Following the opening kickoff just after noon, Lamppost Pizza in Patterson buzzed with activity, as dozens of eyes were glued to the restaurant’s eight high-definition TVs.
In Atlanta, the 49ers needed a historic comeback to dig out of an early 17-0 hole against the Falcons.
With running back Frank Gore rushing for two touchdowns in the second half, San Francisco ran to a 28-24 win to advance to their first Super Bowl since 1995 at the end of the 1994 season.
Their opponent Feb. 3 in New Orleans will be the Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the New England Patriots 28-13 in the AFC Championship.
The whole time the 49ers were punching their collective ticket to the big game, Lamppost Pizza’s patrons rocked the house, according to owner Mark Massone.
“We had a full house. Probably, at least, 100 people,” Massone said. “Anytime there was a big play (for the 49ers), everyone would scream and clap. People were running around the restaurant giving high-fives — one of our regulars would ring a cowbell. But this was a well-behaved crowd.”
Massone, a devoted Oakland Raiders fan, said he was rooting for San Francisco to win despite the teams’ cross-bay rivalry.
“I wanted the Bay Area team to win,” Massone said. “It’s always nice to have a local team — a California team — reach the Super Bowl.”
Cheering and screaming could also be heard inside Patterson’s Shooters Wings and Things restaurant Sunday afternoon.
“It was a good crowd with lots of die-hard 49ers fans,” said Mariah Diaz, a Shooters waitress. “The people here were definitely excited for their team.”
The semi-local connection of the winning team’s quarterback added to the excitement.
The 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick attended Pitman High in Turlock, where he lettered in three sports before going on to play as quarterback for University of Nevada, Reno.
Rob Cozart, who was Patterson High’s varsity football coach for eight seasons, watched the Central Valley product pilot the Niners from home.
“We had a good amount of friends and family over at my brother’s house here in Patterson,” Cozart, said. “I was definitely on edge after the 17-point deficit, but still knew that there was plenty of time left. And since (San Francisco coach) Jim Harbaugh has been known to make some great halftime adjustments, I thought it would be a close game in the end.”
The 49ers have played some nail-biting games over the years, said 57-year-old Patterson resident Steve Reza, joking that Sunday’s game against the Falcons aged him a few years.
“I was really nervous before the game. When the 49ers came out flat, I thought it could be over,” Reza said. “As they started to come back, I couldn’t even sit down. San Francisco showed poise, and that they can play with any team.”
If Sunday was a big day for folks in Patterson, Feb. 3 will be even bigger.
These local fans want to see the 49ers go all the way, and they’ll be cheering them on every step of it.
“I was a junior (at Patterson High) when the 49ers last made a Super Bowl,” Cozart said. “My friends and I watched the NFC Championship game against Dallas and made an impromptu trip to San Francisco when the game ended just to be in the city.
“It was a great night that we all remember, but I definitely didn’t think it would be this long before another trip. Only the true 49ers faithful stuck around for the next 10 years or so.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.