Written by: Roy Shadmon, Tim Wang, Zoe Weisner and Emily Yao
San Francisco 49ers:
After ending the 2010 regular season with a disappointing record of 6-10, the San Francisco 49ers saw their future change for the better when the head coach of Stanford University, Jim Harbaugh, stepped in as their new head coach. The team’s impressive jump from a 0-5 start in 2010 to 9-1 in 2011 meant one thing: the 49ers were back in the game.
For the first time since 2002, the 49ers clinched the National Football Conference (NFC) West in 2011 with a win against the St. Louis Rams. Their 13-3 regular season record also rewarded them with the second overall seed in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, where the 49ers clinched a 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
In 2012, a 11-4-1 regular season record allowed the 49ers achieved the same feat for the second year in a row, and on Jan. 12, the 49ers crushed the Green Bay Packers 45-31 in the divisional playoffs.
During the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the 49ers lost to the New York Giants 20-17 in overtime, ending their postseason reign. But the 2012 championship game was a different story, and the outcome was different for the better.
With new wide receivers like Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers overcame a 17-point deficit against the 13-3 Atlanta Falcons this year. 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore led their team to victory, making it the biggest comeback win in NFC championship game history.
Beating the Falcons 28-24 has earned the 49ers a spot in the Super Bowl XLVII, their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1995. San Francisco will meet up with the Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3 in New Orleans, where Harbaugh will face off against his brother, Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh, for the prestigious title.
If the 49ers want to win, Kaepernick will have to step up and play smart football, according to die-hard 49ers fan senior Nikhil Kumar. “The defense needs to get after quarterback Joe Flacco, and the secondary needs to make sure that it can cover wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the explosive speed of wide receiver Torrey Smith,” he said. “The front seven need to limit Ray Rice at the line of scrimmage. The Smith brothers, Aldon and Justin, need to do a good job at setting the edge so that Rice can’t get outside.”
One of the controversial changes coach Harbaugh made this season was starting Kaepernick in place of former starting quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion during their Week 10 game against the Rams.
But Kaepernick has proven through the weeks that he is capable of leading the team. In his first playoff game against the Packers, he rushed 181 yards, setting a National Football League record for the most yards rushed by a quarterback in a single game, either playoffs or regular season. “Kaepernick brings a characteristic explosiveness to the game, and he is not afraid to go deep down the field,” Kumar said. “He can also make throws that many quarterbacks can only dream of making, with his high arm velocity and his ability to throw on the run.”
From starting the 2010 season 0-5, their worst start since 1979, to qualifying for the NFC championship games for the first time since 2002, the 49ers tackled their weaknesses and are now forces to be reckoned with. Many fans are proud to call Candlestick Park their home and are now donning red and gold with pride.
Golden State Warriors:
After a disappointing streak in recent years, Oakland’s Golden State Warriors are making a rebound.
A basketball team that was originally formed in Philadelphia in 1946, the Warriors have since moved to California, their new home. In the past 17 seasons, the Warriors only made it to the playoffs twice, but this year they are on the rise.
During the 2011 season, the Warriors changed their head coach to Mark Jackson and have since been on a painful reconstruction journey. This season, however, they have had one of their best starts since 1992, passing the 20-win mark before 30 games.
Led by team captains David Lee and Stephen Curry, both centers, they are off to a solid start despite having two rookies this year, center Festus Ezeli and forward Harrison Barnes.
So far this season, the Warriors have won 22 out of 37 games. Compared to their average win rate of 45.7 percent in the 2011-2012 season, this season’s near 60 percent win rate is a great surprise.
With a current fourth place ranking in the National Basketball Association, the Warriors are in strong position.
Many Warrior fans also have high hopes for the team this year. Junior Alejandro Navarro, a dedicated Warriors fan, has a similar mindset.
“I think that the Warriors are playing better team defense and getting more out of their main scorers,” Navarro said. “Playoffs this year—it’s gonna happen, watch.”
With 46 games left to go, things could change at any time. But for now, the Warriors are on track to return to prominence.
After Barry Bonds, arguably one of the greatest baseball players, retired in 2007, the San Francisco Giants struggled to find a player to fill Bonds’ place. In 2008, the Giants believed Pablo Sandoval was the one, but he only became an All-Star in 2011.
In 2009, the Giants brought up catcher Buster Posey, but a lack of experience caused Posey and the Giants to, yet again, disappoint.
In 2010, with predictions of placing last in the National League West Division, the Giants played baseball unrecognizable to Bay Area fans. The Giants managed to win close baseball games by pitching efficiently and hitting effectively. As a result, they became the 2010 World Series champions.
Their success in 2010 to the present is because of manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean. Bochy was able to bring out the best in all of his players, while Sabean traded and picked up free agents and players that were released from other teams, including Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross. Although the 2010 team did not have any big name players, clutch hitting by Cody Ross—who prior to being picked up by the Giants thought that his career was over—helped lead the Giants to become World Series champions, and he was rewarded by receiving the Most Valuable Player honors of the World Series.
Last year, the Giants started the season by receiving unfortunate news about their All-Star closer, Brian Wilson. Bochy overcame the loss and won the World Series by picking his starters by committee. His rashness paid off. Even though many players from the 2010 team were not on the 2012 roster, the Giants were able to gain experience throughout the regular season in one-run baseball games. Their experience in stressful situations helped the Giants beat better teams in the postseason. “The real thing is that the Giants have a knack for winning close games and coming from behind,” true Giants fan junior Tejas Kannan said.
The Cardinal’s win over the Wisconsin Badgers during the 2013 Rose Bowl Game signified that the Stanford Cardinal is on track to becoming one of the country’s top collegiate football teams. It has been 41 years since the Stanford Cardinal’s last win at the Rose Bowl Game in 1972, led by quarterbacks Jim Plunkett and Don Bunce, in which Stanford narrowly beat the University of Michigan Wolverines by a score of 13-12.
But for the next four decades, Stanford was unable to clinch another victory at the Rose Bowl until earlier this year. Although their road to victory was not an easy one, the Cardinal can attribute most of their recent success to their former coach, Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh became the head coach of the Stanford football team in 2006. With a team that finished 1-11 in the previous season, it was highly unlikely that Harbaugh would steer what would become known as one of the greatest upsets in college football history. However, the turning point was during Harbaugh’s third year of coaching, in which the Cardinal beat University of Southern California once again and participated in the 2009 Sun Bowl. In Harbaugh’s final season with the Cardinal, the team went 11–1 with their only loss coming from the undefeated University of Oregon. Stanford’s 11 wins allowed the Cardinal fourth place, according to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), and a BCS bowl invitation to the 2011 Orange Bowl. Stanford defeated Virginia Tech 40–12 for the Cardinal’s first bowl win since 1996 and the first BCS bowl victory in program history.
When Harbaugh left in 2011 to become the San Francisco 49ers new head coach, former passing game coordinator David Shaw took his place. For the past two years, Shaw has helped build the team by focusing on developing each individual player. For instance Shaw took a big risk by switching quarterbacks mid-season to freshman Kevin Hogan, but the decision led the Cardinal to five straight victories.
By using his own methods and experience, Shaw’s techniques definitely contributed to the Stanford Cardinal impressive 12-2 record.