Date night will happen this evening in the Dimino family, and it will include one very satisfied, it not spent, football coach.
Mike Dimino wore the expression of relief and pride after his gritty No. 8-ranked Del Campo Cougars held off a late drive by host and No. 19 Rio Linda for an entertaining 34-28 victory to decide the Capital Valley Conference championship in the regular season's final week.
That's league title No. 6 for Dimino, the 10-year veteran coach who admits the only one he adores more than his beloved Cougars is his wife, Sonia.
What has kept their marriage fresh after 30 years of football and a stressful occupation Dimino worked for years as a CHP officer is a once-a-week night out on the town. Sometimes it even includes dancing, though those who know Dimino best insist his legs and moves are shot.
"Even if we lost, I'd have to go (on date night), or I'd be crying in my soup," Dimino cracked.
There'll be no crying here, and the Diminos may have to invite some supper company. How about the Cougars' offensive line and fullback Austin Brown, who bulled his way for 77 rushing yards and had scoring runs of one, two and six yards? Maybe set a plate for unsung tailback Chris Gonzales, who scored the game winner on a one-yard run with 3:33 to go, his only carry of the game. Josh Blumgold added 52 rushing yards and quarterback Derek Rodigo 32.
This is what Del Campo (8-2, 5-0) does best: grind away with a punishing line surge that features A.J. Samataua, Dre Martinez, JJ Tufu and Kyle Evanski. Rodigo provided balance as his 23-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Rocha early in the fourth quarter put the Cougars ahead 28-21.
Dustin Rossiter came in with five touchdown passes for Rio Linda (8-2, 4-1) and had three against Del Campo on strikes of 30 and 35 yards to Keenan Hunt and 24 to J.T. Loudon. Rio Linda was driving for the winning score before Rocha sealed it with an end zone interception, though Knights coaches and fans howled for a pass interference.
Dimino said of his team before the game, "We're not very fast but we compete."
They will now compete for a Division II Sac-Joaquin Section title after winning two crowns in D-III under Dimino. The D-II field is beyond formidable and includes Folsom, St. Mary's of Stockton, Elk Grove and defending champion Vacaville.
Rio Linda is also in the D-II mix. The Knights would have set a school record for victories in the regular season with a 9-1 finish.
Rio Linda coach Mike Morris said he likes his team's playoff chances, particularly if the ground game is on track with Marcel Brown, a talented sophomore who ran for 82 yards against Del Campo, including a 21-yard touchdown.
"Both of us get a little fancy with the pass, then we get back to doing what we do run," Morris said of his team and Del Campo. "That's a typical Del Campo team physical. Our program respects them a great deal. We understand that mentality of physical play and we enjoy it."