As the marketing guy and football coach at Capital Christian High School, Phil Grams figures if there can be a Holy Bowl, why not a Fish Bowl?
The annual Jesuit-Christian Brothers football game the Holy Bowl, played Sept. 15 this season is a landmark event each year at Hughes Stadium. The game often draws crowds exceeding 15,000 as alumni and supporters flock to the historic stadium at Sacramento City College to root for their respective parochial school teams, regardless of records.
Grams, Capital Christian's second-year coach, hopes to create similar buzz by hosting nearby private-school rival Bradshaw Christian tonight at 7:30 in the inaugural Fish Bowl, named for the sponsoring Christian contemporary music radio station.
Capital Christian is a school of 377 students located off Highway 50 near Bradshaw Road in Rosemont. Bradshaw Christian, a school of 304 students, is nine miles south on the same road.
"It just makes sense," Grams said. "There's definitely a rivalry between the two schools because we aren't that far apart. We battle for the same kids."
Both schools have had athletic success in numerous sports, but Bradshaw Christian, despite fielding a team only since 2006, has become dominant on a small scale in football.
Coach Drew Rickert's Pride has won three Sac-Joaquin Section championships and was the runner-up once in the past four years, including last season's 11-1 campaign that resulted in a D-VI banner.
Capital Christian won the D-V section football title in 2009 and was the D-VI runner-up in 2007 under then-coach Karl Zierhut but went only 9-11 over 2010 and 2011.
Still, the Cougars are optimistic. Grams, formerly the offensive coordinator at Granite Bay, has brought coach Ernie Cooper's famed fly offense and intellectual brand of smash-mouth football to Capital Christian.
Golden Sierra manhandled visiting Capital Christian 27-7 last season, but the host Cougars turned the tables at home on the Grizzlies, winning 47-3 last week.
While small in numbers with 23 players, Capital Christian has big-school size in quarterback-defensive back Matthew Bailey (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and linemen Nifae Lealao (6-4, 262), Matt Richards (6-2, 245) and Brandon Roznos (5-11, 251).
Lealao, last season's Golden Empire League Defensive Lineman of the Year as a sophomore, is a recruiting target of major colleges, including Stanford.
Behind their line, the Cougars rushed for 436 yards against Golden Sierra, with Quinton Kirk (166 yards, one touchdown) and Ethan Russo (101 yards, two touchdowns) leading the way.
Bradshaw Christian graduated its top three running backs from last season's team, which averaged 427 rushing yards employing the wing-T, but the Pride always seems to reload.
Bradshaw Christian rushed for 438 yards in a 42-13 Zero Week win over Maxwell, with junior Jordy Hawkins leading the way with 182 yards and three touchdowns.
Providing leadership for Bradshaw Christian are quarterback-defensive back Kevin Williams, wide receiver-defensive back Kyle Betts, linebacker Logan Newton and linemen Zach Rangel and Jake Fiksdal.
Both schools have made it no secret that they hope to increase enrollment and play at higher levels (Capital Christian is in D-IV and Bradshaw Christian D-VI). But it's tough sledding in the one area of California where the top public school programs overshadow the private ones.
"It was culture shock coming from Granite Bay, where we'd have 75 kids," Grams said. "Sacramento has great public school football. But we have a lot to offer, too, spiritually, athletically and academically. We have room for 700 to 800 kids, so we want to grow our school."
Bradshaw Christian's only loss last year was to D-IV power Colfax 54-14 in the Smackdown at Sactown showcase at Grant. The Pride will play D-III Vista del Lago (1,428 students) on Sept. 14.
"We want to play bigger schools; we need to play bigger schools and keep moving up and keep pushing the kids," Rickert said.