Chico High chasing first NorCal Regional Championship in school history

Chico High chasing first NorCal Regional Championship in school history

SAN FRANCISCO — The Chico High football team will have the opportunity that players, coaches, alumni and fans have been chasing since the school began in 1902.

In 2006 the CIF created the NorCal Regional Championship and California State Championship games. Each section title winner receives a birth to the NorCal Regional Championship.

Last weekend the Panthers ended a 30-year Northern Section Championship drought when they defeated Foothill in the Division II NSCIF Championship game. Chico High had made it to the Northern Section Championship three consecutive years but had not won. The Panthers last won a section title in 1990, but at that time once a team won a section title its season was over.

On Saturday, Chico High (9-3) will get its first chance at a NorCal Regional Championship when it takes on Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory (6-7) in the CIF Division 4-A NorCal Regional Championship at historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.

The winner of Saturday’s game will play host to the winner of the SoCal Regional Championship, either Northview-Covina or Colony-Ontario, in the 4-A State Championship game on Dec. 11.

Kezar Stadium is the original home of the San Francisco 49ers, as well as where players from the University of San Francisco, University of Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s College of California have played.

“I’m elated. You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity,” said Chico High coach Jason Alvistur. “Obviously we’re getting to play in a state game, but it’s not like we’re going to some regular high school. We’re going to San Francisco and we’re getting to play in the city in this historic stadium. It’s in a historic place, it’s got some character. It’s something we all knew about and it’s something extra special.”

Sacred Heart Cathedral defeated Christopher of Gilroy 27-3 in the Central Coast Section D-III Championship and has won four straight games and six of its last eight dating back to Oct. 8. predicts Sacred Heart Cathedral to advance 21-19 in its projections released Nov. 26.

“It’s a lot of momentum because we’re the first Chico High team to make it to the state playoffs,” said Chico High defensive end and tight end Tad Hervey said. “In 1990 there wasn’t a state playoffs. We’re going to set the tone, be the first Chico High team to make it (to the NorCal Regional Championship) and win it so we got a lot of hopes for that. Trying to shock everyone.”

  • Chico High running back Saxon Farkas, 2, breaks loose for a big run behind blocker Bryce Darlington, 55, during the Panthers’ home matchup against Shasta Friday, November 5, 2021, in Chico, California. (Matt Bates/Enterprise-Record file)

  • Chico High’s Tanner Parker, 30, and Giovanni Phanor, 53, combine to bring down Foothill’s Davis Smith during the Panthers’ 14-7 home win over the Cougars Friday, October 15, 2021, in Chico, California. (Matt Bates/Enterprise-Record file)

  • Chico High’s Dylan O’Hair, 24, breaks loose for a big run during the Panthers’ home playoff matchup against Foothill Saturday, November 27, 2021, in Chico, California. (Matt Bates/Enterprise-Record file)



This year’s Chico High team has focused on three things that have helped lead it to success. Players have put an emphasis on a next-man-up mentality, focusing on “winning each repetition” and having a strong bond and trust amongst each other.

The Panthers lost star running back Dion Coleman in week seven for the rest of the season, and the same week played without starting quarterback Gage James, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Coleman scored 25 touchdowns in six games before the injury. Junior Dylan O’Hair stepped up and played quarterback for James in his absence, and upon James’ return O’Hair has teamed up with senior Saxon Farkas to handle the running back duties.

Chico High defensive coordinator Chris Click called O’Hair the team’s “Swiss Army knife” as he has played three positions on defense, plays running back, and plays on punts in addition to his backup QB role. Freshman defensive back Jaden Neugebauer was called up Oct. 29 to replace Coleman on defense.

In Chico’s section final victory Neugebauer intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, Farkas ran 40 yards for a touchdown to give Chico a 27-23 lead, and O’Hair deflected a pass away on the final play of the game.

Winning each repetition is something that is preached by the DC Click. Click tells his players to win each repetition in practice, win each repetition in the game and not let the hype of the big game get to players.

“If you’re playing really well don’t let the hype get to you and if you’re having struggles don’t let the down stuff get to you. You got to find that middle field and tell yourself all I can do is win the next rep,” Click said. “If you can line up in football and win every rep next thing you know you’ll look up and that scoreboard is going to be where you want it to be. We just try to instill that simple mind.”

Senior linemen Bryce Darlington and Sam Ruffino were the only two players present on the last Chico High team to make it to the Northern Section Championship game. Darlington and Ruffino said the difference between the 2019 team and this year’s team is the bond all of the players share. Hervey, another senior, said this year’s team has the strongest bond of any team he’s played for.

“This team definitely has a lot of grit,” Ruffino said. “We lost Dion, everyone thought we were done. We lost Adon (Newberry) and we just keep losing guys but we keep working. We want it. There’s always a next guy up. What I was told my sophomore year is Chico High was never going to be good again. We definitely changed that.”

The first Northern Section team to qualify for NorCal Regional Championship was Hamilton High School in 2008, which lost 59-7 to St. Margaret’s. In 2013 Chaminade defeated Enterprise. In 2015 Enterprise was the first Northern Section team to win the NorCal Regional Championship when it beat Coronado 16-6. Pleasant Valley defeated St. Anthony 50-49 in 2016 and PV beat Central Valley Christian 43-14 in 2018.

“I think this game is something that the kids in this program have wanted for a long time,” Alvistur said. “I think there’s so many people in this community that are excited for us and are backing us and as a program. We haven’t got to experience this. It’s always been that carrot. This is a really tough gritty football team. They’re going to fight hard and not quit.”

Tickets for Saturday’s game can be purchased by visiting

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