That's it for the regular season of high school football. Week 10 is in the books and this week we shift our focus to San Jose where the Mt. Pleasant Cardinals, led by head coach Frank Lopez Jr., defeated the James Lick Comets with a final score of 41-8.
Heading into the game, Lopez Jr. was uncertain about the match-up, stating, "With James Lick you never know. This is the 'Battle of the White Road' and it always makes for a tough game." The rivalry is as old as it gets in San Jose. It received its name from the road each school is located on; White Road separates the schools by less than two miles. The close proximity makes for a great rivalry match up as most of the students grew up together.
Additionally, Lopez Jr.'s father, Frank Lopez Sr., was the head coach for both schools during his coaching career. "My dad passed away six years ago and now we do a game ball for the team that wins, in honor of coach Lopez Sr. He was a Vietnam Vet and gave everything he had to this community," Lopez Jr. said.
Once the game started though, it was all about football. "My concern with a rivalry game is always making sure we are focused," Lopez Jr. said. "We can't make any mental mistakes because games like this get the kids fired up and they might now pay attention to detail. We knew we had to prepare for the unknown and take care of the football at all cost."
The Cardinals got on the board first with a strong drive capped off by a rushing touchdown. "We have some speed in the backfield and do a good job of mixing the Wing-T and spread offense, so it's hard to game plan against us. I think our three headed monster -- Noah Cruz, Josh Hernandez, and Marco Herrera have been huge for our offenses success," said Lopez Jr.
Coming out of half time, Lopez Jr. was pleased with his team's position. "We were controlling the line of scrimmage, and doing a great job on defense," he said. "I just reiterated to the team that we need to finish strong and not let them back into the game."
His team paid attention to their coach's message and kept the Comets off of the board in the second half, finishing the game with a score of 41-8. When asked about his defense, Lopez Jr. said, "Our defensive coordinator was dialing up great blitzes all night. The kids were stunting properly, making plays, and were able to capitalize on a few James Lick mistakes."
When asked about play or players who stood out, Lopez Jr. said, "Noah Cruz has been great. He came to us from Puerto Rico. Hurricanes decimated his home town and school so he came to live with his uncle here in San Jose. Marco Herrera, Alfredo Hernandez and our whole offensive line have all had a stellar year as well."
Lopez Jr. has been coaching for 11 years. In his second tenure with the football program, 2018 marks his seventh year as the head football coach at Mt. Pleasant. Coach Lopez Jr. took a break from coaching to focus on his teaching career; he is also a special education teacher at Mt. Pleasant and truly enjoys watching the development of his students over their four high school years. "Seeing the success my students have over their four-year career is a great accomplishment when they walk across the stage during graduation," Lopez Jr. said. "It's a great motivator for me and it keeps me going."
When asked about receiving the Wedemeyer Memorial Coach of the Week Award Lopez Jr. said, "This award is very prestigious to me, because my father coached around the same time as Charlie for many years. I was classmates with their son. Lucy [Wedemeyer] has been great to me and I respect her so much for her dedication to Charlie and the sport of football. It means a lot to me and I am extremely humbled by receiving the award."
As our Charlie Wedemeyer Memorial Coach of the Week presented by U.S. Bank, Coach Lopez Jr. will receive a $1,000 grant for the Mt. Pleasant Cardinal football program from the 49ers Foundation. As part of this award, he will also receive two tickets to a 49ers home game where he will be recognized on the field. Coach Lopez Jr. will also be invited to visit the SAP Performance Facility to watch a closed practice where 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will officially present him with his award. He will also be featured on the 49ers Cal-Hi Sports Report on Sundays at 6 p.m. & 10 p.m. on NBC Sports California and re-broadcast throughout the week.
Congratulations, Coach Lopez!