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Grizzlies make difficult transition look seamless under Calcagno

Cal is 2-1 in its first year under Danny Calcagno. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo
Cal is 2-1 in its first year under Danny Calcagno. Chris Jackson / Staff Photo

How did Danny Calcagno make it work?

That’s the question he wonders during this season, which is his first at the helm of the California Grizzlies’ football program. He was hired a year ago, taking over for Eric Billeci, who had an inordinate amount of success at the school with his ground and pound style, as he won multiple East Bay Athletic League titles.

As if it wasn’t challenging enough to entirely changes the schemes, particularly on offense from the heavy run sets to the spread, Calcagno’s first year has been far from ordinary. To say the least.

The COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world, sending everyone into Zoom meetings, virtual classrooms and virtual conversations. The world essentially shutdown, and California was at the forefront of the move, delaying high school sports from the fall into the winter, and then to the spring.

So, Calcagno and the Grizzlies were left scramblin.

“Oh my gosh,” Calcagno said. “Offense, defense, everything.”

While the times were unlike any other in the world’s history, Calcagno and Cal made it work.

They installed over Zoom meetings. They used the limited time they had together to learn the new system and build chemistry.

Plus, after the state announced sports could come back, all they had was three weeks to get ready for the season. So, Cal was off and running, developing a cohesive unit together and bracing for one of the toughest schedules anyone would face in America.

Cal is in the East Bay Athletic League’s Mountain Division. There’s nationally ranked De La Salle. Clayton Valley Charter, coming off a state title run, recently joined the fray. San Ramon Valley. Monte Vista.

Yet, Cal is succeeding, making the transition look effortless, even if it has been far from that.

“The kids have been awesome,” Calcagno said. “They’re paying attention. We watch film every day, so we’re doing those kinds of things. The thing that is really hurting us because of what Cal High traditionally is just big and strong, and we’re just not strong, and that’s because we haven’t been in the weight room. We need to get back in the weight room as quickly as possible.”

Right now, Cal is 2-1 and just entered the Bay Area Football Rankings at No. 17.

In the season opener, Cal put up 63 points in a 30-point win over Dublin to open up the Calcagno era. It nearly beat Clayton Valley the week after, falling in 20-16 fashion in a very winnable game where it dropped two touchdown passes and missed two field goals.

This past week, Cal earned a 38-31 victory over Monte Vista, as its offense and defense came together.

The defense allowed 17 points, with the other 14 Monte Vista points coming on special teams scores, and forced three turnovers. Quarterback Teddy Booras threw 48 passes and finished with 306 yards. Jake Calcagno had 156 receiving yards. Jake Hubbard ran for 163 yards and three touchdowns – the second time this year he accounted for three scores.

At 7 p.m. tonight, Cal will look to keep building when it travels to No. 8 San Ramon Valley, which is a program this Grizzlies senior class has not beat in its time at the school.

“They’re doing well,” Danny Calcagno said. “We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible and not have too many different plays. Just be good at a few. And they’re stepping up, doing good.”

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