Wednesday, April 18, 2018

In defense of high-density housing near SSF BART

(There are proposals to build housing on a vacant lot down the trail from South San Francisco BART station. The fact that some alternatives promoted by potential developers are up to 15 stories tall has upset many residents. Here, resident John Baker makes a plea for more housing on the location.)

South San Francisco is an older city, and I’m not talking about the fact it recently celebrated its 107th anniversary.

What I mean is that it is a community where the median age of a resident has risen from 26.8 in 1970 to 38.1 in 2010 as home-owning adults aged in place and younger people moved away to start families in more-affordable locales. In fact, South San Francisco has almost 3,500 fewer school-aged kids than it did when I was born, despite the city’s population increasing by more than 20,000 in that time. (Note, I’m talking the physical existence of children, not just enrollment in our public schools.) Families increasingly cannot afford to stay in this city.

That’s why meaningful housing construction, like the proposals for homes on the former SFPUC location just south of the South San Francisco BART station, are important for South City’s future.

I recently completed a seven-year stint as a commissioner on the South San Francisco Public Housing Authority. I’ve seen the damage done to families by a housing supply that is far short of demand: runaway rents, soaring housing costs, and an influx of money that is both directly and indirectly leading to displacement of some of our most vulnerable. The waiting list for our Public Housing is so long that the Authority won’t even quote wait times. The waiting list for a Section 8 voucher is long as well, and good luck finding a landlord that will accept one.

We have a profound need to increase housing supply. I think many people in South City agree on that. However, some people say, “I support more housing, but this is not the right place.” To me, this location is the absolute best place to build housing on the Peninsula: Hundreds of units, up to 160 of them affordable, literally right next to a BART station and a heavily used bicycle/pedestrian path, right next to the Peninsula’s longest street, and within blocks of schools and grocery stores. It will be adjacent to what will soon be the newest, most advanced-technology library in San Mateo County. This is the place.

There’s reasonable discussion to be had as to how tall these buildings need to be. I’m guessing we initially had proposals of up to 15 stories because developers realize they will likely be trimmed down to seven (which is how tall the tallest new proposals appear to be). They didn’t ask for seven, because then it would be trimmed down to four. Personally, I think we need far more publicly subsidized housing – not just BMR housing. But anything a project in this location can do to help our supply is appreciated.

I’ve heard or read many of my neighbors says something to the effect of “No one asked for this,” Well… (raises hand) … I’m asking for this.

• I’m asking for this because I don’t want wetlands and farms in the Central Valley turned into blacktop.
• I’m asking for this because I do not want any more homes on San Bruno Mountain. Or on landfill in the Bay.
• I’m asking for this because helping people get homes, or at least having homes for newcomers so those current renters are less likely to be displaced, is the right thing to do.

The single-most meaningful challenge for our younger generations will be climate change. Building high-density infill housing near transit is an impactful way to meet our state’s ambitious climate goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent of their 1990 levels. The days of the super-commute have to end. And, I would suggest, if cities want to ensure people in such buildings actually take mass transit, reduce or eliminate parking minimums for such projects.

I’ve read residents online complaining that “The Hillsboroughs of the world aren’t building their share of housing, so why should we?” To me, that’s like asking why I have to sort my recycling from the trash if my neighbors don’t. We should make sure there’s more housing, even if some of our neighbors don’t because we’re more ethical than them. We’re more environmentally conscious than them.

And finally, the leadership of this city is more responsible for the mess than them. The predecessors of the current city council promoted policies that created thousands more jobs than housing units between 2000 and 2010. And you know what? Downtown South San Francisco is more active, our streets are a little cleaner, and extra policing has made our gang problem less acute. But — and I’m not saying this is unique to South City by any means — we have fallen behind on our responsibilities to keep housing supply and demand balanced.

So I am asking the City to build this. The more units, the better. Please.

John Baker is a former chair of the South San Francisco Public Housing Authority and current trustee for the South San Francisco Unified School District. This essay is his own opinion as an individual and not necessarily representative of any organization of which he is a part.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

South City wins 14th straight Bell Game, 36-6

Spencer Eugenio scores on a five-yard second quarter run for South City High in the Bell Game, on Nov. 4, 2017.

For the 14th straight season, the Bell tolls for South San Francisco High School.
With no end to the streak in sight, the Warriors topped El Camino, 36-6, on Saturday in the 56th annual matchup of the crosstown rivals.
“It’s not that difficult (to keep the intensity up), it’s the Bell Game” South City coach Jay Oca said. “These guys are neighbors, they’ve know each other since they were in elementary school. Both teams are going to fight, crawl and scratch to get into the end zone.”
South City’s Spencer Eugenio was the unofficial player of the game, tallying the majority of the Warriors’ offensive yards by rushing for 235 yards on 30 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
“He’s an explosive athlete,” Oca said. “He does everything; he runs the ball, he passes, he catches, he kicks the ball — he does whatever you want him to do.”
El Camino started with the football, but fumbled it away four plays into the game. In a preview of the impact he would have later, Eugenio picked it up for the Warriors. Twelve plays later, Eugenio capped a 58-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 5:29 left in the first quarter, after which he also took in the two-point conversion.
The fumble set a bad tone for El Camino, according to Colts coach Eric Jacobson.
“I felt really good on that first drive and then we put the ball on the ground,” he said. “You can’t have these little things happen in a big game; they multiply.”
Oca agreed.
“That was huge,” he said. “They we kind of driving on us they were eating up yardage, and real quickly that (recovery) emotionally turned us around.”
Eugenio scored again 7:35 before halftime on a five-yard run. Kalvin Pua also scored a touchdown 1:36 before the break to put South City up 24-0 after two quarters (the Warriors tallied a two-point conversion after all three touchdowns).
“I felt it was good to be quick and out, and come out with a boom,” Eugenio said. “Having a hard week of practice went well for us and everything our coaches did prepared us for this.”
While El Camino (3-6) held South San Francisco (also 3-6) scoreless in the third quarter, Pua — who had 122 yards on 25 carries — scored his second touchdown of the game with 6:23 remaining on an eight-yard run. Quarterback Tyson Alapati scored with 2:41 left on a five-yard keeper.
“We just didn’t make plays,” Jacobson said. “They came to play and we didn’t. I think you can tell that by the way they were running the ball.”
El Camino’s only score came with just 28 seconds left in the game, when quarterback Jonas Junio hit Ian Dugas on the right side for a 30-yard scoring pass.
Emilio Urrutia had 38 yards on seven rushes to pace the Colts’ ground game. Junio completed four of 13 passes for 65 yards. South City’s Demetrius Gutu caught the only pass Alapati attempted for a 12-yard gain. In all, South City outgained El Camino with 400 total yards of offense to the Colts’ 173.
“What kept us moving was wanting to run the ball as hard as we can in the last Bell Game for our seniors,” Eugenio said. “There’s a lot of pressure on it, but I feel that us being a team keeps us focused.”
The Colts' last win in the series remains a 35-19 upset in 2003. Jacobson’s disappointment was apparent.
“I thought we had them really well prepared, especially after Capuchino, but another year has gone by,” he said. “Sometimes I hate Novembers. I’ve hated the last 15 Novembers for sure.”
Both teams do get a rare bounce-back week after the Bell Game next Thursday, making up for games that were postponed because of poor air quality caused by last month’s wildfires. El Camino will host Jefferson at 7:30 p.m., while South San Francisco will travel to Woodside.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

South City defeats El Camino, 28-27, in new Bell Game classic

EC receiver Ian Dugas running away from SSF defenders.
El Camino's Ian Dugas (No. 3, right) runs away on a 60-yard scoring pass in the first quarter of Saturday's 55th Bell Game at South San Francisco High. Click to enlarge.
What defines a classic?
Art? Universal appeal? Something that stands the test of time and influences what comes after it?
If those are the definitions, then Saturday’s 55th edition of the Bell Game between South San Francisco and El Camino highs was truly a classic.
The game featured art in the skillful execution of trick plays. It featured universal appeal in the grit of its competitors grinding it out in the face of shifting odds. Finally, its back and forth nature will stick forever with those who played in it, teaching lessons that will influence major decisions in their lives about dealing with pressure and not taking things for granted.
So, it that regard, South City’s 28-27 victory over El Camino at Clifford Field will go down as a classic.
“I’ve been at every Bell Game since 1983,” said El Camino head coach Eric Jacobson. “I’ve seen scoreboards blow up, streakers, a couple nice wins by El Camino, but this was a heart-breaker.”
The game wasn’t decided until time expired and a tackle was made on El Camino’s last-gasp pass play at midfield. The fact that the Colts had even gotten to that point was an achievement.
South City had taken a 28-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game on Jeremiah Lupe’s third touchdown of the game, a 42-yard run up the left side.
“It feels great man, we finally showed up and did our thing,” Lupe said. “I want to give credit to my line. Without them, I wouldn’t have had those touchdowns — they opened some big gaps.”
Lupe’s score had seemed initially to take the wind out of El Camino’s sails. In fact, the Colts looked done after a fourth down passing pass went incomplete at midfield with 8:55 left in the game. But as EC quarterback Jimmy Bakshi got back up on his feet after being knocked down, he was happily surprised to be the beneficiary of a roughing the passer penalty. El Camino then capitalized a few plays later when Bakshi stretched over the goal line on a one-yard keeper to get the Colts within a touchdown with 5:12 left.
Then a little art: El Camino dribbled the ensuing kickoff just a few yards upfield and masterfully recovered. A handful of plays later, Bakshi connected with Ian Dugas for the latter’s third receiving touchdown of the day — a 25-yard lob into a crowd in the right side of the end zone. The Colts were within a point.
At that point the Colts lined up for two. Bakshi rolled left on the snap and threw a line drive. South City linebacker David Alapati burst through the line, however, and intercepted the PAT try, all but giving the Warriors the victory.
“I knew I had to go and get that interception,” Alapati said. “My eyes went hella big when I saw him roll (my way).”
Jacobson said he decided to put everything on the line and go for two under the assumption that El Camino would never have as good a chance.
“I was always going to go for two,” Jacobson said. “We know there’s overtime, but I didn’t like our chances going in there because we were getting beaten up on the defensive side of the ball. When you get a chance to win the Bell, you’re going to take that shot.”
With the win, South City finishes the season 3-7, while El Camino finishes 1-9. The Colts' last win in the series remains a 35-19 upset in 2003.
The game’s first score came about five minutes into the contest on a 38-yard left run by Lupe. Just two plays later, a wide-open Dugas scored his first touchdown on a 60-yard pass from Bakshi. After a quarter, it was 7-7.
Dugas (four receptions for 161 yards) put El Camino up 14-7 34 seconds before halftime with a 49-yard score set up by a successful fake punt. Lupe tied the game on a 40-yard run with 3:47 left in the third quarter, then quarterback Tyson Alapati scored on a one-yard keeper with 14 seconds left in the third, setting up the momentous fourth.
“Ian made some incredible catches today,” Jacobson said. “He singlehandedly kept us in the game today.”
Lupe led all rushers with 186 yards on 13 carries, followed by teammate Kolson Pua, who carried 20 times for 90 yards. The Warriors generated 349 combined yards of offense.
El Camino was led by Bakshi, who completed seven of 12 passes for 161 yards. El Camino only tallied 61 yards total on the ground, spread amongst seven rushers. The Colts tallied exactly 100 fewer total yards than South City.
Defensively, RJ Aquino tallied a fumble recovery and an interception for El Camino. For South City David Alapati had another interception beyond the one on the PAT, and Jacob Martinez recovered a fumble.
“There was a lot of pressure,” Lupe said. “Both teams came out to play. We played to our fullest potential and I have to give props to El Camino — they really came out.”
In other words, it was a classic.

Fourth quarter action during the Bell Game, Nov. 5, 2016. South San Francisco High beat El Camino, 28-27.

Victorious South City players perform a haka-like ceremonial dance after their victory.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Foundation

Four generations of Baker men in one photo
In clockwise order: My father, grandfather, me and my son. San Diego, 2008.

In honor of my father, Robert M. Baker Jr., who died on March 6, 2016. I gave the following eulogy on March 15, 2016, at La Cañada Presbyterian Church in honor of his passing:

You see it on the news every so often. Some sort of disaster — a hurricane, wildfire, or a earthquake — hits a community. We see the images of devastation. "The wave knocked houses off of their foundations." "The home burned down to its foundation."

Foundation. We know things went south when "foundation" is mentioned.

But sometimes, "foundation" is a word of hope. Those washed-away homes? If the foundation survived, it's the place from which you start rebuilding. What's the first thing layed down when a new home is built? The foundation.

Over the past few weeks a storm afflicted our family. It blew us around, caused casualties, and — metaphorically — knocked down the comfortable homes we lived in. It was a hard few weeks.

And despite that, while I can’t speak for everyone, I will rebuild as strong as before. Why? Because my foundation is intact.

And that’s partly due to my father, who helped lay it.

My father and I had dissimilar personalities in many, many ways. Our politics, our social attitudes, our tastes in entertainment — all quite different. But there are so many things that are, well, me, that I can trace directly from him.

My first memory was of him playing blocks and airplanes with me in Glendale. I still like to build things.

The first memory to which I can put an approximate date was him and I sitting on top of a brick wall outside a supermarket around the time of the Bicentennial. He was cutting up watermelon slices for us with his car keys. I still appreciate a low-tech, low-cost solution to problems.

My father would take me out to the Tehachapi Loop to watch the trains. I think that's one reason I came to love all things transportation.

My father lent me his books, particularly those on World War II and early 20th Century America. Inspired by my early reading, I eventually got a history degree and even now, the majority of my reading is in history.

My love of geography arose when he would drive us all over — not just California, but Canada, Florida, the east coast — and point out what he saw as interesting (even if us kids found it less so).

Those are just a few examples.

I didn’t know it at the time, and sometimes didn’t appreciate it, but he was laying a foundation. Many of the attitudes that shape how I live my life, how I treat my children, how I react to the world, arose because of my father’s influence.

And these attitudes survived in the later years, when I rarely saw my father. I didn’t get new examples from him, but the foundation he helped lay was there. Therefore, at every crossroad during my life, when I decided what to do (or sometimes what NOT to do), he was there.

This has been a hard few weeks. A lot of feelings and memories, both good and bad, that were long submerged came to the surface. But I will recover — we as a family will recover — because the man whose life we’re here to honor, Robert “Bob” Baker — my father, laid a good foundation for me.

Like his father laid for him. Like I am laying for my children, and they for theirs.

Every parent lays a foundation for their children, and mine is strong. Regardless of any other feelings, I will always be grateful to my father for giving me that strong foundation.

Thank you for coming and for honoring my father.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kamelamela leads South City to 12th-straight Bell Game victory, 53-22

South City quarterback Kolson Pua rolls out on a six-yard run in the second quarter of the Bell Game, on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. Photo by John Baker.

It’s now an even dozen in a row for South San Francisco High, which won its 12th straight Bell Game on Saturday against rival El Camino, 53-22, in the 55th edition of the rivalry.

One of the reasons South City now has a dozen straight Bells was the play of senior running back Eric Kamelamela, who tallied 223 yards on 33 carries, and scored four touchdowns.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Kamelamela said. “(The Bell) is staying at South City — for many years to come, also.”

Kamelamela’s efforts were a key part of a Warriors attack that compiled an impressive 483 total yards of offense (330 on the ground and 153 passing), compared to a net total of just 68 total yards for El Camino.

South City finishes the season 4-6, while El Camino finishes 1-8. The Colts' last win in the series remains a 35-19 upset in 2003.

"We gave it a good shot, but they were too much for us,” said El Camino coach Eric Jacobson. “The one thing I can say about the kids on this team is that they’re very good kids. I really had a good time with all of them.”

After the Colts stopped South City on their first two drives, the Warriors finally broke through on their third try. Tavaimanu’uliletiuoali’I Tuitasi capped a long South San Francisco drive with a one-yard barrel across the goal line to put the Warriors up by six with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.

South City scored again four minutes into the second quarter when Juan Borrego pulled down a 44-yard pass from quarterback Kolson Pua.

El Camino got on the board on a defensive play 2:05 before halftime when CJ Bautista picked up a loose ball on a South City lateral attempt and ran it back nearly 80 yards for the Colts’ first touchdown.

“It was like 3-and-18, so we had to do something,” said South City coach Jay Oca on the lateral attempt. “They had picked us off on one of our deep balls and that play is usually money for us.”

It was the fourth week in a row SSF had given up a touchdown on an offensive fumble or turnover.

The teams exchanged touchdowns in the final 1:13 before the break, with David Miller scoring for South City on a 60-yard pass from Pua just two scrimmage plays after EC’s score, and the Colts’ Armin Webb throwing up a halfback option that receiver Efrain Ramon pulled down for a 21-yard score right before the break.

In the second half, Kamelamela stepped up, gaining the majority of his yards and scoring all four of his touchdowns (on runs of 3, 37, 20, and 46, respectively). Oca said Kamelamela “got stronger as he went on,” but Kamelamela said he just played smarter.

“Throughout the game, I learned what they were doing,” he said. “I saw what they were doing on different plays, reacted to that and did my thing.”

In the third quarter, El Camino briefly got within a touchdown on Jordan Ebalo’s 9-yard TD pass reception and a 2-point conversion (also from Ebalo), but Kamelamela helped extend South City’s lead from there.

Besides Kamelamela’s scores, the Warriors also got a 23-yard field goal from Angel Nevarez in the second half.

“In the first half, a lot of penalties brought us back; We had to do a lot of things to try to get first downs,” Oca said. “Once we settled down, we were able to run our offense and pound the ball, which was our game plan.”

Lua completed five of 13 passes for 124 yards for South City, which also got 55 yards on 11 carries from running back Peter Lopez and an interception from David Alapati.

El Camino tallied only seven yards rushing, but made some progress through the air. Junior quarterback Heinay Keller completed six of 11 passes for 40 yards, and Webb both made his single pass attempt, but also picked off a South City pass.

Jacobson takes some solace in the fact that the junior varsity won their game 41-7.

“One thing we have going for us is that we’re very junior oriented and our JV team is very talented,” Jacobson said. “They won a big one today, so the future looks bright.”

It will look even brighter next fall, with permanent lights installed at Colts Field. Ground-breaking for the lights’ installation is scheduled for April.

Click arrows below to scroll through a slideshow with photos from the game:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Katrina disaster exacerbated by governmental provincialism

Ten years ago tonight, the National Weather Service issued a dire warning: a major hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and "devastating damage" was expected. Hurricane Katrina ended up being the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States in more than 75 years and became the costliest hurricane in history, in terms of monetary damage. The effects — both physical and social — of the storm are still being felt today. 

Katrina satellite image

But as deadly as the storm was, many deaths and much suffering occurred in the days after landfall as a near-total breakdown of public safety happened because officials, in various cases, either deferred making decisions about who was in charge or took charge without considering they were the best ones to take such actions.

Summary: When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans a decade ago, a significant breakdown in intergovernmental cooperation contributed to a humanitarian disaster. The most-vulnerable part of New Orleans’ population suffered a failure of the most-basic social services or even death because they relied on an unprepared local government to preserve their well-being. A simple pre-existing arrangement to defer traditional municipal responsibilities to those best suited to implement them might have mitigated the City of New Orleans’ 2005 failures and may be key to preventing their recurrence in a similar disaster.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Immigration leads to terrorism?

Immigrants to the West from lands with "strange" religion, thought unlikely to ever assimilate into our culture, are unfairly defined by extremists that used terrorism against those who disagree with their philosophy.

I'm, of course, talking about the experience of Italian and Irish immigrants to the United States.

While the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is getting a lot of play after last week's events, perhaps #JeSuisAhmed is more appropriate. Officer Merabet's example shows that the actions of a few do not negate the fact that a vast majority of immigrants assimilate quickly and well. In a couple generations our descendants will wonder what the fuss was ever about -- as we now are ashamed there ever was backlash against Italian, Irish, German, Polish, etc., immigration.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The costs of running for office (or, What I learned in the SSFUSD race)

(Note: I ran for the South San Francisco Unified School District's Board of Trustees in the November 2014 election. I know it may not seem so, because I didn't mention it on this blog, but I did. I had a website and everything! I didn't win, BTW. This time.)

Top vote-getter Rick Ochsenhirt (center) is formally sworn in by former Assemblyman Gene Mullin at the SSFUSD Board meeting on Dec. 17, 2014. Photo by John Baker.

Early on Wednesday, I filed papers with the Secretary of State to officially close my campaign committee (closing it by the end of the year allowed me to avoid a $50 fee).

It’s a bit of closure on what was an illuminating, unusual experience that was both disappointing and rewarding. More thoughts on that below. But first, let’s look at the math…

In the latest (and likely final) tally from the San Mateo County Elections Office, I got 2,801 votes (thanks to all!). For those votes, my campaign spent a grand total of $2,228.10. For those counting, it means I spent roughly 79.5 cents per vote. (For reference, my last three campaign finance reports are available here. Final filing starts on page 27 of the pdf document.)

To put that number in perspective, in the 2012 US Presidential election, Barack Obama’s campaign spent $10.37 per vote (or $16.73 when independent, outside money is included) and Mitt Romney’s campaign spent $7.11/$20.09).  In other words, I ran a campaign about 13 times more efficient than the president’s!

I have no idea (officially) how well how the other candidates did, as no other candidate has posted their campaign finance data online (despite at least one promise to do so), and I’ve no inclination to take a bus or car down to the elections office on remote Tower Road in unincorporated San Mateo to pull campaign finance papers and find out. But I’d guess that I’d be slightly below the median in terms of cost per vote.

Anecdotally and observationally, I’d guess candidates Sue Olinger (who seem to have spent next to nothing), Monica Peregrina-Boyd (who dropped out of the race after filing) and possibly Phil Weise may have been marginally more efficient. I’d guess each of the other four candidates were less efficient.

My three biggest expenditures were signage ($600.84), filing fees with both the County and State ($529.36), and my share of the printing costs for the countywide Democratic Party mailer ($450).

My three biggest donors were myself ($788.10), my father-in-law ($300), and fellow candidate Patrick Lucy ($200 – donated after the election {Thanks Patrick!}). About 20 other donors, with contributions ranging from $25 to $150, made up the difference.

From a candidate’s prespective, and as someone who’s covered local elections in San Mateo County since 1998, I really don’t think the lessons learned this election are really that surprising. Some old observations again proved true. For example:

  • Some voters rely more on candidate name recognition and occupational titles rather than looking at a candidate’s education and experience;
  • Who supports a candidate is sometimes more important than what the candidate supports;
  • And, above all, money makes the difference in a low-information campaign. I may throw almost all my campaign mail in the recycling, but many other voters learn nothing about an election other than what they see on slick, glossy mailers. (That said, my 100 or so personal letters to voters, many with Batman stamps, got a very good response rate according to my informal exit polling). 

Policy-wise, I don’t think I’d change much about my election platform if I could go back. I probably would’ve hit the walking and writing trail earlier in an effort to sway early voters. But in terms of time, as a full-time employee with two young kids, it would’ve been hard to offer more. Still, lessons learned.

(Left: Former Trustee Phil Weise, who had just ended a 17-year-run on the Board, addresses the audience at the Dec. 17, 2014, SSFUSD meeting.)

While getting elected was the immediate goal, it wasn’t the ultimate one. The ultimate goal is to improve our kids’ education in the South San Francisco Unified School District. I think the spirited, active campaign with policy at the forefront that we just saw was a good step in that direction.

The winners in this election are all dedicated, caring people with experience in reaching out to the population. Maybe they're all a little more toward the social side of the scale and I'm more to the “policy-wonk” side than they are, but I still have faith in them.

And I will still be watching. I’ve redirected my campaign Facebook and Twitter accounts into watchdog status. I will still observe what I see in the District with a critical eye and put my analysis online.

And who knows? My campaign signage and business cards didn’t have an election year on them and I have plenty left of both, ready to be used again. You may see me again in two-to-four years if the current SSFUSD Board doesn’t do sterling work.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

El Camino learns lessons, but South City keeps Bell, 36-0

South City's Eric Kamelamela is brought down on a run during the first half of the 2014 Bell Game.
South City's Eric Kamelamela is brought down on a run during the first half of the 2014 Bell Game. Photo by John Baker.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- If sports are a microcosm of life, the El Camino High football team did a lot of living this fall.

The Colts lost a head coach due to criminal allegations, program members were alleged to have participated in racially based hazing (a charge those affiliated with the program dispute), the team was beset by injuries, and -- to top it off -- rival South San Francisco High shut out El Camino, 36-0, in Saturday’s Bell Game.

But if you ask Eric Jacobson, who took over the program in the fourth week of the season, the adversity the Colts faced this season will make them better men in the long run.

“They learned a lot about life this year … these guys were reading stuff in the paper that was not true. It kind of gave us a black eye, but I really think it made us stronger,” Jacobson said. “The guys should really be commended for the effort they made.”

On Saturday, however, it was the Warriors whose effort paid off the most. The tone was set early. El Camino went three-and-out on its first possession, then South City started its drive on its own 46 yard line. On his team’s second play, Eric Kamelamela took a handoff and busted out a 49-yard run up the right sideline for a score.

“I was just doing it for my team; it was the Bell Game,” Kamelamela said. “I think it set the mood for the rest of the game.”

The Colts again went out on downs on their next possession, in fact El Camino punted five times in the first half to just once for South City. The Warriors took advantage and showed a little trickery, scoring on a 40-yard running back option pass from Tommy Miller to Jose Galban with 2:48 left in the first quarter.

“The (South City) quarterback doesn’t throw the ball very often -- it’s the backs and the other people,” Jacobson said. “That’s why those plays are so good; you’re focusing on the running back so much.”

Galban said the play helped buoy his team

“It feels great to win,” Galban said. “We executed today and played very well -- that’s what we were planning to do all season.”

South City (4-6) got two more rushing touchdowns in the second quarter, one from Cesar Torres (two yards) and the other from Kamelamela (eight yards). The Warriors took a 29-0 lead into halftime, having outgained the Colts 248-24 in yardage at the break.

El Camino (3-7) stepped up better in the second half, with Jaqari Taylor and CJ David pulling down interceptions. But South San Francisco also put up an effective defense, with Galban pulling down an interception just in front of the goal line late in the third quarter to kill EC's best scoring chance.

South City's Terrell Townsend knocks down a pass from EC's Andrew Pierotti late in the first half.
South City's Terrell Townsend knocks down a pass from EC's Andrew Pierotti late in the first half. Photo by John Baker.

After South City’s Mauricio Mabutas ran the ball in 16 yards for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the game, making the score 36-0 after the extra point, the contest transitioned to a running clock, and the Warriors’ victory came quickly.

Kamelamela, just a junior, led all rushers with 21 carries for exactly 200 yards. Teammate Alex Benevides had 67 yards on 11 carries. Terrell Townsend had two sacks defensively for the Warriors. El Camino’s longest play of the day was a 33-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Pierotti to Anthony Graham.

Jacobson, who started his second stint as the Colts’ head coach midway through this season, hopes to return next season to give the team stability.

“I plan on being back,” he said. “I’ve been here a lot of years and I want to be here.”

It was South City’s 11th straight Bell Game victory and 43rd overall in the series.

Below, a slideshow from the 2014 Bell Game:

Like this story? I also covered the Bell Game in 2013 (click here), 2011 (click here) and 2010 (click here).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dons shut out Colts, 19-0

El Camino receiver Andres Abarca (in red) is swamped by Aragon defenders as he tries to make a catch late in the game on Sept. 13, 2014. Photo by John Baker.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — A close game got away from El Camino High on Saturday, as Aragon took advantage of a couple trick plays and a stifling secondary to beat the Colts 19-0 on El Camino’s gridiron.

El Camino (1-1) just couldn’t get much going. Its pass-heavy offense, which performed well the week before in a victory at Washington, wasn’t enough on Saturday. Quarterback Andrew Pierotti completed nine of 25 passes for 108 yards, for an El Camino team that was only able to manage 122 yards of net offense, but was intercepted four times.

“A couple of them were great plays (by Aragon defenders),” said El Camino coach Mark Turner, “and a couple of them were bad throws.”

Aragon coach Steve Sell said his secondary is all second-year starters.

“Those guys are all great athletes and now they’re experienced,” Sell said. “They take pride in their ‘no-fly zone.’ Our defense kept us in the game because we were not very good offensively in the first half.”

Aragon (2-0) got on the board with 6:37 left in the second quarter, when halfback Devin Grant took a handoff, then threw a pass as the El Camino secondary rushed in after him to Tyee Stokman, who scrambled 60 yards up the right side to make it 6-0.

“We played them last year, and their safeties crashed on the outside,” said Aragon coach Steve Sell. “We tried to take advantage to how hard they react. We needed something; we were kind of desperate.”

That score held up to halftime. It could have been worse for the Colts, who were bolstered by two key first-half defensive plays — a sack by Elton Vargas that led to a turnover on downs and a big fumble recovery by EC's Gabe DeOlivera right before the break to stop an Aragon drive. Additionally, the Dons were penalized eight times for 90 yards, making it difficult for them to get much momentum.

A second throw from a running back set up a five-yard Grant touchdown run four minutes into the second half. Like the big play in the first half, the Dons took advantage as the Colts’ secondary rushed the ball carrier.

“When guys get antsy they want to be making a play,” Turner said. “Sometimes they make a play that’s not supposed to be their play.”

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Devin Grant scores in the third quarter for Aragon.Photo by John Baker.

Grant led all rushers with 82 yards on 11 carries. Andres Abarca was El Camino’s leading receiver with three catches for 43 yards.

Grant also took in a 19-yard touchdown with just under a minute left in the third quarter. El Camino got into the Aragon red zone in the game’s final minutes, but could not cross the goal line.

Both high schools in South San Francisco are still winless at home on their new Measure J-funded artificial turf fields. Visiting South San Francisco High beat El Camino, 29-28, in the Colts’ field debut on Nov. 16. Visiting Capuchino beat South City, 14-7, in the first game at the Warriors’ new digs on Friday night. El Camino hosts Lincoln High of San Francisco next Saturday at 2 p.m. in an effort to beat the dry spell.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Baseball back in Montréal; for two nights at least

Baseball, right back where it should be: Montréal.

Almost ten years ago, on Sept. 29, 2004, I was at the last Major League Baseball game in Montréal.

Or so I thought.

Tonight, the Toronto Blue Jays hosted the New York Mets for the first of two spring training games at Olympic Stadium, and the atmosphere was electric. The negativity that seemed to permeate media coverage of the Expos during their last days in the city was gone.

Instead, there was jealousy...
and appreciation of what the crowd meant ...

(A crowd of nearly 50,000 is expected on Saturday.)

Even casual baseball fans in Montreal's traditional rival of Toronto were happy with tonight's outcome:

The atmosphere was compared to a playoff game.
It was a far cry from when I was in Montréal for the last Expos game there. I had been an Expos fan for years, and an online advocate for their staying in Montréal. That day was an emotional experience, probably the last time I cried that was not connected to a relative's death. If anyone who doubted that Montréal could be a baseball city had been there, they would've changed their minds after seeing the heartfelt love the city showed their team that day.

Here's a short slideshow with some pictures I took before, during and after that final game: