Losing to rival Bellarmine by a single yard in last year’s Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal 17-12 hurt.
But not as much as the ensuing pain that followed the junior year of Serra defensive end Matthew Dickerson.
It was the summer before his senior season, and Dickerson’s back began to hurt. He braved the pain, until a CAT scan revealed a stress fracture in his vertebrae. And he couldn’t play anymore.
“When I got the news, it was hard,” said the 18-year-old Dickerson. “The doctor’s telling you you’re probably going to miss out on the whole season. The first month was probably the hardest, just trying to get over and trying to accept my injury.”
“Everything is on the bright side now,” Dickerson said.
Despite being relegated to musing from the sideline during the final year of his high school football career, Dickerson — one of the most highly sought out defensive linemen recruits on the West Coast — visited many schools in the Pac-12 Conference, except Stanford, and was offered a full-ride scholarship by storied program Notre Dame.
And with merely one year of varsity gridiron experience under his belt, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound D-lineman took it.
“When I get there, my whole goal is to have a great experience playing college ball. I have a vengeance, I have a chip on shoulder,” Dickerson said. “I just have so much anger missing out on my whole senior year. So right when I put on those pads, I’ll be ready to go.”
But for Dickerson, his football career was nearly for naught. Enamored with the game of basketball since the second grade, the San Francisco-born Dickerson opted to attend Serra in pursuit of a career on the hardwood court.
“I had no intention of playing football whatsoever,” Dickerson said. And neither did his parents, Clarence and Pam.
“They didn’t think I had the mindset to play Pop Warner,” he said.
Clarence, Matthew’s father and grizzled veteran of the collegiate gridiron, was a fullback at Henderson State University in Arkansas, and likewise was fully aware of the toll football takes on the human body.
“He’d get beat up a lot,” Matthew said of his father. “He didn’t want that to happen to his son.”
But Serra coach Patrick Walsh and former D-line coach Jason Hardee changed all that.
“My D-line coach always said I had a gift,” Dickerson said. “He said, ‘If you shut up and listen to me, you’re going to play college ball.’”
He proved to be right.
But before the lineman takes his talents to South Bend, he watched his Padres dominate Pioneer on Saturday 59-7, setting up a rematch of last year’s semifinal playoff against Bellarmine this weekend.
“It’s amazing,” Dickerson said. “I’m so proud of my teammates. I wish I was out there with them, but nothing is better than watching my team win and being a part of it.”
Serra vs. Bellarmine
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Independence High School, San Jose
NOTE: Serra beat Bellarmine 17-7 in the regular season