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Sweeney Shining Sweeney Shining
By MARK TENNIS | Special To SportStars This year’s family vacation had a definite San Francisco Giants’ theme with four games seen in a... Sweeney Shining

By MARK TENNIS | Special To SportStars

This year’s family vacation had a definite San Francisco Giants’ theme with four games seen in a two-week span, but it was watching a different Giants’ game on the tube that brought the biggest smile to my face.

Sure, the Giants struggled mightily during the two weeks in which we saw them lose twice in San Diego and then two more times back home at AT&T Park. In one game, we saw just the 20th balk-off win in MLB history “” in which a balk by the pitcher results in the winning run being scored “” and in another we saw the first triple play in Washington Nationals’ history.

No one knows it, but part of the reason for the Giants going south after the All-Star break is that whenever my 20-year-old son, Sean, sees them in person, they lose and go into a long funk. It’s happened now every season since 2008 “” even in the three World Series years “” and we believe they’ve now lost 15 times in a row with him in attendance. The next time he goes, we’ll have to place some bets on the team the Giants are playing because that may be the only thing that breaks the curse. He wasn’t at the triple play game but was in San Diego.

Foothill-Pleasanton grad Brandon Crawford had the misfortune of hitting into that triple play “” the first one scored as 3-3-5 in MLB history “” but three nights earlier it was simply awesome to see him walk side-by-side down the steps of the dugout toward the Giants’ clubhouse with Matt Sweeney, his Foothill High football coach.

Sweeney was the Giants’ ball dude for their 9-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds and was a primary focus throughout the night on the TV broadcast. If you don’t know, ball dudes get in uniform, get a glove and are responsible for foul balls hit down each side of the field. There’s a different one each night.

The last time I saw him in person was at his 251st win as Foothill’s football coach. That was when the Falcons topped Antioch, 55-54, in the CIF North Coast Section Division I semifinals in which both teams entered at 11-0. I know he’s been battling throat cancer and he looked thinner than before, but according to the broadcast he’s improving and ready for another Foothill football season.

Sweeney’s first season at Foothill came in 1986. He left for a few years between 2006 and 2010 to coach and spend time with his softball-playing daughters and later returned. His teams have only lost 84 times with five ties and he could move to No. 2 this season on the all-time NCS list.

Sweeney also just got done coaching Brandon Crawford’s youngest sister, Jenna, for Foothill’s softball team. With the UCLA-bound Jenna in the outfield and teammates such as pitcher Nalani Scates and outfielder Alana Mendez, the Falcons had a great season in which they played in the NCS Div. I finals and lost to a Freedom-Oakley squad that also was playing with a lot of emotion for a coach. For the Freedom girls, it wasn’t cancer but wanting to raise a plaque in memory of a former assistant coach, Scott Lunger, a Hayward police office killed in the line of duty last summer.

Sweeney has said that even though Brandon went on to become a baseball star, that he’s been perhaps the best all-around football player he’s ever coached. As a junior, Crawford was an all-league defensive back and then switched to quarterback as a senior.

We picked Brandon as a Cal-Hi Sports NorCal Athlete of the Week in 2004 after a three-touchdown pass performance in a 31-17 win over Monte Vista, but the biggest headlines came earlier that season when he and teammate Neima Khaila combined for 329 yards in a win against San Ramon Valley. Khaila’s 329 yards of receiving set a Northern California single game record and is still one of the best totals in state history.

Like a lot of other great football coaches in Northern California, it’s hard for Sweeney to escape the shadow of the greatest football coach in U.S. history, De La Salle’s Bob Ladouceur, so when there are opportunities to blast a spotlight on him “” like the Giants did on that night in late July “” all you can do is make the lights shine even more.

Top 20 NorCal All-Time Football Coaching Leaders
The following list does not consider the CIF Central Section as being in the North, and is based on reported win totals.

399 “” Bob Ladouceur, De La Salle-Concord, 1979-2012 (24 losses, 3 ties)
COMMENT: He’s still contributing mightily as an assistant coach for the Spartans under head coach Justin Alumbaugh.

271 “” Mark Loureiro, Escalon, 1989-2015 (56 losses, 1 tie) (current)
COMMENT: Sac-Joaquin Section’s win leader guided team to CIF Division III state title in 2010.

270 “” Mike Janda, Bellarmine-San Jose, 1984-2015 (losses, ties not reported) (current)
COMMENT: Our Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year for last season.

269 “” Benny Pierce, Saratoga, 1961-1994 (84 losses, 4 ties)
COMMENT: It was a pleasure helping Pierce once coach in the North-South Shrine Game.

266 “” Butch Cattolico, Los Gatos, 1986-2012 (62 losses, 7 ties)
COMMENT: His son, Joe, will be returning to coach this season at Sheldon-Sacramento.

264 “” Max Miller, Costa Mesa, 1969-70 & Rio Americano-Sacramento, 1974-80, 2012-13 & Rancho Cordova, 1981-1993, 1999-2007 & Johnson-Sacramento, 1996-97 (114 losses, 4 ties)
COMMENT: Max still serves the coaching community through his amazing football clinic held in Reno each year.

259 “” Randy Blankenship, Nevada Union-Grass Valley, 1984-1990 & Clovis West-Fresno, 1991-98 & Fallbrook, 1999-2000 & Granbury (Texas), 2001 & Capistrano Valley-Mission Viejo, 2002 & Madera, 2003-08 & Aptos, 2010-15 (90 losses, 6 ties) (current)
COMMENT: He’s a graduate of Mira Loma-Sacramento, which also is where Mike Alberghini and Kevin Rooney (one of the winningest head coaches in SoCal history from Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks) are both from.

258 “” Mike Alberghini, Grant-Sacramento Grant, 1991-2015 (50 losses) (current)
COMMENT: His dedication to the Del Paso Heights community has been amazing over the years.

256 “” Bill Gray, Oceana-Pacifica, 1972-1990 & Pacifica Terra Nova-Pacifica, 1991-2013 (176 losses, 6 ties)
COMMENT: We covered what turned out to be his final game when unbeaten Tigers were forced to play in CCS Open Division against Valley Christian-San Jose.

253 “” Norm Costa, Holy Cross-Santa Cruz, 1964-1969, & Marello Prep-Santa Cruz, 1970-76, & Palma-Salinas, 1977-1999 (65 losses, 4 ties)
COMMENT: He’s the one who put Palma football on the map.

253 “” Bill Foltmer, Princeton, 1980-1984 & Middletown, 1985-2015 (110 losses, 1 tie) (current)
COMMENT: What a job he did last season in the aftermath of the terrible Middletown fire.

251 “” Matt Sweeney, Foothill-Pleasanton, 1986-2006, 2010-2015 (84 losses, 5 ties) (current)
COMMENT: If Foothill were in the CCS instead of the NCS, wonder if his legacy would be even harder to beat.

248 “” Dan Shaughnessy, St. Mary’s-Berkeley, 1964-65 & Salesian-Richmond,1968-1984 & St. Mary’s-Berkeley, 1985-2000 & Albany, 2004-05 (131 losses, 6 ties)
COMMENT: Yes, he’s one of the few who can say he got a win against De La Salle.

248 “” Frank Negri, Foothill-Sacramento, 1965-2006 & Natomas-Sacramento, 2009-2011 (167 losses, 10 ties)
COMMENT: He didn’t turn Natomas into a winner, but it says a lot when a coach like Negri takes over a team with one of the longest losing streaks in the state and makes them respectable.

247 “” Dan Carmazzi, Jesuit-Carmichael, 1981-2011 & Christian Brothers-Sacramento, 2014-15 (109 losses, 3 ties) (current)
COMMENT: The Holy Bowl between Jesuit and CBS the last two years must have felt strange for him after being on the Marauder sidelines for 30 years.

239 ““ Kim Jorgensen, Ferndale, 1991-2015 (57 losses) (current)
COMMENT: This small town, small school has been a powerhouse from long before even Jorgensen arrived and he’s made the Wildcats even better.

234 “” Paul Perenon, Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, 1985-2009 & Hayward Mt. Eden, 2010-15 (111 losses, 3 ties) (current)
COMMENT: He coached some great players at O’Dowd, like Tarik Glenn and Kirk Morrison.

233 “” Ron Calcagno, Mountain View St. Francis, 1972-1995 (59 losses, 3 ties)
COMMENT: His son, Greg, is now leading the Lancers. If Ron had coached for as long as some of the others on this list, he’d be much higher.

232 ““ Jason Franci, Montgomery-Santa Rosa 1979-2012 (125 losses, 10 ties)
COMMENT: He’s still the winningest head coach ever from the Redwood Empire.

NOTE: Only other one on the list with 230 or more wins is Jim Ingram (Washington-Fremont) 1960-1975 and 1979-2002; only coaches with 220 or more wins are Jack Moyer (Fort Bragg), Wayne Schneider (Tracy) & Al Cementina (San Jose-Independence).

Source: Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book.

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