Colin Kaepernick is set to lead the San Francisco 49ers into the Super Bowl this Sunday in New Orleans, but in 2004 and '05, he was a skinny quarterback for Pitman High in Turlock.
Kaepernick, then a 6-foot-5, 190-pound multi-sport athlete, led Pitman to two varsity football victories over Los Banos High -- 28-6 in 2004 (with 65 passing yards and a touchdown, plus 28 rushing yards) and 38-6 in 2005 (with 115 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, but no rushing yards).
A few people in Los Banos have memories of those games, which came at the end of a 1-9 campaign in 2004 and a 2-8 season in '05.
John Betham, LBHS coach -- They weren't very good (memories). He was an excellent player. I took a couple of my quarterbacks to a camp with this coach -- I forget his name, but he coached a lot of pro quarterbacks. Kaepernick was there, and he interacted with our players very well. And boy, he was a talent even back then.
His junior year, we actually played in the mud. It was a really bad rain, so that might have hurt his chances to throw. But they ran the ball very well.
Jarred Salha, outside linebacker, class of 2006 -- I remember he put up 28 points in the first quarter. I think I had a sack that game (in 2005). All I remember about that game was that they were pretty much unstoppable. I did play the mud bowl game (in 2004). You couldn't even tell which team guys were on. I was watching the game on film, and I couldn't even see my number. Senior year it was dry, which let him play to his strengths. My junior year was just sweeps-and-go and hard-hitting tackles everywhere. It was just running and hitting and praying to God that nobody fumbled. They just owned us that game.
Dustin Caropreso, LBHS offensive coordinator -- I remember the kind of athlete he was. Just a great athlete, just like he is in the NFL. Very good instincts. They didn't throw a lot back then. They were a wing-T team, but he was still deadly when he dropped back.
Willie Frederick, cornerback, class of 2007 -- My junior year I played against him in all three sports. In football they put up 30 points on us in the first quarter. They had a running back, Anthony Harding, that was the star in that game. In basketball he put up 20 points against us, and in baseball he threw a no-hitter. He beat us up pretty good.
It's different seeing an old rival playing in the NFL, but as a 49ers fan it's pretty cool. I also played against Bryce Harper (now with Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals) in junior college. It's pretty cool seeing a guy you played against in the NFL.
I remember his ability to run. He was able to scramble around really well early in the game. I picked him off in the first quarter. It's something for me to look back on.
It was a fourth down and they were probably on the 40 yard line. I picked him off in end zone. I should have batted it down so we'd get the ball at the 40. At the time it was a bad idea, but now I can look back on it and say it was a good idea.
Randy Necito, LBHS defensive coordinator -- That was pretty memorable because that was the last game I coached. After that season I stepped down from football. It didn't go well for us obviously. They jumped out to a 28-0 lead.
Kaepernick in high school, he didn't run the ball. They had such a potent running game. They had Anthony Harding, who went on to star at Fresno State. In his first nine games, he had a total of 49 rushes going into that game. He didn't need to run. They attacked strong side, and they brought Harding. Harding was MVP of the league. He ended up 1,600 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.
The thing about Colin, you talk about a magician with the ball. They broke the huddle, got to the line and got the snap off before the defense had a chance to set. They'd run that misdirection, and for being a tall kid, he hid the ball well and was so shifty. As soon as you'd bring people up against the run, he'd be throwing downfield. You'd bite on the run and they'd throw the ball over the top.
He didn't throw the ball a lot, but when he did it would change the game.
Ryan Amabile, class of 2005 -- (Amabile played against Kaepernick as a junior varsity player, but missed his senior year with a broken leg.) He was really fast, but he didn't really show off his arm. He was a run-first, then-throw kind of guy. They would hand out the rosters the day before, and we looked at ourselves, and we were like, we're not 6-1. You know they always added an inch or a few pounds here and there. We figured that was the same case with Colin -- we'd say, 'There's no way he's 6-4.' But there he was, a 6-4 JV quarterback and linebacker.