MORAGA — An unlikely hero for Campolindo stole the spotlight Friday night during a season-opening 35-21 victory at home over Marin Catholic.
Plagued by injuries in the preseason, the Cougars were forced to shuffle things around, which meant senior Max Schoenberger shifted from safety to wide receiver.
Eight catches for 222 yards and four touchdowns (48, 79, 5, 44).
“I just tried to take the opportunities in stride and tried to do my best out there tonight,” said Schoenberger, who in one game managed to surpass last season’s entire output of six catches for 53 yards and one touchdown. “It seemed like it paid off.”
Campolindo quarterback Grant Harper displayed instant chemistry with Schoenberger, rolling out to his left on the fifth play from scrimmage and hitting the 6-foot-1, 185 wideout down the sideline to go up 7-0 barely two minutes into the season.
“We’re dialed in,” Schoenberger said.
“We’ve been throwing together in the mornings for the past three weeks,” Harper said. “He’s put in a lot of work and he deserved it.”
Harper, a 6-2, 190-pound junior, finished 17 of 28 for 375 yards with five TDs and one interception.
“We were going to be happy if we got through the game without injuries,” Campolindo coach Kevin Macy said. “If we could just play spirited, keep it close, not have injuries, that was our benchmark going in. But I think the way Harper played and the way Max played just sort of elevated everyone else.”
This was a rematch from last year’s season opener, which Campolindo lost 42-21 on the road.
That fact wasn’t lost on the players in a battle between reigning North Coast Section champions.
“We’ve been playing this game for a long time now,” Harper said. “We were fired up to play from the very beginning.”
The quick-strike offense of Campolindo clearly contrasted the methodic approach of Marin Catholic, which pulled even on the first snap of the second quarter after a 15-play, 71-yard drive that nearly ate up 6½ minutes off the clock.
It took one play and fewer than 20 seconds to reclaim the lead, as Schoenberger caught a quick hitch, then turned down the sideline and outran the secondary for a 79-yard touchdown.
“I just caught the ball quick, made a move to the outside and just used my speed to get around the guy,” Schoenberger said.
Marin Catholic never led, but junior quarterback Gaven Cooke tied the game three times on 1-yard touchdown runs — twice on fourth down, including with 1:07 left before halftime to make it 14-all.
The 6-1, 175-pound junior, who is the grandson of Jack Kent Cooke — former owner of the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings — ran it more than he threw it. He accounted for 87 yards on 24 carries, with four sacks, and completed 10 of 17 throws for 100 yards.
“When we missed some sacks, he had some big runs,” Macy said.
In the end, though, the Wildcats couldn’t keep up with the Harper-Schoenberger connection.
“The game was really a toss up except for those two guys,” Macy said. “They just gave us some big plays.”
Campolindo is off until Sept. 1, when it travels to San Francisco to face St. Ignatius.
“We’ve got a bye next week, so it’s important to just stay focused after this game, especially,” Schoenberger said.
“That will give us a chance to get a lot of kids healthy,” Macy said. “There’s a ton of those little stories of hidden guys who had to jump in and then played well.”
But only one stole the headline.