The Franklin Wildcats have been cast in big brother's shadow since the start.
In its 10 varsity football seasons, Franklin has come of age, ranked No. 2 by The Bee and No. 3 in the Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California by MaxPreps.com.
The team ranked No. 1 by The Bee and in the section, and one spot higher than Franklin in the NorCal rankings? Elk Grove, which was founded in 1893.
But there isn't an ounce of complaint coming from Franklin's players or coaches. Elk Grove has what Franklin wants a Delta Valley Conference title and five section banners. Franklin coach Mike Johnson has a section championship, beating Elk Grove for the Division I crown in 2000 while coaching Lincoln of Stockton.
Now his players at Franklin want their share.
"This is our year because we have so many seniors," Franklin receiver Tre Lampley said. "And we know how good Elk Grove is."
Though both teams run the ball to control the tempo, defense has been a strong point, too.
Fresh off a 24-0 triumph over Grant, Elk Grove is paced on defense by lineman B'won Canada and linebackers Wadus Parker, Spencer Sheff and Elijah Jones.
"Any defense that can shut out a Grant team at Grant deserves credit," Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said.
Nixon added that he knows the Thundering Herd faces its biggest test in Franklin, a team led defensively by tackle William Vi, linebacker Joey Banks and cornerbacks Marcus Green and Lampley.
There will be no playoff rematch since Elk Grove will pursue a section D-II title and Franklin its first in D-I.
Mirror programs When Ernie Cooper became football coach at new Granite Bay 17 years ago, he measured his program against Del Oro, a Placer County school that rolled to Sierra Football League and section titles.
Del Oro is now coached by Casey Taylor, in his 11th season, and the respect between the schools goes both ways.
Sixth-ranked Granite Bay plays host to No. 10 Del Oro tonight for what could wind up being for the SFL crown.
"When we started, Del Oro was the cat's meow, the best football program in our area," Cooper said. "If we wanted to be a player in this region, we had to step it up. Then Casey comes along, and if there's a better football coach around, I don't know who it is."
Taylor, The Bee's Coach of the Year in 2010, said it could well be Cooper, The Bee's 2011 Coach of the Year. With respect comes great admiration.
"We push each other," Taylor said of the programs. "We both got off to slow starts (combined 2-7), but look how things worked out. We're playing for first place."
Wolfpack as a pack Cosumnes Oaks is 6-1 despite key injuries including one to national recruit defensive lineman Sam Smith with its only loss coming to Franklin 23-3.
Coach Scooter Gomes said, "We're more balanced than we've ever been," with quarterbacks in Alex Kropp and Jordan Ares, who throw to a rising national recruit in junior receiver Alex Van Dyke.
The running game is paced by Kaelin Willhite, son of 1981 National Player of the Year Kevin Willhite of Cordova. Young Willhite has filled in admirably for injured captain Dwayne Darden (knee).