Some of the top rivalries in high school football will be on display Friday, so coaches are saying only nice things about each another this week.
Bee No. 1 Elk Grovewill host No. 2 Franklin on Friday night in a battle of 7-0 foes for what is likely the Delta Valley Conference title.
Elk Grove is the defending DVC champion and winner of 17 consecutive regular-season games, including a 23-7 triumph over an injury-ravaged Franklin in 2011.
Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon and Franklin coach Mike Johnson regularly run into each other at Saturday afternoon youth football games.
Both say they are pals until kickoff.
"Mike's a tremendous coach and a great friend," Nixon said. "We respect him and his team a lot. We have players who say hello to him during youth games."
Johnson heaped equal praise on Nixon and the Thundering Herd, saying, "Great coach in Nixon, and they're the best until someone beats them."
The area's best rivalry in recent years has been rooted in Placer County between No. 6 Granite Bay and No. 10 Del Oro. They will meet in Granite Bay as the lone unbeatens in the Sierra Foothill League.
Del Oro prevailed in a thriller last fall en route to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship and a state CIF Bowl bid. Granite Bay never looked back from that setback, winning its final six games, including the Division I section title.
Del Oro and Granite Bay are coached by Casey Taylor and Ernie Cooper, respectively. The longtime rivals socialized and dined together and rooted for each other during the Southern California phase of the Battle for Veterans earlier this season.
"I really respect the guy, and that's why I hang out with him," Cooper said of Taylor. "He's a great coach who does it the right way."
Said Taylor of Cooper: "People think we might not like each other because we compete so hard and want to beat each other, but Ernie and I are all about family, football, working hard, all in for the same cause and we're very close friends."
Welcome back Sidelined for three games with a knee strain, Del Oro tailback Brandon Monroe made an emphatic return on Friday against Roseville. The San Jose State scholarship commit returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, returned an interception 60 yards for a score and rushed for 55 yards in a 24-7 victory.
Welcome aboard Sporting one of the section's best defenses, Whitney returned to The Bee's Top 20 at No. 15, having lost only to rival Rocklin 6-0 in the annual Quarry Bowl on Sept. 7. Also back in the Top 20: Vista del Lago, which lost only its opener to Oak Ridge 42-6 in a game that was 14-6 at the half.
More big games No. 11 Cosumnes Oaks will host No. 20 Vista del Lago for the Sierra Valley Conference title in a meeting of offensive powers. Cosumnes Oaks is balanced with quarterback Alex Kropp and junior wide receiver Alex Van Dyke, a national recruit, and a running game averaging 199 yards a contest. Vista is paced by sophomore passer Matt Jimison and wide receivers Brad Rittenhouse, Chris Cooper and Tyler Kaim.
No. 7 Oak Ridge will host Ponderosa in a Delta River League game in El Dorado Hills, with both needing a win to maintain any title hopes in a meeting of top quarterbacks. Oak Ridge is led by Jason Samuels and Ponderosa by Jake Bist.
To keep pace with No. 5 Placer in the Pioneer Valley League race, No. 19 Center and 6-1 Bear River can ill afford a loss. Bear River, fresh off a 14-7 loss at Placer, will host the upstart Cougars.
Something will have to give in a SVC game between Union Mine and host Galt. Both are 0-7.