17 Nov Salesian Football Begin Playoff Push With Victory Against St. Mary’s
Salesian Pride sophomore receiver Carlton Perriliat Jr., center, fights for extra yardage while being pursued by four St. Mary’s Panthers defenders.
Story and photos by Joe Porrello
Salesian College Preparatory High took down St. Mary’s High 21-13 on Nov. 10 at home in round one of the North Coast Section Division 6 Football Championship Playoffs.
Having won a tightly contested matchup (18-14) in Albany between the teams two months earlier, the Pride planned on the Panthers giving them all they could handle while trying to avenge their loss and keep their season alive.
“We knew they wanted revenge, and we knew we had to bring fire,” said Pride senior running back Luis Dejesus.
Things heated up immediately, as Salesian High nearly turned the game’s first offensive play into a touchdown. With no defenders near the Pride receiver who made the catch, he began to hold the ball away from his body in celebration — causing him to fumble it out of bounds.
Righting the ship on the next play, the Pride cracked the scoreboard first with a 20-yard rushing touchdown courtesy of Dejesus.
“I wanted to set the tone for my teammates,” he said.
St. Mary’s High would also notch a long touchdown via ground on their first drive when senior running back Elijah Hines broke the plane.
There were many penalty flags in the opening frame, a trend that would continue throughout the matchup and keep either team from gaining any significant momentum or an insurmountable lead.
“I think we had 15-plus penalties…it was crazy,” said Pride head coach Chad Nightingale. “That’s something we really have to work on and clean up.”
The Pride opened the second quarter as they did the first, tallying another score on junior quarterback Marcus Burke’s goal line sneak.
Burke had been out with a knee injury for six weeks before being cleared to play less than two days before the Nov. 10 game — not knowing if he would start until game time.
Pride head coach Chad Nightingale noted how proud he was of Burke for being thrust into a tough position and persevering.
“It was a huge boost for us because we can do more on offense,” he said.
Nightingale also highlighted the play of senior and 2023 First-Team All-League defensive end Timmy Nguyen.
“He was all over the place; it was phenomenal,” he said.
Unable to capitalize on ideal field position after a long kickoff return coming out of halftime, Panthers sophomore quarterback Sutton Ralls had his pass tipped and picked off by Pride senior defensive back Ethan Alfonzo at the goal line — the game’s only turnover.
“I saw the ball in the air and knew it was my chance,” said Alfonzo. “I play every game as the shortest guy on the field, but as someone small, you can make big plays.”
Salesian would turn the interception into points, methodically marching 95 yards on a drive taking most of the third quarter and ending in a touchdown caught by sophomore receiver Carlton Perriliat Jr. to give them a two-score cushion.
St. Mary’s scored late in the final quarter to tighten up the margin but could not stop the Pride from getting a first down and running out the clock on the ensuing possession.
“I feel like that was a big rivalry for us, so to win that is a game changer,” said Alfonzo, “It’s definitely going to drive us into the next game.”
One Pride player leaving the field told his teammate it was the hardest game he ever played in.
“It was a hot day. Our linemen were huffing and puffing,” said Dejesus.
Salesian handed the Panthers their lone home loss of the season (3-1) earlier this year, and the Pride have now won five straight head-to-head matchups with St. Mary’s.
Without an overall winning record in nine years, the Panthers 14 seniors playing in their last game have something to be proud of by finishing the season at 6-5 overall.
Dejesus said the 12 Pride seniors are happy to defend their home turf and that they get to play at least another game but also have their eyes set on a long postseason run.
“I gotta push my teammates; iron sharpens iron,” he said.
With seven NCS titles in his 28 years as head coach, Nightingale said the feeling of a playoff win and push toward a championship never gets old.
“You know, I’m excited,” he said. “More than anything else, I’m excited for the kids.”
In the second round, Salesian High will face Moreau Catholic High in Hayward on Friday.
The Pride are comfortable away from home, playing seven of 11 games on the road this season and losing just once.
The Mariners were the only team to beat the Panthers in Richmond this season, and Alfonzo said his team is eager to get retribution for their loss homecoming night.