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For every college bound student, it's very much up in the air as to what to expect next fall. For Grant Harper, a soon-to-be Campolindo graduate who will be attending UC Davis in the fall, the football program is another aspect of college that remains somewhat uncertain.
Harper, who was the starting quarterback the last two years for the Cougars and backed up John Torchio as a sophomore, finished his career with a 30-11 won-loss record having completed 406 out of 661 passes for 6,096 yards with 62 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions.
Harper focused on the major sports growing up in Orinda: "I played in the MOL flag football league growing up and with the tackle football programs in Walnut Creek and San Ramon, along with playing baseball for Max Luckhurst through high school and basketball up until the eighth grade. My Dad, (Scott), coached me in football and baseball growing up and he still coaches at Monte Vista High School."
Coming into his freshman year at Campolindo, varsity head football coach Kevin Macy was already familiar with Harper's ability as he had attended the Campolindo Youth Football summer program from third grade to eighth grade. Through high school, they developed a relationship of great mutual respect, said Harper: "Coach Macy and I went through everything together. My friends and I would even hang out with him at lunch. That's how close we became. Coach Macy emphasized being a competitor and proving all the doubters wrong. He would toughen you up as your career got going because he would know what you were capable of and so much more."
According to Macy, this past season, Harper's leadership skills were on display as well as his passing ability: "Grant had a brand new group of everything, so much of his energy had to go into not only knowing everyone else's job but also having to communicate to them, making sure they knew what they were doing and that was a lot for him to do as both a junior and senior. It wasn't that we didn't have bright kids; there just were very few returners each season. He just has that natural composure in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and during the play. When his teammates saw that, they knew they were seeing something special."
It was a challenge that Harper met head on: "That was something that I wasn't quite used to. We had five senior offensive linemen my junior year. This year, our only returning receiver had only played a little the prior year so Ryan O'Neil at running back and Charlie Craig, our tight end, were essentially the only returning starters on offense. It became a normal thing to tell most of the players where to go every play."
Dan Hawkins, the head coach at UC Davis, was aware of Harper's ability: "He's came to our QB camp so we knew about him then. We really like his whole approach to the game. He is extremely accurate and is a smooth thrower and he's really into the x's and o's and the science of football and the culture of quarterbacking. You have to have the grades to get in here, which helps because we give our quarterbacks so much autonomy and so much ownership of what is going on. Grant is all of those things rolled into one."
It did not take long for Harper to know that UC Davis was where he wanted to go after high school: "Besides being impressed with their facilities, I was taught a lot about life and immediately after that camp, I knew I wanted to go there. Later, Coach Hawkins said he expected big things from me and soon after made the offer to me. I had other opportunities, but in my heart, I knew that Davis was where I wanted to go."
Still, there was far more to Harper's high school experience than football. There was his becoming an Eagle Scout the winter of his junior year, something he began working on in middle school. "It was a great experience and there was a lot of work that went into it with Troop 212. I'm glad I went through it and when Coach Hawkins found out that I was an Eagle Scout, his face just lit up, which was a cool moment for me."
As a freshman, Harper volunteered with the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church to go to Tiajuana, Mexico: "I got to spend time with a family who I helped to build a house for. The experience gave me a new perspective on life."
After finishing at Campolindo on May 29, Harper will particularly look back with great appreciation to the teachers there: "There were all very interactive with us. They personalized things, wanting to make sure to know what is going on with us, establishing a trust with me and my classmates."
For all of these reasons, it's why Coach Hawkins feels Harper will fit so well into the UC Davis academic and athletic philosophy: "It revolves around several things - a concept of excellence with class and a balance of life attitude. We want to win and expect to win championships but we also get that there are other things in life as well and we have an appreciation for that and incorporate that in our program as well. Kids have been coming here for a long time to get a great education and to play great football and we try to combine those two so it's not either or, it's not one or the other, it's both."
|From the start of off-season wrestling practices, which usually begin in April, it's the ultimate goal to be able to compete in the North Coast Section tournament, hopefully finishing in the top three and qualifying for the state tournament. The NCS tournament was held Feb. 21-22 at James Logan High School. There were 560 wrestlers from 94 high schools who competed in 1,092 matches in each of the 14 weight classes to determine who would move on to the state tournament. The Girls NCS Tournament was held at Albany High School and for them, the top four moved on to the state tournament.
There were four seniors from Lamorinda that medaled and made it to the podium: the boys Steven Williams (Acalanes-152) who finished in fourth place, Noah Hamann (Campolindo-120) who finished sixth, Adrian Bautista (Campolindo-113) who finished in eighth place, and Arine Kim (Campolindo-126) who finished sixth in the girls tournament.
Finishing fourth for Williams was particularly satisfying as he spent the year battling shoulder and knee injuries but "due to his work ethic and athletic ability, he was able to come into the NCS wrestling his best," said Acalanes assistant coach Blake Hedlund.
After losing his first match to the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Williams won his next three matches, a loss of any of them which would have sent him home. He then won his next match, which guaranteed him at least an eighth-place finish. Unbeknownst to Hedlund, Williams was exposed to something in the stands and had an allergy attack and was taken to the local hospital to be administered an epinephrine treatment.
After Williams match was pushed back, it was a race to get him back to the meet, said Hedlund: "After the shortest hospital emergency room visit ever, Steve's parents drove him back to the tournament and he literally ran from the car into the gym, put on his shoes and singlet, warmed up for three minutes and pinned his man." Williams won his next match, coming up short in his final match for third place, but as Hedlund put it, "This was a story of tremendous perseverance and heart against all odds."
Williams was generous in acknowledging the people who were responsible for his success: "I give credit to all of the coaches that I've had at Acalanes, CYC wrestling and most of all (Campolindo coach) Nikko Triggas who I've known since I was 5 when he wrestled with my older brother. He's been my main coach for the last three years."
Bautista and Hamann both wrestled at lower weight than they did during the season and it obviously was the right decision for both, said Triggas. "Adrian who wrestled at 120-122 all season got down to 115 to wrestle in NCS. He decided about a month ago to drop the weight. After practice he was within striking range of making the weight and he did it healthily and was smart about making the weight cuts. I'm not a proponent of cutting weight but he did it intelligently and I was okay with it. Noah, who came into the tournament unseeded, lost to the No. 1 seed and he did a great job in the consolation bracket to make it on the podium."
Ohia Paris also made NCS for the Cougars at 106 pounds, winning his first match in the consolation round before being eliminated, but was praised by Triggas: "Ohia's only a sophomore and we're really excited about him for next year. He only has to put on some more size."
The girls competed at Albany High School and Campolindo co-head coach Louis Suba was there with Arine Kim and five other Cougar wrestlers, but it was Kim who was the standout. After losing to the No. 1 seeded wrestler, Kim made it through the consolation round, only one win away from making it to the state tournament.
"These were the first Campolindo wrestlers to place since 2014," said Suba. "It was a great way for them to end their Campolindo wrestling careers."
Though there were no wrestlers from Miramonte that were in the NCS tournament, it was more a matter of unfortunate luck and timing that kept three of their wrestlers away. Ryan Edmister, Shannon Lipp and Hannah Ripper all would have competed in the tournament but for injuries each suffered just prior to the tournament.
Miramonte head coach Jason Rosiak still saw it as a positive year and one to build on for next year: " The season was successful in the fact that we had a 3-2-1 record in league matches and we're ready to rebound next year with a number of returning wrestlers and some new wrestlers as well that are showing a lot of potential. Next year will be the first time in two years that we will have seniors on the roster so we should have a lot of leadership, particularly with Ryan. He was our most improved wrestler due to his maturity, development and effort, ending up the year with a 14-6 record."
The Miramonte girls will be led by Ripper who was 12-0 last season with 12 pins in the first round and Lipp who was 12-3. Yahzee Mendez who was injured early in the season is also pointing toward making it to NCS next year.
Triggas is already looking forward to next year for the Cougars: "We are losing eight seniors this year, which will hurt us a little bit, but our juniors, sophomores and freshmen are really developing well. The key will be for them to stick around all summer and that will be the key to our success."
Isabelle Lurie who was being counted on early in the season suffered a broken collarbone in her first match of the season and Suba is also counting on her return as "she's one of our most dedicated wrestlers."
For Acalanes, James Trainer was being counted on to make it to NCS, suffered a knee injury that cut his season short but the Dons are looking forward to his return next season. "The overall team has been coming along," said Hedlund. "We're hoping to get about a half dozen kids in this tournament next year and we're hoping to get a larger turnout of girls next year."
Worthy of special acknowledgment is Acalanes senior Reid Fellner, whose vision is severely limited, lettered this year, ending the season undefeated with a 1-0 record.
There will be more of a local flavor to next season's schedules. Acalanes will now be back in the same division with Campolindo and Miramonte so there will be dual matches with all three teams to look forward to.