Salesian Wins Football State Championship!

By Zachary Boyett
Salesian H.S – Social Media and Alumni Relations Coordinator

Congratulations to Coach Chad Nightingale and the Salesian Pride on winning the 2019 California 6A Football State Championship! The Pride defeated Bishop Union High School of the Central Section 37-18 in front of their home crowd. The game was a historic moment for both Salesian and the community, being Salesian’s first State Championship title in football and the first for the city of Richmond. Salesian was one of seven NCS teams to play in the CIF Championship Bowl series and one of four to win the title.

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The Football State Championship is another accolade to add to Coach Nightingale’s illustrious career. Since 2005, his teams have won six North Coast Section titles, including 2005, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2019, and have three runner-up finishes. Following their most recent NCS title, the Pride had their first opportunity to compete for the CIF Championship with a bid into the Northern California Regional Bowl where they defeated Santa Cruz High School of the Central Coast Section, 35-14.

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The Pride had come a long way since August. Coach Nightingale remarked, “This year’s team began the season on uncertain terms because our participation numbers were so low, starting with 19 confirmed varsity players. When we kicked off in our first

game against Bradshaw Christian, we had 23 players.” However, the seniors were determined to bring home a championship and immediately turned their season around. The Pride would win their next eight games, outscoring their opponents by 155 points.

The Pride were an unstoppable offensive force this season led by senior captains, quarterback, Ronald Robertson, tailback, Kareem Sullivan, receiver, Kailan Chang, and lineman Princeton Toki. The team averaged nearly 40 points per game on offense throughout their 15 games and finished the regular season 8-2, winning the TCAL-Rock Division Championship. This season, six players received all-league honors, including senior DL/OL, Princeton Toki, who will play for the UC Davis Aggies next fall.

The Pride rolled through the 2019 NCS Playoffs with three blowout victories over Stellar Prep, St. Helena and Ferndale, as they averaged over 50 points per game and held their opponents to less than half that in the three game stretch.

Following their State Championship victory, Coach Nightingale addressed his team as always but in a rare moment of unrestraint, he could not hold back his tears as he remembered their journey together. Coach Nightingale reminisced about their 42-7 loss to Riordan two seasons prior. He welled up with emotion as he thought about this special group that had stuck around from that doubtful season, to hoist up the school’s first football State Championship trophy.

Two seasons ago, Salesian football finished with a 3-6 overall record, one of the worst during Coach Nightingale’s tenure, causing doubt around the program. Even through tough times with little reward, the players were loyal to each other and committed to their coach. Choked with emotion, Coach Nightingale revelled, “You were the only guys I wanted to coach.”

Prior to that season, the Pride were predicted to be a dominant force but suffered from transfers and the loss of confidence in the locker room. Coach Nightingale counted on his then sophomores to step up, including quarterback, Ronald Robertson. Coach knew that season would be difficult with a depleted roster and many young, undeveloped starters.

Coach Nightingale thought about his 24 seasons as the head coach and commented, “Each year, any given team has a distinct identity, and that is particularly true for the 2019 squad. This team is special in many ways due to their ability, their perseverance, their dedication to one another, and their work ethic.”

The Pride embraced their identity. If you aren’t with us, you’re against us, and players didn’t look back on quitters. They didn’t want, and they would prove, they didn’t need anyone else. Ronald Robertson would help turn the Pride around his junior season while breaking Salesian’s single season passing touchdown record with the help of his favorite target, Kailan Chang. The Pride finished the season 6-4 but would continue to roll into the 2018 NCS Championship game where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Middletown High School.

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In somewhat Cinderella fashion, the Pride, with a unique group of seniors would bring home Salesian’s first State Championship trophy and forever be etched in school history. This team will forever have a chip on their shoulder, who persevered when others quit, worked when others wouldn’t, and won when others thought they couldn’t. Congratulations boys on an amazing season!

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