Jonathan Harvey and Jonathan Lopez are part of the top-ranked football team in Northern California, but they don’t take for granted their chance to play in the state’s biggest game of the year.
The two Tracy athletes played together on the Tracy Cougars novice and junior varsity teams and now play for the De La Salle High Spartans of Concord. On Saturday, they are headed to the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division Bowl against Centennial High of Corona. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. at the StubHub Center in Carson.
The Spartans have been to nine consecutive state championship games and six straight Open Division games, the highest level of CIF competition. This year, they are 13-0 after winning the East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section championships.
“It’s just awesome,” said Lopez, a senior cornerback for the team. “I remember playing with the Cougars growing up and I couldn’t wait to play at Tracy High or Kimball High. Then I got this amazing opportunity.”
He added that there’s no secret to the Spartans’ success.
“All we do is train hard,” Lopez said. “It sounds simple, but we have amazing coaches and amazing players and a good work ethic.”
Lopez also respects all of the teams the Spartans have played this year and said that each game made his team better.
“We played good teams all year,” he said. “We prepared ourselves to play on this stage.”
Lopez was on the De La Salle varsity team last year, when St. John Bosco of Bellflower beat De La Salle 20-14 to end the Spartans’ five-game winning streak in the CIF Open Division bowl game.
Harvey, a wide receiver and cornerback, was a sophomore last year and came up to the varsity team for playoffs.
“Last year it was a really intense game, and I was on the sideline. I had the feeling I could do something but (was there) really for the learning experience,” Harvey said. “This year, I get to get on the field and be an influence in the game. To get to state is a real special thing.”
Harvey expects both De La Salle and Centennial to be out for more than just the state title.
“Last time we played them, we beat them in 2012. I think for them it’s going to be a vengeance game,” he said, adding that Centennial also had a record of beating top teams on its way to the Southern Section title.
“They beat St. John Bosco, who we lost to last year. We’re looking for redemption, too,” Harvey said.
John Harvey, Jonathan’s father and the track and field coach at De La Salle High, said the excitement of being at the state championships fires up the players. He witnessed that last year, when his son joined the varsity team as a sophomore but didn’t play much.
“Just watching him on the sidelines, I could see how antsy he was,” Harvey said, adding that ever since his Cougars days, Jonathan had been a starting player.
“It made him a lot more determined as a player to get in that starting rotation.”