When word of Archbishop Riordan's upset-in-the-making reached a prep football message board last Saturday, the reaction was predictable.
Someone had posted that San Francisco Riordan, recent West Catholic Athletic League doormats, was leading recent powerhouse San Jose Valley Christian by 34 points with left in the third quarter.
Wrote "PutEmUp42" on the message board: "This is an April Fool's Day joke right?"
Added "Johnjr03": What???? I can't believe Riordan is blowing out Valley Christian. What is going on?"
Something special, long-suffering Riordan supporters hope. There are finally signs of life in the Crusader football program following two consecutive flatliner (0-6) WCAL seasons.
The architect of Riordan's stunning upset over Valley Christian - one of the biggest upsets in the state this year - is first-year coach Mike Langridge.
Riordan spirited Langridge, 33, away from league rival San Mateo Serra during the off-season to replace Frank Oross, a former Riordan quarterback and coach.
Langridge was a star lineman at
Serra who played for their 1991 section title team. He also played at
Langridge acknowledges the reaction to his team's 34-13 stunner against Valley Christian was one of disbelief.
"People were shocked," he said. "Riordan hasn't had much success in football recently and I think most of the teachers and people who follow the team thought we were done-in before we even took the field."
The Crusaders thought differently, improving their record to 3-2 and, more importantly, 1-0 in the WCAL, one of the state's toughest leagues.
Since 1967 when San Francisco St. Ignatius joined and the league was transformed from the Catholic Athletic League to the WCAL, Riordan has won only two football titles. The Crusaders shared a co-title in 1972 with Serra and won an outright title in 2000 under former coach Ken Peralta.
Skeptics are already intimating Valley Christian was overrated and that Riordan's victory isn't that earth-shaking.
"Valley Christian is a good team, but they aren't what they've been in recent years," Langridge said. "But they're still a playoff contender and teams had better watch out when they play them.
"But we've only given up 50 points in five games and six of those were off a fumble in the end zone, so we can play some defense. It's just a matter of how much offense we get each game."
Riordan began its season with an
8-7 non-league loss to San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral. Then the Crusaders
fell 9-0 to
But since then the purple and gold has gathered steam, defeating peninsula power Woodside 15-7, Santa Theresa 30-13 and then, of course, the shocker against Valley Christian.
The addition of transfers Darius Bell and Louis Baltazar have helped immensely.
Baltazar is a 6-foot-1, 245-pound two-way lineman who transferred from Concord De La Salle.
Baltazar now lives in
Both transfers, Baltazar and
As for Langridge, he was the defensive coordinator for five seasons at Serra under coach Patrick Walsh. So he brings a solid background on the defensive side, while his spread offense fits the Crusader talent well.
He also imported from Serra some of its methods and traditions, such as a rigorous off-season conditioning regimen and in-season team dinners and the like. But the Riordan program, by necessity, will always be different than Serra's.
"My biggest priority when I got here was to get all of the kids working together," Langridge said. "The football stuff will come eventually, but I was concerned about all the different factions on the team. It was shocking to me that not all the kids even knew each other's names. And there were all sorts of cliques."
At Serra, most of the players
drove cars and it was relatively easy for Padres coach Walsh to organize team
dinners and run the rest of his many team-building actitivies. But at Riordan
the players are from all parts of
"So it's not like we could just
transplant the Serra program to Riordan," Langridge said. "There are logistical
differences that just make things different."
Aided by his younger brother John
(also a former Serra player and coach), Langridge and his staff have made all
the right moves so far. The addition of
Jones, a blue-chip basketball player, has caught 11 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
Riordan has a bye this week, allowing the school a few days to savor the victory against Valley Christian. But beginning next week it goes right back into the fire, facing formidable San Francisco St. Ignatius Oct. 13 at historic Kezar Stadium, followed by Langridge's first return in enemy colors to Serra on Oct. 21.
Asked what it would be like to coach against his old school, Langridge said: "It will be interesting. A lot of people have asked me that question and I don't know the answer because it hasn't happened yet.
"I'm still friends with the guys on their staff and we talk every week and compare notes. Mostly, I think it will be a lot of fun."
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