Christopher faces tall task in playoffs

Cougars senior Connor O'Callaghan has impressed with his ability to play QB and wide receiver. Photo by Chris Mora.

After winning the Central Coast Section Division IV championship last year, the Christopher High football team was promoted to the upper Gabilan Division this season. For the most part, the Cougars comported themselves well, finishing 3-4 against A-league competition. Now Christopher faces the unenviable task of playing a powerful Valley Christian squad in the opening round of the CCS Open Division II playoffs on Friday at 7 p.m. in San Jose. 

Valley Christian is one of the top programs in the section, having advanced to a CIF Bowl State Title game in 2016. The Warriors finished second in the vaunted West Catholic League, with its only league loss coming to champion St. Francis, 7-3, in a game that could’ve gone either way.

The Cougars (5-5) are coming off a 35-19 win over crosstown rival Gilroy, with Christian Davis leading the way with perhaps the best game of his career, as he had 11 receptions for 147 yards, including touchdown catches of 20, 33 and 5 yards. Brother Tyler Davis rushed for 67 yards on 11 carries, Jason Scirigione had six receptions for 82 yards, and Ben Sanford completed 22-of-36 passes for 311 yards and four TDs with no interceptions. 

The Davis twins and Scirigione were also instrumental on defense, with Christian Davis adding an interception, Tyler Davis finishing with five tackles and Scirigione producing three tackles for losses. Cougars coach Tim Pierleoni said one player who did all the right things throughout the season was receiver and backup quarterback Connor O’Callaghan, a senior who didn’t impress on the stat sheet but earned rave reviews for his willingness to work hard and listen. 

Pierleoni said O’Callaghan “will do anything you ask him to do,” one of the reasons why O’Callaghan has adjusted well playing receiver this season, the first time in his career he’s played the position. Pierleoni asked O’Callaghan early in the season if he wanted to play another position, knowing the senior probably wouldn’t see many reps as the backup QB to Sanford, who had a terrific performance against Gilroy. 

O’Callaghan earned his first-ever reception in the team’s third game against King City, and he also completed 2-of-3 passes in that same game. O’Callaghan said the transition from QB to receiver was a smooth one because playing receiver means giving maximum effort even when the ball isn’t going your way. 

“At receiver, you never know where the ball is going to go, so you have to be ready on every play,” he said. “I’m always running hard and have an attitude to keep going. At quarterback, you have to know everything and make good decisions.”

O’Callaghan’s best game of the season came against a tough Palma team on Oct. 12, when he started under center and went 13 of 25 for 139 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. At 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds, O’Callaghan has always been undersized in the sport. However, once he got over the fear of the physicality of the game playing for the Gilroy Browns in the eighth grade, O’Callaghan has used his attitude to maximize his abilities.