OAKLAND — With a new coach at the helm, and having lost their starting quarterback, top three receivers, former AAA Player of the Year running back and their top defenders, the Galileo Lions were already facing a tough 2019.
Facing Oakland on the road without star tackle Joseph Ale (concussion) in the season opener didn’t make things much easier.
Though the Lions did have several confidence-inspiring big plays, they dressed just 19 players, and were overwhelmed by a Wildcats team that made the playoffs a year ago. Galileo fell 42-6 in a running-clock loss, gaining no more clarity on a muddy quarterback battle to replace the graduated Ronald Fox.
“Nineteen guys out of 30 today,” said first-year head coach Lamar Williams. “A couple injuries. Been banging a little bit. We’ve got four guys injured right now, and a couple guys we’re waiting to get eligible. One or two didn’t turn in all their paperwork. We’re just trying to get the numbers back up and get the morale back up.”
Last season, the Lions came off a state title season and went 7-3, finishing second in the Academic Athletic Association, only to fall in the section semifinals. From that team, they lost Fox (477 rushing yards, 672 passing yards), Michael Duran (301 rushing yards, 211 receiving yards, 44 tackles), Jimmie Edwards III (573 rushing yards, 84 tackles, 22 TFL) and Reese Bickart (23 tackles, 233 receiving yards) to graduation and former league Player of the Year Yarvell Smith (919 rushing yards), who moved back to his hometiwon of Cincinnati. They also lost coach Marcus Blacksher.
“They have to trust me, coming over from Mission,” said Williams, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015, before serving as head coach in 2016 and 2017 and assisting at Riordan in 2018. “I was their rival coach, so they have to buy in to me. It’s going to be a process, and it’s coming slowly, but surely.”
Galileo coaching great George White coached Damon Keys, who coached Williams as when he was the 2001 AAA Player of the Year as a running back at George Washington, but the toughest buy in has been on offense.
“It’s just a culture, getting the kids to buy in to the new culture, the new dream, understanding that I come from a winning background,” said Williams.
The Lions (0-1) got 22- and 33-yard runs from emerging playmaker Brandon Ho, but the rest of the offense generated just 28 net yards.
After Oakland (1-0) ran off a seven-play, 61-yard scoring drive to open things up, the Lions bobbled a shotgun snap backed up deep with 4:56 to go in the first quarter, leading to a quick two-play scoring drive.
Senior quarterback Robby Lee then threw an interception at the Galileo 47, which led directly to a four-play scoring jaunt, ending in a 20-yard touchdown pass.
The Lions, though, got into a rhythm on the next drive, driving out to the Oakland 46, but the second quarterback to get snaps — senior Kidus Samson — was hit as he cocked back to throw, leading to a 40-yard fumble recovery touchdown to put the Wildcats up 28-0.
Galileo engineered an 85-yard march, with a nifty double spin move along the far sideline by Ho sparking a 33-yard gain. With 43 seconds left, the Lions got a one-yard touchdown run from Kobe Cabuntala, but a Samson two-point conversion run came up short. An 80-yard kickoff return by the Wildcats all but sealed the win before halftime. Galileo didn’t score again.
“They’re coming along, and it’s a new offense, it’s the Mission offense,” Williams said. “They’re coming along. If we would have had Joe, it would have been a lot better. The backside was getting ripped through. He’ll be back next week, and we’ll be ready to go.”