For the first time in school history, the Wilcox Chargers are Champions in the Northern California region. After an absolutely thrilling 34-30 victory over visiting Capital Christian (Sacramento) in the Division 3-A NorCal final, Wilcox will now host Kaiser High School out of Fontana — a town about a one-hour drive due east of Los Angeles — for the State Championship.
“It’s crazy, because last week we were down [after the CCS final loss] and it’s a complete different feeling this week. I’m on cloud nine,” said Chargers’ senior quarterback Alex Adame who took advantage of the Capital Christian defense on the read option. Adame kept the ball himself 12 times for 119 yards. “It feels great getting this win. I’m so happy for the team, we deserved this all year. We may not have won CCS, but it feels great to win a NorCal game.”
Both of Adame’s two completions in the passing game went for touchdowns against the Cougars. The first to star senior wide receiver Ryan Cooper Jr. on a deep in route for a 42-yard score in the first half. The second to fellow senior Nick Malvini late in the fourth quarter, extending the Chargers’ lead to 34-24. Malvini’s grab came on a perfectly lofted pass from Adame into the corner of the endzone just over the outstretched hands of the defensive back. For Malvini, who has played almost exclusively as a safety this season, it was a helluva time for his first catch of the year.
“I’m pretty sure that was my first one,” chuckled Malvini on the clutch touchdown. “We run the play a lot when we run passing plays in practice. Once we get teams biting on the run, we just pop those passes. Adame dropped it in perfect, no better place he could have put that ball. As soon as I saw him let go of it, I knew we had it.”
To his own credit, Malvini had to leap up for the ball and secure it as he fell backwards to the ground — not an easy catch.
“He was a tight end previously and one of our guys ended up getting hurt,” remarked Wilcox Head Coach Paul Rosa on using Malvini in the passing game. “We were trying not to play guys both ways, but this late in the season, we had an injury and he could play it. We really only had that one play for him. It was a great play. He would have been a great offensive player. Big for him, glad for him, he deserves it.”
Along with the big plays from Adame and the receivers, the usual suspects for the Chargers played key roles as always. Junior tailback Paul M. Rosa rushed for 94 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns, and senior running back Gabe Herrera churned out a tough 62 yards on 16 carries.
“Our two backs do it all the time,” remarked coach Rosa on Herrera and his son falling forward for a tough three yards. “They are not big, but they run powerful.”
The Chargers ground game was looking sharp all night long, including on their final drive when it looked like they could run the clock out. After a quick score by Capital Christian, the Chargers took over with just over four minutes to play up 34-30. Strong runs by Rosa and Herrera quickly picked up a couple of first downs. Out of nowhere though, it felt as if deja vu was about to strike. Just as they had done in the same spot in their CCS Championship loss to Menlo-Atherton, Wilcox turned the ball over on a fumble.
With under two minutes remaining the Cougars picked up a big first down catch down to the Chargers’ 12 yard line. Looking poised to score a go-ahead touchdown, the Cougars dropped back to pass, but Chargers’ defensive-end Alejandro Brizuela came flying in with a strip sack. Capital Christian would recover the fumble, but were left with a 4th-and-25 situation from the 32-yard line. On the ensuing final desperation play, Chargers’ junior Tyler Rowland would come up with yet another sack, preventing the Cougars from even getting off a last gasp throw with 45 seconds left.
It was yet another amazing defensive stand by a Chargers’ defense that seems to have figured out a way to have short-term memories. In both the CCS Championship and the NorCal Championship, the Wilcox defense at times appeared unable to stop the opposing offense. But on multiple occasions in both games, just when you thought the opposing offense had all the momentum, the Chargers defense dug deep and found a way to get the job done.
“We have a great defense, we just put them in bad situations as an offense,” chimed Herrera. “If we turn it over, that’s on us. I think we have one of the best defenses in the entire state. It’s great to get this win on the backs of our defense. If they don’t get those two sacks, we don’t win this game. They may have put 30 points on the board, but half of that is on our offense.”
“[Short term memory] is something you have got to have,” confirmed coach Rosa on his defense. “We talk about playing the next play, the most important play is the next one, can’t do anything about the previous one. Our defense has been good all year and they came through big in a clutch time tonight.”
Wilcox made a plethora of big plays throughout the game on both sides of the ball against Capital Christian. Memorably, the Chargers’ first points came on a 99-yard kickoff return by Cooper Jr. and a key interception by Rosa with just over eight minutes remaining led to the eventual game-winning touchdown by Malvini.
Next week’s state Championship between host Wilcox and visiting Kaiser will kickoff Saturday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m.