Football championship notebook: Bishop Alemany linemen feast at buffet

Bishop Alemany junior offensive tackles Aitor Urionbarrenechea and Rhino Tapaatoutai.
Bishop Alemany junior offensive tackles Aitor Urionbarrenechea and Rhino Tapaatoutai have helped the team reach the Division 2 championship game.
(Nick Koza)

Everyone knows you don’t bring offensive linemen to a buffet unless you want to see destruction. Bishop Alemany coach Casey Clausen decided to reward his five offensive linemen by inviting them to the Southern Section championship luncheon on Monday in Long Beach, and let’s just say the Warriors were the most intimidating group.

They deserved every helping of chicken, beef, potatoes, vegetables, salad and churros they could eat for helping the Warriors reach Saturday’s Division 2 championship game against Orange Lutheran at Bishop Alemany. This is a team that has flourished because the line has cleared the way for standout running backs Floyd Chalk and Jaylen Thompson.

The Warriors became a running team after a loss to Mission Viejo on Sept. 17. They’ve won every game since. The linemen include junior offensive tackles Aitor Urionbarrenechea and Rhino Tapaatoutai and seniors Samiuela Palu, Isai Perez and Samiuela Sefa.


“Running the ball on the other team is fun. It’s what we love the most,” Urionbarrenechea said before taking a bite of chicken on his crowded plate.

Tickets on sale: The Southern Section isn’t making tickets available to the public for Friday’s Division 1 championship game between Santa Ana Mater Dei and Servite until 4 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be played at Long Beach Veterans Stadium, which has a capacity of about 11,000. They will be available at

Rollo fired up: Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson is always fired up when his team is playing for a championship, but taking on Catholic-school rival Servite adds a new dimension. The two schools have never played in a championship game.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of former Mater Dei players will be showing up to watch the team practice in a Thanksgiving tradition that has Rollinson reminding his current players how they must try to follow the alumni on and off the field.

Young guru: Downey St. Pius X-St. Matthias coach Devah Thomas is just 33 years old and has his team playing Aquinas for the Division 7 championship. He’s a former Los Angeles Salesian assistant.

Poly vs. St. Francis: Two schools that used to be Division 1 during their glory years, Long Beach Poly and La Canada St. Francis, are facing off in the Division 4 championship game on Saturday at St. Francis. Dean Herrington, in his first season at St. Francis, has taken over for his friend and pupil, the late Jim Bonds. He knows that Poly presents a big obstacle with its size and speed.

“You have to tackle,” Herrington said. “You miss a tackle, they’re gone.”

Murphy is healthy: Gardena Serra finds itself in the Division 3 championship game against Apple Valley, and the best news for Serra is that quarterback Maalik Murphy and defensive back Rodrick Pleasant are back. At one point, Murphy tried to play despite a bad shoulder and barely could throw the ball 10 yards. Pleasant is one of the fastest players in the state when healthy and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week in the semifinals.


Murphy said all the injury problems during his four years should help him next year when he arrives at Texas for the ups and downs of football.