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After 20 years of coaching at Campolindo, Kevin Macy marvels at his 2015 Cougars’ accomplishments   By CHACE BRYSON | Editor    Nearly 40...

After 20 years of coaching at Campolindo, Kevin Macy marvels at his 2015 Cougars’ accomplishments

  By CHACE BRYSON | Editor 

  Nearly 40 minutes had passed since the Campolindo High football team had won its second CIF Northern California Regional Bowl game in as many years — beating a visiting Milpitas team from a school with three times as many students, and qualifying for the CIF Division III-AA State Bowl against La Mirada on Dec. 19.

  The mass of Campolindo players, students, parents and supporters that typically gathers near the south end zone had dissipated to a mere few. Among them was Cougars coach, Kevin Macy, who was doing the same thing he’d been doing for the last half hour: accepting hugs and consistently trying to answer the question of ‘How?’

PHOTO GALLERY: See exclusive game and behind-the-scenes photos from Campolindo’s NCS and NorCal title victories.

  How does his team keep finding ways to win games like these, against bigger, stronger athletes from much larger schools? How has he got so much out of a roster that had so many key losses following its CIF Div. III State Bowl championship a season ago? How?

  As Macy begins his walk back down the Moraga hillside that provides the setting for the school’s football field, he tries to answer ‘how’ once more. As many times as he’s answered, nothing about his response feels canned or filled with cliché.

  “Week to week, we just morph into some new weird type of a team,” said Macy, who is in his 20th season with the Cougars. “It’s hard to peg this team. Every week we seem to frustrate ourselves. But I always tell the kids, week in week out, we play hard and we compete.

  “It hasn’t been easy. Nothing is ever pretty with this team.”

  That last point may be debatable for some. Especially to outside coaches who must marvel at Campolindo’s consistency to rise to the occasion. And perhaps even more impressive, is that it’s never the same players who lead the way.

  The biggest moment of the team’s 27-24 regional bowl win over Milpitas came with a little more than a minute left in the game, the score tied, and Milpitas driving for the winning score. That’s when Trojans quarterback Oliver Svirsky was attempting to convert a 3rd-and-long and overthrew his receiver who had stumbled on the play.

  Dante DeLuca, one of just 12 seniors for the Cougars, was positioned perfectly to intercept the pass and returned it 40 yards down the right sideline. The return, plus a Milpitas penalty, moved Campolindo into field goal position for Matt Blair, who confidently nailed a 32-yard game-winning kick with 26 seconds left.

  That the game-changing play came from DeLuca was perfectly Campolindo. DeLuca began the year as a starting safety and struggled a bit in the early season. “I wanted to simplify his world by putting him at corner and use his (6-foot-2) height,” Macy explained. “We made the decision as we were going up to play Napa (on Sept. 18) and Dante didn’t like that idea. He’s a lovable, good-hearted kid, but has a stubbornness to him. … And he chose not to go in that night. He didn’t play.”

  Napa won the game 21-14 and remains the only loss for the Cougars through 15 games in 2015.

  Macy and the staff worked with DeLuca and he bought in, sacrificed his desires for the team, and has fortified a defensive secondary that is among the best in the East Bay. He also had a big interception in the North Coast Section championship game the week prior to playing Milpitas.

  “It’s awesome what he’s doing,” said fellow senior defensive back Devin Regan, who leads the team with six interceptions. “Dante had some problems on and off the field earlier this year and Coach Macy and a few others took him under their wing and he’s turned into an incredible person now. Everything is going well for him.”

  DeLuca, who was overcome with emotion while hugging family after the game, deflected a lot of the credit.

  “I’m so shocked right now,” he said. “I had all of my buddies there blocking for me on the return. I couldn’t have done any of this without my team, and I was doing it for them.”

  Much of the lead-up to the Milpitas game centered around the rhetoric of how the new CIF State Bowl divisions led to a matchup that seemed so lopsided in terms of school size. But Macy narrowed the focus of his team as the week went on.

  “We emphasized that it wasn’t about Milpitas. We wanted to use the week to focus on us,” Macy said.

  For perhaps the first time this season, a program that hasn’t lost a Diablo Foothill Athletic League since 2010 and a team which was a defending NCS and CIF State Bowl champ, got to play the underdog role.

  But when the team’s back was against the wall, the biggest factor in the team’s victory was evident.

  “Heart,” senior Yale-bound lineman Sterling Strother said. “I think we were playing for something greater than other high school teams play for. The foundation and the traditions that Coach Macy has established and built over the last 20 years is just incredible.

  “Everybody buys in, and when it comes to crunch time we just know to strap it up and play for each other.”

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