OAKLAND (CBS SF) — As Oakland’s neighborhoods have changed so has McClymonds High School.

Where once nearly 1,000 students filled the school’s hallways, Mack’s enrollment has tumbled to around 360 and may dwindle even more as families are forced to relocate as the Oakland real estate market grows hotter and gentrification becomes more entrenched.

“Private schools, charter schools, but they’re definitely not coming to McClymonds,” said principal Jeffrey Taylor, when asked about what’s driving the drop in neighborhood enrollment. “It’s not a choice school.”

But one thing hasn’t change — the play of Mack’s football team. Always a perennial Bay Area gridiron power, the Warriors will take on Oxnard’s Pacifica High School, a team pulled from a student population of 3,100, in the state finals of CIF Division 2-A.

It will be Mack’s fourth time in as many years in a title game. Last year, the Warriors beat Garfield-Los Angeles 32-6 to claim the Division 4-A state title game and become the first public school to win three straight CIF championships in the modern era.

McClymonds High School football players join hands in prayer before boarding the bus headed to the CIF Division 2-A State Championship game at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Los Angeles County. (CBS)

Still the challenges are daunting when taking on much larger, more well funded foe.

“We have under 30 students on our football team,” said Taylor, describing a match-up living up to oft-used sports cliche of ‘David vs. Goliath.’ “And they have over 100. And they have a separate offense and a separate defense.”

Coach Michael Peters agrees.

“You going to see on the sideline, they’ve got all the new gear, the replay stuff,” he said. “All we’ve got is a two-way radio.”

But the Oakland pride still flows in the veins of the Mack players.

“We not really worry about the numbers,” said linebacker Semaj Sims. “Size and quantity don’t matter.”

Sims will be playing for much more Saturday. One of his best friends, former Mack star Ramone Sanders, died last month after a brave battle against cancer. Sims was a pall bearer at his funeral.

After last week’s CIF Northern Cal regional final win over Manteca, Sims shared the trophy with Sanders’ parents.

“We dedicated this game to him, we’re going to dedicate the next game to him,” Sims said after the Manteca game.

On Saturday, Sims will have a chance to make good on that promise.

Comments