SAN MATEO — Serra left no doubt.
There was no need for a dramatic comeback, no need to sweat out the final minutes of another Northern California heavyweight matchup against De La Salle.
Serra had two defining moments in what became a 28-0 victory on Saturday over the storied opponent from Concord: A 99-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of the opening half that broke a scoreless tie and a relentless defense that kept pounding and pounding until it became the first team since Clovis West in 2005 to shut out De La Salle.
It was DLS’s worst shutout loss since Salesian beat the Spartans 32-0 in 1979.
When Saturday’s game ended, Serra had completed a sweep of its closest pursuers in NorCal’s hierarchy, De La Salle and Folsom, for the second year in a row.
But unlike a week ago, when the Padres started fast but didn’t play a complete game against Folsom, the San Mateo powerhouse felt much better about its performance Saturday.
“Of course, the signature of the game was the defense,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said. “But the signature of the game for the offense was that 99-yard drive. When things come together here on West 20th Ave., for me it’s almost like poetry. It’s just beautiful.
“I was so pleased to overcome some of the things that we struggled with last week against a very good De La Salle team.”
In a hard-hitting first half, the game was scoreless when De La Salle — ranked No. 2 by the Bay Area News Group — punted from midfield four minutes into the second quarter.
The ball was muffed by the home team and both sides scrambled for possession near the goal line.
Had De La Salle (1-1) recovered, it would have given the visitors the ball inches from a touchdown and might have changed the complexion of the game.
But top-ranked Serra (2-0) gained possession and even though the Padres were in the shadow of their end zone, they went on a drive that could be a defining moment in their season.
“It’s not a good feeling standing in the wrong end zone,” said quarterback Maealiuaki Smith, who threw for 237 yards. “We got out of there. We stayed disciplined and got the ball in the end zone.”
It took 16 plays and seven minutes to march down the field.
Serra converted two fourth-down plays. It converted a third-and-seven when Smith connected with his favorite target in the game, tight end Cole Harrison, for 34 yards to the De La Salle 39. Harrison caught seven passes for 123 yards.
The drive ended with Smith throwing a 4-yard pass over the middle to Harrison for a touchdown.
The Padres lined up for the extra point in a gimmick formation. The snap on the left side of the field went to Nano Latu, who raced across the goal line for an 8-0 lead.
“You can’t give them a 99-yard drive, and we did,” DLS coach Justin Alumbaugh said. “I was hoping with them pinned down right on the one-foot line, keep them down there, and I was hoping to give our offense good field position and shorten the field and put some points on the board before the half.
“But giving up that 99-yard drive, that was a game-changer.”
De La Salle tried to respond before the break, but the Spartans missed their second field goal of the half.
The visitors got what seemed like a huge play early in the third quarter when Jaden Jefferson made the first of his two interceptions and returned the ball to the Serra 38.
The Spartans kept the ball on the ground, reaching the 3. But on third down, quarterback Toa Faavae was held to no gain. On fourth down, his pass into the end zone fell incomplete.
Jefferson’s second interception gave the visitors the ball at Serra’s 48.
Serra’s defense didn’t budge again, De La Salle punted and Serra marched 80 yards for another touchdown that widened the margin to 15-0.
The big play was Smith’s 49-yard bomb to Braden Agosta that put the Padres on De La Salle’s 1.
On the next snap, Jabari Mann scored out of the bunch formation.
Thomas Gooch’s two field goals, from 28 and 38 yards, made it 21-0, and Jermaine Barrett returned the second of his two interceptions for a touchdown that stretched the advantage to 28-0 with 2:07 left.
“We kept giving our offense chances throughout that entire third quarter,” Alumbaugh said. “When we have to start throwing the ball all the time, that doesn’t play to our strengths.”
The game was an emotional one for Walsh, who doesn’t like playing against his alma mater but knows that he has to given that the programs are among the best in NorCal year after year.
“I don’t enjoy it,” Walsh said. “I know what it feels like over there. I love De La Salle. I love it with all my heart.”
Bob Ladouceur, the legendary DLS coach who retired after the 2012 season, told Walsh after the game that he was proud of him.
“It made me cry,” said Walsh, a star running back for Ladouceur and a 1992 DLS graduate. “I was a kid, looking up to this man.”
Before the game, the teams paid tribute to Walsh’s former De La Salle teammate, Peter Buck Shea, who died in a surfing accident last spring, and Jennifer Fadelli, the mother of Serra player Andrew Fadelli who died this past week after a 16-year battle with cancer.
“Buck was a friend of mine since I was 8 years old,” Walsh said after the game. “It’s been very hard for us as a Spartan community. Our group, that ’92 team, is thick. It changed a generation of football and to lose one of those guys, it hurts. But I know Buck — he was a world traveler, he was a surfer, he was a waterman — he wouldn’t want us to be wallowing around in misery feeling sorry for him.
“And we did not do that today on either side. I thought the Spartans played really well.”