Most of the prep high school games I’ve shot this season have been one-sided affairs. Only one or two were what could be called close. Friday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal game between rivals St. Mary’s High and Lincoln High schools made up for all those blowouts.
St. Mary’s Josh Harper leaves Lincoln’s Anthony Dials grasping at a missed tackle in the San Joaquin Section semi final at St. Mary’s High in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D2x. Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: f/2.8 @ 1/320, ISO 1250)
It was the first time that the two north Stockton rivals have ever met in the semifinals. When I talked with our reporters before the game, they said that the 11-1 St. Mary’s Rams were likely to win handily over the 8-3 Lincoln Trojans. They played each other earlier in the year during the regular season with St. Mary’s winning by about 30 points. I prepared myself for another lopsided game, but Lincoln showed that it would be anything but a cakewalk for their opponents.
Lincoln’s David Hayselden tries to escape the grasp of St Mary’s Sam Clark during a game at St Mary’s in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: f/2.8 @ 1/800, ISO 3200)
After being scored on first, the Trojans came back and pulled ahead by a point in the early goings of the game. The Rams showed why they’re one of the top teams in the area and racked up a 10 point lead in the second quarter. But Lincoln never gave up. Even after being scored on, they thwarted every St. Mary’s PAT attempt during the game.
St. Mary’s QB Cody Vaz is hit by Lincoln’s Dan Wiggins in the first quarter of the section semi final. (Camera: Nikon D2x. Nikkor 300mm. Exposure: f/2.8 @ 1/320, ISO 1250)
I covered a Lincoln practice a few days before the big game. At the end, head coach Jim Rubiales told his team that if their defense held St. Mary’s to 28 points or less, the Trojans had a shot at winning. The Lincoln defense rose to the occasion and didn’t allow another St. Mary’s point for the rest of the game.
St. Mary’s Sam Mafi celebrates their win over Lincoln in the section semi final. (Camera: Nikon D2H. Nikkor 17-35mm @ 17mm. Exposure: f/2.8 @ 1/250, ISO 800)
The Trojans pulled within three points in the third period. It was close, but St. Mary’s defense also put out a great effort and held them off and the Rams went on to win the game 24-21.
Both teams played with skill, intensity and heart. It was a shame that only one of teams could win.