OAKLAND — When Virdell Larkins III played for Oakland Tech in 2003, he and teammate Marshawn Lynch were so confident they’d beat McClymonds in the Oakland Athletic League playoffs that they interrupted the opponent’s pregame locker room speech and told a room filled with players and coaches what they were about to do to them.
Oakland Tech went on to beat Mack and captured the OAL championship with a victory over Skyline in the Silver Bowl at the Coliseum.
Nearly 20 years later, Larkins is hoping for a repeat of history.
“I would say this is the best Tech team I’ve had as a coach,” said Larkins, who has led his alma mater since 2013. ”This team is giving me my best chance to ‘dethrone’ McClymonds, and I think we have a good chance to do it.”
Much has changed in the two decades since players such as Lynch, Larkins and quarterback Josh Johnson led the Bulldogs to a championship. The balance of power in Oakland football shifted long ago to McClymonds, which no OAL team has beaten since 2009.
But at 4351 Broadway – home of Oakland Tech – the school is striving for a long-awaited sequel. Directing this second act is an older but still enthusiastic Larkins.
“I’ve got guys getting offers now, and that’s all I wanted when I took over as coach,” he said. “That’s what we were doing 20 years ago. And if you see how we play, you see I’m trying to bring the culture back to what it was with me and Marshawn and Josh.”
Tech’s seniors don’t need to be reminded about Mack’s dominance. In the past three games between the teams, Mack has outscored Tech 214-0.
Larkins said his group of seniors has grown from the lopsided results and is ready to challenge McClymonds in a way no OAL team has done for years.
Tech will get its first shot Friday night when it plays host to Mack.
A rematch could follow in the Silver Bowl on Nov. 26.
“I’ve had this group since COVID, so we’ve been together since they were sophomores,” Larkins said. “We went 2-2 that year, and I kept telling them that if they kept working hard, by their senior year they’d have their fun with the league.”
Among those seniors is defensive back Davion Dixon, a rangy 6-2 cover man who has the frame and athleticism that should get him looks from colleges. He was instrumental in locking down four-star Tennyson wideout Taeshaun Lyons in an eye-catching 34-6 upset on Sept. 24.
“We had a game plan to shut Lyons down, and I did my part and played my role,” Dixon said. “And my teammates played great, too. The linemen and linebackers executed.”
On past Tech teams, Dixon might have been the best player on the field. This season, he is probably the third-best player on his own team.
Standing at the top is defensive lineman Omar Staples, a pass-rushing end who had five sacks against Castlemont on Oct. 21, the same week he received a scholarship offer from Stanford.
“My mindset is to dominate,” Staples said. “As long as I am engaged, my teammates flow off me.”
Bookending him as an edge rusher is Kymari Rhodes, a player who has heard plenty of his coach’s stories of the glory days from the early-2000s. Rather than handwaving away those tales as an old man waxing nostalgic, Rhodes sees them as a blueprint for success.
“He’s always reminding us of his accomplishments,” Rhodes said. “He played with guys like Marshawn Lynch and Josh Johnson. We take that to heart, and try to reflect that and bring back the legacy.”
Running back Anthony Alonzo might not be quite on Lynch’s level, but the senior is a dynamic three-star recruit who can turn any play into a touchdown.
Alonzo is ready to bring back the glory days.
“We have to work like we’re a championship-level team,” he said. “We have to work that hard so we can be what this school used to be and live up to that legacy.”
As good as Tech has been this year, McClymonds remains the class of the league. The Warriors, ranked fourth by the Bay Area News Group, have won their three OAL games this season by an average of 55 points. A fourth OAL team forfeited against Mack.
The reigning champ’s only loss was at second-ranked Pittsburg. Mack’s resume includes victories over San Ramon Valley and Bellarmine. The Warriors are 8-1 overall.
Tech (8-1) has won its four league games by an average of nearly 27, or about half of Mack’s margin of victory. St. Vincent de Paul, the top seed in the North Coast Section Division VII playoffs, is the only team to beat Tech this season.
The score was 29-12.
Despite being an underdog Friday against Mack, perhaps even a significant underdog, Tech remains confident.
“We’re going to show The Town we’re ready,” Larkins said. “I’m humbled to be in the position to say that. If our team shows up the way we should, we’re gonna put on a good show for everyone.”