, and the senior got outside and raced 53 yards down the left sideline to the house for a score. Diego Salaverria booted home the extra point and the Buccaneers had a 7-0 lead with 6:39 left in the second quarter. That would be the only score of the first half.
“I knew the play would work,” Black said. “But it kind of shocked me when I got into the end zone.”
“We talked about special teams and knew we would break one off, either a kickoff or punt,” said Velasquez, who said that the lateral play was added in last Wednesday’s practice. “That play swung the momentum to us and we grabbed the reins from there.”
In many ways that special teams touchdown absolutely turned the game in Balboa’s favor. Even though they hadn’t scored, up until that point, Lincoln was actually moving the ball better and making fewer mistakes.
Lincoln (8-4) got the ball to begin the second half and ran off seven plays but only gained 23 yards and turned it over on downs at the Balboa 44.
Both teams predominately run the ball, but at that point Velasquez decided to go to the air. Seven of the nine plays of a 56-yard Balboa scoring drive were passes, including a fourth-and-12 26-yard touchdown pass from senior Ben Noroni to Scott-Carraway. Sophomore Dontae Allen-Wilson scored on 2-point conversion after a faked PAT and Balboa had a 15-0 lead with 4:40 to go in the third quarter. After the way the game was playing out at that point the game was pretty much decided.
Even so, the Lincoln coaches were shouting at the players to not give up and keep playing. From there the Mustangs went on the best drive of the game. But after 11 plays and 52 yards, they failed on fourth-and-goal from the eight. Lincoln would get two more possessions but both ended in interceptions for a team that rarely passes.
In between the interceptions, Balboa tallied the game’s final points on an 8-yard run by Antonio Artola with 2:39 remaining.
Noroni, who didn’t play quarterback in the first game against Lincoln, finished 8-for-16 for 135 yards, plus he rushed for 43 yards.
Lincoln got 123 yards rushing on 26 carries from junior Ricky Underwood, but the stingy Balboa defense held him to no gain on seven carries and losses on two attempts.
For the game Balboa only allowed 187 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers.
“Yes, we got outplayed today. It’s as simple as that,” said a disappointed but upbeat veteran Lincoln head coach Phil Ferrigno.
“They played hard. That made a great play on special teams to get seven, and we just couldn’t get our wheels going,” continued Ferrigno. “They challenged us and we didn’t respond to the challenge.
Ferrigno had won eight of 15 previous Turkey Day championship games in his 19 years at Lincoln, including four straight beginning in 2005 when the late great David Henderson was a sophomore
Balboa will await the decision of the CIF seedings to be determined on Sunday. The San Francisco Section team has drawn the lowest Bowl Game division for the Northern Regional playoffs but with some teams possibly opting out where that will be remains to be seen.
“To me we have some unfinished business,” remarked Velasquez about the upcoming CIF state playoffs
On a final note San Francisco Mayor London Breed addressed the crowd before the game and presented retiring SF Section Commissioner Donald Collins a certificate from the city and proclaimed the day Donald Collins Day.