Football Preview: Early playoff exit will drive Mission in 2011

Mission senior captains (from left) Laron Davis, Darius Grays and Davon Hargraves will look to redeem a first-round playoff loss to Balboa with another successful season. (Photo by Aaron Perez)

By Jeremy Balan

In the 2010 season, Mission High School went through a process of development, from upstart to Cinderella to unlikely juggernaut.

But despite their success, an undefeated Academic Athletic Association season and a regular-season league title, the mention of one game is met by returning Mission players with clenched jaws and shaking heads.

As the top seed in the AAA playoffs, the Bears dropped their semifinal matchup to fourth-seeded Balboa, missing out on an opportunity to win their first Turkey Bowl title since 1954.

“That game hurt everyone’s feelings,” said senior Laron Davis. “We’re mad that we lost in the playoffs last year, so we have to come back and win every game this year.”

Mission quarterback Devon Hargraves runs downfield against Balboa in the AAA semifinals on Nov. 18 at Kezar Stadium. (Photo by Devin Chen)

Due to the graduation of four first-team All-AAA players on both sides of the ball, including AAA Receiver of the Year Alec Tatum and standout running back Devonta Gaines, there will be plenty of new faces for the Bears, but there will be one notable constant — quarterback and safety Davon Hargraves.

“He’s our best defensive player and he’s kinda a running back playing quarterback, but he can throw the ball,” said second-year Mission head coach Joe Albano. “He puts the ball some places sometimes that it just amazes me, and then when I call a play and it doesn’t go, he’ll get me out of it. You wouldn’t think of him as a quarterback, but he’s just a football player, all around.”

A first-team All-AAA selection himself, the senior will be the quarterback on defense as well, directing players and calling audibles from the safety position.

“I’m taking that responsibility,” Hargraves said. “We’re expecting everyone to come out hard on us [because we went undefeated], but I think we can handle it.”

Taking over much of the ball-carrying load will be Davis and fellow senior Algeron Malbrough.

“Devonta was the man last year and got a lot of the touches, but this year, we have a lot more quicker kids, so we probably won’t run as much between the tackles,” Albano said. “We’ll use our speed on defense and on offense.”

The pair will also fill important roles in the linebacker corps, with Malbrough at outside linebacker, where he earned first-team All-AAA honors in 2010.

“Algeron does a great job holding the edge,” Albano said. “If you can’t stop the sweep [against option offenses] you can’t contain the outside.”

Mission's Algeron Malbrough wraps up Balboa quarterback Kerati Apilakvanichakit for one of eight Mission sacks on Nov. 6 in their 2010 regular season meeting with the Buccaneers at School of the Arts. (Photo by Tawnya Gray)

With an athletic group of linebackers and senior defensive tackle Darius Gray controlling the line of scrimmage, the Bears could be dominant on defense again. In 2010, Mission allowed just 13 points in its first four AAA games of the season.

“We do have a lot of kids who are pretty skilled and I’ve been with them for a while on JV and varsity,” Albano said. “One thing I always stress is tackling. You’re not going to be on defense if you can’t tackle.”

Like many other programs, Mission has plenty of question marks entering the season. Those all pale in comparison to where the Bears were just two years ago, when the team had to cancel its AAA season due to a lack of players.

With an injection of pride and success, numbers are back up, and one thing is clear — Mission football is back.

“We proved to the world last year that we weren’t a joke,” Davis said. “We’re going to bring it again this year.”

2011 Schedule – AAA games in bold
Week 0: Sat. 9/3 – vs. Tomales @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Week 1: Fri. 9/9 – @ Menlo (Atherton), 3:15 p.m.
Week 2: Thurs. 9/15 – vs. Drake (San Anselmo) @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Week 3: Bye
Week 4: Sat. 10/1 – vs. Marshall @ SOTA, 2 p.m.
Week 5: Sat. 10/8 – @ Balboa, 2 p.m.
Week 6: Fri. 10/14 – vs. Burton @ Kezar Stadium, 3 p.m.
Week 7: Thurs. 10/20 – vs. Galileo @ Kezar Stadium, 3 p.m.
Week 8: Fri. 10/28 – @ Washington, 3 p.m.
Week 9: Sat. 11/5 – @ Lincoln, 2 p.m.
Week 10: Fri. 11/11 – vs. Lowell @ SOTA, 2 p.m.

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(Photo Illustration by Josh Jalil)

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4 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Christian mata will be the best player for mission a highly athletic quick defensive linemen quarter backs better watch out

    • Anonymous says:

      christian mata thinks he is a superstar bt i think it all starts with the play of the quarterback davon #8 he is the leader and the face of the mission bears this year

  2. scout says:

    i think christian mata may have put that comment up himself but what the mission bears need to do is worry about protecting #8 davon the quarterback and leader of the team

  3. Mission Student says:

    Mission will come out with a vengeance this year and will hopefully win the Turkey Bowl. Mission has the players and the talent, now Mission just needs to go out there and prove it.

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