A crowd, decked out in colorful flower necklaces, packed into the tropical Homecoming football game on the afternoon of Saturday, October 15 to watch the Berkeley High School Yellowjackets defeat the Washington Huskies in a 53-19 blowout.
There were many BHS football alumni in attendance, including Nathan Dahl, class of 1999. “(This) current excitement is something we didn’t have. We didn’t have this number of fans,” said Dahl, who saw over 10 of his teammates in the crowd during the game.
The Jackets came in off of a 27-23 win against Hayward, where they were labeled as a big underdog. According to senior linebacker Elijah Dupaty, “Last game really brought us together as a team … we really stepped up from the past weeks and started building up like a program.”
Athletic Director Ross Parker brought up that the BHS football program was one of the best in the area 10 years ago, but has struggled since, until noticeable improvement this year. “This team has taken leaps and bounds,” he said.
The Jacket offense started slow. On their first drive, they failed to get a first down and were backed up near their own end zone. However, their bold decision to fake a punt succeeded, converting a first down. Soon after, sophomore BJ Thurman caught and ran for a 50 yard touchdown. From then on, there was no slowing the team.
Star senior wide receiver Jackson Harris got an interception, and on the next play ran for a 60 yard touchdown. It seemed as though every time the ball was in his hands, no one could tackle him – he got five total touchdowns, including a kickoff return.
“I think he’s definitely the motivating factor of this team … I’m surprised he doesn’t have more attention, because holy … he’s good,” said starting center and junior Eli Moulton. The victory was a family affair as Jalen Harris, Jackson’s brother, also had a touchdown, and multiple long kickoff returns. Junior quarterback Drew Henderson was accurate and precise throughout the whole game as well, and BHS cheer presented an exciting three-part halftime routine.
Coach David Perry praised the team’s character. “They’re learning that when things get tough, you lean on your brothers and you lean on your teammates.”
The community leaned on each other during a solemn moment at halftime, when the game jersey of BHS class of 2017 linebacker Brandon Bailey, who passed away this summer, was presented to his mother Tanisha Wilder by Perry and Tiffany Sutherland, BHS cheer coach.
With generations of athletes and alumni behind them, and fresh energy this year, the team is reaching new heights. “We knew that we were going to be doubted by everyone, (this season),” Dupaty said postgame. “We come out on this field every day to show that we’re not the same old Berkeley, and that this year is a whole new team.”