Christopher's Kingsley Okoronkwo tackles Gilroy's Izaiah Barrera during the Severance Bowl on Oct. 1. The Cougars won 20-0 to extend their domination in the crosstown rivalry. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Severance Bowl bragging rights belong to the Christopher High football team—again. 

The Cougars continued their domination of Gilroy High with a superior performance in the latest game of this crosstown rivalry, pulling away for a 20-0 win on Oct. 1. Christopher limited the Mustangs to a season-low 87 yards of total offense and completely shut down Gilroy’s power run game. 

The victory came a week after the Cougars looked vulnerable against the run in a 24-10 win over Leigh High. However, the CHS defense was the dominant unit in the Severance Bowl, limiting Gilroy to a paltry 1.6 yards per carry. 

“We wanted to come out and be aggressive coming off the ball and make plays,” Christopher senior wide receiver/cornerback Jaterius Lee said. “The D line was a lot more secure this week than last, and we got our stuff together and executed.” 

CHS has now beaten GHS 10 of 12 times since this series started in 2010. And while the Severance Bell – which is inside the CHS library – wasn’t a part of the postgame festivities because things got a little too heated in the last several years, this game is still the most attended of the season for both sides. 

This was Gilroy coach Tim Pierleoni’s first time manning the GHS sidelines after coaching at CHS from the program’s inception until he took over the same position along with athletic director duties at GHS in the spring of 2020. 

“I think that’s the best a Gilroy High football team has played against a Christopher High football team in a long time, so I’m proud of that,” Pierleoni said. “Christopher did a great job. They were very prepared, they’re a great football team and they’ve got excellent coaches and a bunch of really good football players. I think our kids played as hard as they could, and that’s what I wanted more than anything else.”

Despite starting at its own 44-yard line on its first drive and the CHS 45-yard line on its second possession—prime field position—Gilroy was stopped cold. Several of the CHS defensive line and linebacker corps including Brian Garcia, Danny Camilleri, Kingsley Okoronkwo, Kenyon Hawkins, Jack Swan, Will Rizqallah, Eric Argumedo and Julious Aragon routinely converged on any GHS ball-carrier at the line of scrimmage. 

Gilroy’s defense was playing tough, too, with lineman Xavian Balaoro producing several tackles, including two for losses. Perhaps the key turning point of the game came just before halftime, as Swan blocked a GHS punt with Lee recovering it to set up a first-and-goal at the 7. 

A low snap on the punt attempt allowed more time for Swan to swoop in and make a great play. After two run plays that netted six yards, Jaxen Robinson’s 1-yard sneak made it 7-0 with 1 minute, 5 seconds left until halftime. 

It was all Cougars in the second half, as they started to find a rhythm offensively and their defense didn’t allow Gilroy to cross midfield in the final two quarters. CHS struck on its opening drive in the third quarter, with Robinson connecting with Brody Oxley on a quick slant for a 4-yard touchdown with 4:56 left in the third. 

It was a rather interesting drive for Oxley, who on the play just before that dropped what would’ve been a TD. And on the play before Oxley’s drop, he made the key play of the possession, turning a catch over the middle for a big 32-yard gain. 

It was Oxley’s first catch of the game and couldn’t have happened at a better time. CHS was facing a fourth-and-5 from its 36 and no one could’ve faulted coach Darren Yafai for punting since his defense was playing lights-out and at that point it was still very much a game of field position. 

However, a couple of Yafai’s assistants were adamant about going for it and he agreed, and moments later they were up 14-0 and in complete control. After GHS went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, the Cougars put an exclamation point on the victory when Robinson hit Lee over the middle inside GHS territory.

From there, Lee did what he does best, juking defenders along the right seam on his way to the end zone for a 55-yard score. It was Lee’s first and only catch of the game, but it was a big one, making it 20-0 with 1:34 to go in the third. Lee was born in Memphis and lived there until the third grade, when his mom moved some of the family to the Bay Area. 

Most of Lee’s family still live in the Memphis area, which is why he visits there every summer for two to three weeks. 

“It was awesome growing up there, I love it, that’s my hometown,” he said. “I plan on going back there to play in college.”

Although Lee still considers himself a Southern guy at heart, he has cherished his time at Christopher. 

“I love to get the work in with my boys because we’re dedicated to win a league championship,” he said. “We went to the CCS championship game last year, and now hopefully we’ll run it back again and get a ring this time.”

Lee’s frame is finally starting to fill out, though at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, he plans on packing on more muscle as he prepares to play in college, wherever that may be. Lee has the measurables, talent and is liked by the CHS coaches for his work ethic and character.

So, whether he starts off at the community college or four-year level, he’ll certainly have an opportunity to make his mark. Speaking of hitting his target, Robinson has done just that and more in his sophomore season. 

He was 11-of-18 for 144 yards with no interceptions, and completed passes to seven—count ’em, seven—different receivers. Talk about doing a great job of spreading the wealth. 

“Jaxen comes in every week and gets his work in and he does a lot of work off the field, too,” Lee said. 

Chimezie Elias was a standout on defense and Ray Waller had 59 yards on 18 carries for the Mustangs. 

Despite the loss, Pierleoni said he was happy on a variety of fronts. 

“It was great to come back and be welcomed back with open arms,” he said. “I would’ve loved to win this game, but other stuff around the game is important. I think both teams did a great job with sportsmanship. We wanted to turn this rivalry around. It had been kind of a vicious rivalry before, and I’ve got to take a little bit of responsibility for that, too, as the head coach over there before. So I wanted to make it different and I think we created that along with their coaching staff, too. Our staffs being so close together, I think it helped, in that we all love each other very much.”

Jaterius Lee outruns the Gilroy defense for a 55-yard TD in the Cougars’ 20-0 Severance Bowl victory. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Christopher’s Will Rizqallah and Gilroy’s Ray Waller tangle during the Severance Bowl. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Christopher’s Brody Oxley and Gilroy’s Tyler Hodges congratulate each other on a hard-fought game. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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