Hairy second half costs Foresthill against Brookside

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 - 9:04 am

For Foresthill High School football coach Jim Herlehy, the beard is gone, but his shaggy locks remain – much to his disappointment.

As the scrappy Wildfires extended their winning streak to nine games, Herlehy let his beard grow – much to the chagrin of his wife, Jamie.

Then Herlehy agreed to let his players shave his 'do into a mohawk – as they had before the playoffs began – if they could beat the odds and bring home the small public school's first football section title banner.

"The beard comes off tonight, but I would rather have had the mohawk," Herlehy said after the Wildfires lost to Brookside Christian of Stockton 60-26 in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title game at the Grape Bowl in Lodi.

The Wildfires got buzzed by the bigger and faster Knights. Brookside Christian compiled 553 total yards behind Austin Caldron (192 passing yards, three touchdowns); 6-foot, 225-pound senior Darius Henton (147 rushing yards, two touchdowns); and their big-school-sized offensive line.

But unlike last year, when the outmatched Wildfires were rolled 62-6 by Bradshaw Christian, they made a game of it in the first half behind senior quarterback Tommy Sawyer (274 passing yards and four total touchdowns). He had threw touchdown passes of 57 yards to Ryan Corkrean and 60 yards to Connor McCann and rushed for a two-yard score that had Foresthill within two points, 20-18, at halftime.

Then attrition took its toll. In the second half, the Knights sacked Sawyer seven times (eight overall) and intercepted him twice while running backs Henton, Lee Johnson (112 yards, two touchdowns) and Cameron Chew (95 yards and a touchdown) took their turns battering Foresthill's fatigued defense.

"It's hard to prepare for their no-huddle offense with the athletes they have," Herlehy said. "We were there a lot at the point of attack, but they'd break the tackle. Give their guys credit."

Foresthill (10-2), the section's smallest public school at 240 students, came in as a misleading No. 1 seed, based largely on its win-loss record. Brookside Christian (10-2) was seeded second, but its two losses were to D-IV powers Central Catholic of Modesto (a section finalist) and Summerville.

Since the small-school division was formed in 2006 (D-VII from 2006 to 2008 and D-VI from 2009 to the present), no public school has won a section title.

"You can't complain about it," Herlehy said. "You've got to figure out a way to beat them."

He thinks the program is headed in the right direction, though. This was Foresthill's second 10-win season and fifth consecutive winning campaign.

"We've taken some big strides; we plan to be around awhile," Herlehy said. "But this group of seniors is pretty special."

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