For the first time in the history of Laney College, the school’s football team won the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Championship. The underdog Eagles beat the Pirates from Ventura College from Southern California at Sacramento City College on Saturday, December 8. Among the players are twelve former Oakland Unified School District students, including several who played major roles in the win.
Jadan Starks, who graduated from Castlemont High in 2017, played most of the game at left offensive guard where the team ran 70% of their plays. “Jadan is a beast, he’s physically dominant and imposes his will on people,” said Laney Head Coach John Beam. “And he wears his purple shirt (under his jersey) during games for his Castlemont roots.”
Siliveinusi Tomasi, who graduated from Fremont High in 2017, anchored the defense playing nose guard most of the game. Nu’u Taugavau who went to Fremont for two years before moving to Hayward played on the offensive line for about half the game. And receiver Angelo Garrett, who graduated from McClymonds in 2017, caught two touchdown passes. “Angelo is used to playing in big games, after having won the State Championship at McClymonds (in 2016). So, he wasn’t intimidated by the moment at all.”
The game was a close one as the Ventura College Pirates took it down to the final play. But when the Laney defense sealed the 40-35 win, the entire team ran onto the field in an eruption of joy, laughter, even tears.
“Doing it in high school and then going to the next level and making it happen again, it’s nothing but a blessing, first of all,” said McClymonds’ Angelo Garrett. “It’s history. History in the books all over again. Just with my name on it.”
Castlemont’s Jadan Starks said, “We got here at the beginning of this year and said we were going to take it the whole way. We learned our lessons during the process, but no matter what happened, all the injuries… that’s the resilience of this team. We never gave up. No matter what the score is, whether we are up or down, we are not going to give up. We’re going to give anybody everything we got. And I haven’t seen anybody who can take everything we got. You see the result of that today.”
One former OUSD player who didn’t get to take the field was defensive end Ramone Sanders, who graduated from McClymonds in 2018. A few weeks ago, he broke his left leg during practice, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Doctors discovered bone cancer in the leg. He’s now undergoing treatment to battle the disease. But he was on the sidelines inspiring his teammates to bring home the win.
Coach Beam, whose daughter, Sonjha Beam Phillips is the Commissioner of the Oakland Athletic League (OAL) said, “Oakland kids bring a grittiness to the team, a hunger, a chip on their shoulder. They’re used to playing in rough and tumble games. They’re a physical group. They’re fast and they don’t get intimidated.”
On what the win means for Oakland, Starks said, “Oh, it’s a great thing. It’s showing people outside of Oakland that Oakland is doing great things.... To come out here and do something like this, it’s so big, it’s beyond words... If you didn’t know about Laney, you know about Laney now.”
Coach Beam says that through oddities in the world of junior college football, technically, this win means that Laney is the National Champion. “It’s a tribute to the resilience and grit of Oakland. The city is a gem, and gets overlooked all the time. We like to say Laney Built, Oakland Proud.”
The former OUSD and OAL players on the 2018 Laney College Football Team are Castlemont’s Jadan Starks (#68) and Jordan Whitley (33), Fremont’s Siliveinusi Tomasi (97), Nu’u Taugavau (66) and O’Dale Hickman (44), Oakland Tech’s Brandon Hill (99), Skyline’s Parnell Walker (20), and McClymonds’ Angelo Garrett (13), Ramone Sanders (55), Jerrell Alberty (36), Day’Marr Johnson (82) and Kaja Zuberi (88).
OUSD congratulates Laney College and all of our former students who are now State and National Junior College Football Champions!