You wonder if the Campolindo High School football team got a chuckle when it read the preseason forecasts from the local media.
Uh, probably not.
The Cougars, who were picked to finish last in their league by some newspaper, played like they were fighting mad. They won their first 14 games before losing by a mere five points to Washington Union-Fresno in the Division III California Interscholastic Federation title game in Carson.
OK, so Campo was underrated -- a lot.
That hopefully won't stop Brett Stephens and Griffin Piatt from taking a well-earned bow when the Top 125 athletes from Alameda and Contra Costa County high schools are honored at the Bay Area News Group East Bay's High School Athletes of the Year awards show. This year's event takes place June 6 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.
The names of the first 100 student-athletes are being published Sunday. Twenty-five more will be chosen in the coming weeks.
This is not an easy list to crack. Judging by the amount of success stories over the last nine months, this school year has been as magical as any that came before it.
None topped Campo's gridiron journey. In one of the most surprising turnarounds in East Bay football history, the Moraga school went from a losing record in 2010 to being a touchdown short of winning a CIF crown.
The Cougars pushed their record to 14-0 by capturing the North Coast Section Division III title with a
The same thing can be said about Albany's girls volleyball team, which advanced to the state final for the first time in program history. In November, the Cougars started their postseason journey by winning their first section title since 2000, then won two close matches in the Northern California playoffs to advance to the state Division III title match.
Albany was on the cusp of winning a CIF state championship, but lost 25-15, 23-25, 21-25, 31-29, 16-14 to Cathedral Catholic-San Diego.
Also in the fall, the De La Salle High football team won its 20th straight NCS title and went on to capture a third straight CIF state championship in the open division. The Salesian football team won a second straight NCS Division IV title and McClymonds won a second straight Oakland Section crown.
Local individuals shined, too. Campolindo's Carrie Verdon repeated as Division III state champion in cross country. In the boys races, St. Joseph Notre Dame's Nick Ratto (Division V) and Campolindo's Thomas Joyce (Division III) each took third in their respective state championship races.
The winter season also saw no shortage of statewide success. In wrestling, three East Bay athletes advanced to state finals, including Brian Sergi of College Park. Sergi had advanced to the state tournament in 2010 but did not finish in the top eight. This March he cruised though his first three matches and captured the semifinal and final matches in scintillating fashion, joining an exclusive list of East Bay wrestlers in the last decade to win a state crown.
In NCS Division I soccer, De La Salle won a fourth straight boys title, stretching its section playoff win streak to 15 games. Monte Vista, which had three times as many freshmen (nine) on its roster than seniors (three), won its first section crown since 2005.
Bishop O'Dowd High in Oakland had a winter season to remember as four teams won section championships.
The boys and girls soccer team each won a NCS Division II crown, and the boys and girls basketball teams each won a NCS Division III title. Bishop O'Dowd's girls basketball team, behind one of the most talented junior classes in East Bay history, went on to capture the state championship. Bishop O'Dowd's boys basketball team advanced to the Northern California final.
The most electrifying basketball team in the area, though, presided at Salesian High in Richmond. Behind the unbridled talents of junior Jabari Bird, the Pride won the Division IV state crown and finished 34-2.
This spring, the outstanding performances have not stopped. A number of local track and field athletes have set some of the best marks in the country and have realistic chances to win a state crown. The unbeaten Amador Valley softball team is chasing a mythical national championship.
Perhaps one of those performances might end up as the most magical moment of them all.