In an era when regional high school programs revel at the chance to take on out-of-section or out-of-state competition, two coaches decided Friday night to keep it simple and to the point.
In other words: Keep it in the neighborhood.
The No. 12 Sheldon Huskies hosted a fellow Elk Grove Unified School District member in No. 10 Franklin in a season opener that seemingly attracted every student from each campus to provide atmosphere and flavor, from cheerleaders to a spirited band.
All of this pleased teachers and administrators to no end, of course, as the motto is always "involvement." The adults groaned when two topless male students sprinted across the field during a halt in play, hit the fence to Calvine Road and never looked back.
The real show, fortunately, was on the field.
Franklin won 33-28 in a matchup that figured to produce some fireworks with two fast and furious teams with more to come. Both teams have more district programs on the schedule.
"With tight budgets, it's a natural to play a game like this against someone like Franklin," Sheldon coach Josh Crabtree said before the game. "You don't need a bus for this one. It makes too much sense."
A year after Franklin held off a late Sheldon charge to win a thrilling opener, it was more of the same in the middle quarters Friday night. Both teams retooled their varsity rosters after mass graduations, yet both entered the season with high hopes.
So far, the early results are encouraging, never mind the sloppy play that is typical of openers, including a referee crew that tossed flags to the point of fatigue. Penalties made for a 40-minute first quarter and a marathon event that ended more than three hours after kickoff.
Franklin raced to a 19-0 lead, only to have Sheldon charge back with three late-half touchdowns for a 22-19 advantage.
Franklin took over in the third with two scores.
In his first varsity start for Franklin, Blake Owensby had some spectacular moments. He hit Trevon Lamley for a 49-yard touchdown strike to open the scoring, and he scored on runs of five and three yards out of the spread offense.
Owensby's twin brother, Jordan, keyed the defense, much as he did a year ago, at linebacker. The seniors also are team captains.
Davon Chapple led the Sheldon rally. In a frantic three-minute stretch to end the second quarter, the senior quarterback tossed touchdown strikes of 32 yards to Ben Alickovic, 20 to Nate Iese and nine to Ky Thomas, also one of the most impressive basketball prospects in the state. Iese is a national football recruit as a lineman with great hands as a receiver. Chapple hit Iese his fourth TD toss with 1:55 left in the fourth to account for the final score.
Blake Owensby's three-yard run and Steve Rogers' two-yard score in the third pushed Franklin ahead for good.
Sheldon has the pieces to recover, certainly. One lesson: Do not turn the ball over twice inside your own 10 and expect to win. That doomed the Huskies Friday night.