SAN JOSE, California — Maybe the Rams should call a couple of former Bay Area high school coaches for tips about how to beat Tom Brady.
They figured it out.
For all of Brady’s greatness with the New England Patriots — he’s going for a sixth Super Bowl championship in nine appearances Sunday — the record book shows that he never played in a high school playoff game as Serra’s quarterback in 1993 and 1994.
And some results were pretty bad.
In Brady’s junior season, Archbishop Mitty blasted Serra, 44-0. Earlier, a St. Francis team that included future big leaguer Eric Byrnes, now an analyst on the MLB Network, crushed Brady and the Padres, 63-6, a wallop the winning side certainly isn’t shy about retelling.
“It is true Tom Brady hit the furthest home run I ever saw hit in high school,” the animated Byrnes told MLB Network viewers last year. “Rumors are true, too, I sacked him three times.”
The 57-point difference was the widest during the Mountain View school’s 34-game winning streak over Serra that began in 1973 and ended in 2006.
“We got off to pretty good start,” recalled former St. Francis coach Ron Calcagno, who led his program to 11 Central Coast Section championships before stepping down after the 1995 season. “Everything just seemed to fall into place. That was at our place. I am not sure if we had turnovers or not. I don’t want to say things that are not true. I just know we got it rolling and they weren’t able to stop us and we stopped them fairly well.”
Calcagno pushed the right motivational buttons before the epic blowout, noted Matt Scharrenberg, a junior defensive back for St. Francis in 1993 and now the school’s defensive coordinator.
“I was a backup that game, so I don’t remember the specifics,” Scharrenberg said. “But I know we were fired up for that game. I think coach Calcagno either made up a story and said a story that one of the games there were Serra guys heckling us. There was a purposeful message being sent that game.”
Scharrenberg intercepted one of Brady’s passes that night and returned it 80 yards, falling just short of a touchdown.
“Obviously he wasn’t the Tom Brady back then that he is now,” Scharrenberg added. “We knew he was good and we knew they were all right. Truthfully, we knew they weren’t good enough to beat us.”
Serra also wasn’t good enough to hang with Mitty, which dialed up the right game plan to slow down the pass-happy Brady.
“We knew he was a pretty special kid, but he didn’t have a lot of supporting cast with him,” said Dave Brown, Mitty’s coach back then. “He had one receiver. We felt like if we could get him on his back, he couldn’t throw it. If you were going to beat a West Catholic team, you better be able to run it. If you were going to throw it and we had good enough athletes to cover, we were going to come after you with everything we had.”
Not all opponents got to Brady or beat him. In his junior season at the San Mateo all-boys school, Serra finished 6-4 overall and 2-3 in the West Catholic Athletic League. In his senior year, Serra went 5-5 and 2-3.
In today’s era of expanded playoffs, those won-loss records likely would have qualified Serra for the postseason.
But not so in Brady’s time.
“It was all so different back then,” Calcagno said. “Back then they didn’t have 15 divisions.”
In some respect, Brady was ahead of his time. He attempted 122 passes in five league games as a senior. No other quarterback in the WCAL — then known for its three-yards-and-cloud-of-dust offenses — threw more than 53 passes.
Brady passed for 2,121 yards in 10 games in 1994 and 3,514 yards in his high school career.
“They did really well against teams that they could give him some protection,” Brown said. “He had a hell of an arm. He could throw it a mile.”
Mike Janda, Bellarmine’s coach then and now, pulled out film last week of his team’s game in 1994 against Serra, which Brady and the Padres won 27-22. Janda saw the same quarterback that he has watched for two decades with the Patriots.
“It’s really amazing,” Janda said. “You see the quick release, the poise, the accuracy, the strength of the arm. So effortless and smooth the way he threw the ball in high school. In our game — and this is really sad — we decided as a coaching staff and not doing it very smartly that we were going to play a lot of man coverage. That was not a good thing.
“Our guys played their hearts out. You can watch it on film. They were right with the guys. But Tom Brady put some beautiful passes right on the money. On that day, he threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns. This is the era before the spread offense, throwing it every down.”
Back then, Brady was just as good, if not better, at baseball. The Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) drafted the first-team all-Mercury News left-handed hitting catcher in the 18th round in 1995, but Brady opted to play football at Michigan and, well, everyone knows the rest.
“He’s 41 and playing like a kid,” Calcagno said. “It’s really crazy. He obviously has improved and done his work. Maybe in high school he was splitting his time with the baseball, too. But it looks like his concentration has been pretty solid from then on.”