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In the News: Nor Cal Football Title Out of South City’s Reach

Nor Cal football title out of South City’s reach
Frank Moro’s last game testament to his dedication in saving program
By Terry Bernal, Daily Journal staff
Dec 4, 2023  
South City senior Justice Goodman, right, defends with Darren Miller, middle, on a potential interception just out of their reach in the CIF Northern California Division 6-A regional championship game Saturday night at Clifford Field. (Terry Bernal/Daily Journal)
South City senior Justice Goodman, right, defends with Darren Miller, middle, on a potential interception just out of their reach in the CIF Northern California Division 6-A regional championship game Saturday night at Clifford Field. (Terry Bernal/Daily Journal)
The pep band roared, the cheerleaders hurrahed, the fans packed both sides of the Clifford Field grandstands. It was an apropos closing stanza to the career of South City coach Frank Moro.
South City’s historic season came to an end Saturday night as the Warriors (12-2) were walloped 42-6 by visiting Colusa in the CIF Northern California Division 6-A football regional championship game. The loss marked an emotional end to the Warriors’ unprecedented run to the Nor Cal playoffs, just two years after the varsity program was shuttered due low roster numbers.
It also served as the final game of the coach who brought South City football back from the abyss. Moro, who originally coached the Warriors from 1985-2013, returned last year specifically with hopes of re-instituting the failing program. The enthusiasm and turnout surrounding the team throughout the 2023 season, especially through the four-week Central Coast Section Division V championship postseason run, was validation of Moro’s success — success he, by no means, was certain he could achieve when he returned as head coach in 2022.

“There was times at the beginning when I didn’t know if we’d even have a team,” Moro said. “It just grew. I knew South City — I always tell everybody, when you come here, you’re going to get good, tough kids, well-raised kids. X’s and o’s, everybody has x’s and o’s. Everything works, logically. But you’ve got to get these kids going academically and being good kids. Then things will take care of themselves. And that’s what eventually happened.”
South City’s current head coach Kolone Pua was in tears as he addressed the team for the final time during the postgame huddle in the north end zone. Pua and Moro are like brothers. Pua played for Moro at South City for four years, then coached as his defensive coordinator for many more. Prior to this season, when Moro stepped back to take an assistant coaching role, it was in large part because Pua was positioned to take over as varsity head coach for the first time in his long career.
In the wake of Moro’s departure, Pua will still be surrounded by family. All four of his sons are on staff for South City football — Kolson Pua, varsity offensive coordinator; Kolone Isaac Pua, varsity defensive coordinator; Kalvin Pua, junior-varsity head coach; and Maligi Maluia, junior-varsity offensive coordinator — but with the end of every season comes the goodbyes to his “extended” family, his football family. And this goodbye, in his first season as head coach, hit him particularly hard.
“I just love these guys,” Pua said. “It just sucks it ended up the way it did, but I’m still proud of these guys. These are like my boys. No matter what the team is, but the team I have that year, they’re like my sons. And when you do a loss like this, you feel like you let them down.”
Colusa tight end Isaiah Travis makes a TD catch against South City. (Terry Bernal/Daily Journal)
Colusa tight end Isaiah Travis makes a TD catch against South City. (Terry Bernal/Daily Journal)

Colusa (13-0) is in the midst of its own historic run. The undefeated Redhawks are in the CIF Nor Cal playoffs for the second straight year, but Saturday marked not only the first Nor Cal victory in the program’s history for the small school midway between Yuba City and Clear Lake, the game’s first touchdown — a 14-yard pass from the left-handed Bo Coronado to 6-5 senior tight end Isaiah Travis — was the first Nor Cal score in Colusa history. Last season, the Redhawks were shut out 21-0 by Atascadero in the Nor Cal opener.
“We got here last year, and we got weather, and our kids had a major outbreak of RSV, and it was just terrible,” Colusa head coach Mikey Badaluco said. “So, these conditions, we thought we had a chance. We thought we matched up well with these guys. They’re tough. We brought our ‘A’ game tonight.”
The Redhawks had some Industrial City juju on their sideline as well, this in the person of former Colusa head coach Russ Gardner, who as a young child lived in South San Francisco until he was 6. In addition to coaching at Colusa, Gardner previously served as head coach at neighboring Maxwell High School, where Badaluco played for him as the team’s quarterback.
Badaluco’s Redhawks impressed with football speed and charismatic emotion. South City’s lone highlight was an explosive 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by junior Darren Miller late in the third quarter. Otherwise, Colusa outgained South City 358-84 in total yards and earned a running clock with the final score of the night, a 15-yard touchdown run by senior Aiden Selover, with five minutes to play.

While Selover ran 16 times for 117 yards and two touchdowns, most of that damage came in the second half. The Redhawks took a 21-0 lead into halftime, with Coronado and Travis setting the tone. Coronado finished 12-of-20 passing for 204 yards and three touchdowns, while Travis totaled seven catches for 102 yards and two TDs.
“[Coronado] has done a good job of finding the open guy; he doesn’t force stuff,” Badaluco said. “And [Travis] is 6-5 and he can fly. So, we just try to create matchups and he wins them.”
South City’s defense — one that recorded shutouts in half the team’s wins this season — looked in solid form through the first quarter. Colusa was forced to punt on each of its first two possessions. But the Redhawks leveraged the field-position game and used short fields to finally break through with 7:09 remaining in the half, capping a three-play, 43-yard drive with a 14-yard strike from Coronado to Travis.
Then the turnover bug bit.
Two plays later, South City quarterback Anthony Howell was intercepted over the middle, and Colusa linebacker William McCoy returned it 32 yards for a pick-6 touchdown. Three plays after that, the Warriors fumbled the ball away on a botched shotgun snap, with the Redhawks recovering in the red zone. South City’s defense held for three plays, but on fourth-and-6, Coronado found Travis for an 8-yard TD pass to take a 21-0 lead into the half.
Colusa made it 35-0 with 3:08 left in the third quarter on a 5-yard scoring run by Selover. But the Warriors delayed the threat of a running clock on the ensuing kickoff, as Miller broke through the middle for an 85-yard touchdown return for a TD. But the Redhawks sustained their final drive for 5 minutes, 25 seconds in the fourth quarter to earn the running clock with 5:06 to play.

South City junior Elijah Fields paced the offense with 13 carries for 49 yards. Junior quarterback Angelo Bartolome took over under center late in the first half and finished 3-of-5 passing for 21 yards. The Warriors had a glimmer of hope at the start of the second half when senior nose tackle Mila Iopu produced a strip-sack with South City recovering. The Warriors, however, turned it over with a fumble two plays later, and Colusa dominated from there.
Moro is retiring from coaching but plans to stay at South San Francisco through the 2024-25 as an on-campus teacher. His legacy on the field is one as an assistant coach from 1985-2002 and ’23, as head coach from 2003-13 and ’22, and the man who brought varsity football back to the school, where the sport, he said, has long been integral to keeping students on the right track.
“It’s huge,” Moro said. “It gets kids out of trouble. Some of these guys, if they weren’t playing football, they may do something else that might not be as productive as football.”