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Prep Game of the Week: Mission falls to 0-2 despite strong defensive effort

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Jelani al Malik of Mission High School runs back a kickoff in the second half of the Bears’ 20-6 loss to Oakland Tech at Kezar Stadium on Aug. 31, 2018. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

KEZAR STADIUM — After forfeiting its opener due to lack of eligible players, after not having a scrimmage and while suiting up just 18 players, the Mission High School football team — the regular-season Academic Athletic Association champions a year ago — could be forgiven for a lackluster performance.

While a 20-6 loss to Oakland Tech — with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch on the sidelines — would seem to be just such a performance, the Bears held the Bulldogs scoreless in the second half, and that, first-year head coach Tobias Whitley said, is something to celebrate.

“This was a learning experience,” Whitley said. “We didn’t get a scrimmage, we didn’t get to do our first game, so this is our first time out seeing somebody. I feel like we did a good job.”

Oakland Tech opened with a punishing 19-play drive that took up all but 3:41 of the first quarter, ending with a seven-yard touchdown run for powerful running back Jacob Harris. During that drive, there were five penalties, including a costly pass interference call.

“It’s a little bumpy,” Whitley said. “They had a 19-play drive, so my guys didn’t really get out to get a breather. It was a long drive. We helped chauffeur them to the touchdown on that drive, I feel like.”

Mission responded with a 12-play drive that got them all the way down to the Bulldogs’ nine-yard line, but quarterback McKinley Oliver fumbled on second-and-goal to hand the ball back to Oakland Tech.

The Bulldogs went on to score again with 1:20 left in the second quarter, on a five-yard pass from Cedric Goudy to tight end Joe Lewis. Oakland Tech took over again with 26 seconds left in the half, after Oliver escaped three sacks but couldn’t evade a fourth on fourth-and-10 at the Bulldogs’ 40. A huge 46-yard bomb up the middle to Josiah Ferguson set up a five-yard Goudy touchdown run and a two-point conversion to give Oakland Tech a 20-0 lead.

“Iron man football at its finest,” Whitley said. “We prepare for this. I tell a lot of them, we don’t play four quarters. We play eight quarters. We practice, we prepare for eight quarters.”

During a halftime speech in the shadow of the historic archway at the west end of Kezar Stadium, Whitley told his team to remember what they’d done before they got to Kezar.

“It was about effort, effort,” Whitley said. “It ain’t always about winning. It’s about effort. Sometimes, we get caught up in winning and losing, when sometimes, you’ve just got to give it your all. That’s what I told them coming out into the second half: Give it your all. Don’t quit. Be better than what we showed in the first half. That’s why I’m proud.”

Mission held the Bulldogs to just 88 yards in the second half.

Oliver led Mission (0-2) on a robust final drive against Oakland Tech’s second-string, rushing for 35 yards and getting up after a sack to hit a 15-yard pass to Jaleel Bender as the clock ran down. At times throughout the game, Oliver ran the option very effectively, rushing for 61 of the Bears’ 137 yards.

That, too, Whitley said, was encouraging, especially given that his linemen had to play both ways, including defensive end Ben Bennet. One of Mission’s captains, Bennet had two sacks on the day, officially, but also had two wiped out by penalties. He was consistently in the backfield against the Bulldogs, harassing Goudy.

Goudy — like Oliver, a dual-threat quarterback — went 11-for-20 passing for 133 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries.

Jelani Al-Malik caught two passes for 16 yards for the Bears, while rushing seven times for 45 yards and a touchdown, scoring from nine yards out with 5:14 left in the game. Al-Malik rushed for 393 yards on 56 carries as the team’s second-leading rusher last season.

“We had a good drive to start, and I think we improved from there, the fumble, that ended right here, we move forward from that,” Whitley said. “I feel like, for the most part, we improved. We got better in the second half. They didn’t score. We scored. I feel like we won the second half. I’m proud of them for that. They didn’t stop fighting. They didn’t quit, so that’s a big thing for me.”

Mission will take on Oakland-Fremont on Sept. 8 at 1:30 p.m. as part of the Touchdowns Against Cancer series of games, with the game played at Curt Flood Field.

The next prep game for the Examiner will be on Saturday at 1 p.m., when St. Ignatius (0-1) hosts Moraga-Campolindo at J.B. Murphy Field in San Francisco.

Want to be featured in the Game of the Week, or have your team mentioned in the Examiner? Email scores, highlights and stats to rgorcey@sfexaminer.com.

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