Tommy Arnold doesn't unleash too many Tom Brady-like spirals, but he's winning games nonetheless.
Arnold, a junior for Elk Grove, mostly hands off to bruising backs Robert Frazier (1,742 yards) and Wadus Parker (1,084), who have combined for 37 touchdowns for the 10-1 Thundering Herd.
But Arnold can uncork a timely surprise bomb now and then. His late 50-yard pass to E.J. Jones at Del Campo on Sept. 7 set up Frazier's game-winning three-yard touchdown run in a 20-16 victory.
Del Campo will seek payback when it visits Elk Grove tonight in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. Del Campo players and coaches believe Jones trapped the ball on the throw from Arnold.
Arnold's response? A grin and denial.
"He got his hands under it, but it was an ugly ball," Arnold joked.
Del Campo hasn't lost since, thanks to strong line play and 1,000-yard backs Josh Blumgold and Austin Brown. The only ailing piece to the Cougars is coach Mike Dimino, who is battling the flu.
Special leg A special-teams player to keep an eye on is Elk Grove punter Ryan Robards, son of Cosumnes Oaks junior varsity coach Steve Robards. Ryan, the first freshman to start a playoff game in Elk Grove's storied football history, uncorked two 40-yard punts against Ponderosa, and another allowed teammate Trevor Haro to race down and flatten the returner on "the hardest hit I've seen this year," Herd coach Chris Nixon said.
Dad's tough, too Placer defensive end Stone Sander has grown for the undefeated Hillmen (11-0) from a 5-foot-8, 145-pound freshman to a 6-5, 225-pound senior. Sander, who has six sacks, has verbally committed to play at Sacramento State.
"We all play mean and we play smart," Sander said.
So does his father.
Troy Minton-Sander played football for the Hillmen in the 1980s. In a Pioneer Valley League game last month against Colfax, a shirtless, intoxicated spectator wandered onto the field. Minton-Sander, a Placer County sheriff's lieutenant who was on the sideline in street clothes, tackled the intruder. Fans on both sides of the field erupted.
"It fired us all up," Stone Sander said. "I critiqued Dad on his hit all A's."
For pops Junior tackle Josh Davis competed with a heavy heart last Saturday while anchoring the defensive line for Cosumnes Oaks. After losing his father, Dennis Davis, to pancreatic cancer, Davis played his best game of the season in the Wolfpack's 19-14 Division III victory over Christian Brothers. Said lineman teammate Kameron Schroeder: "Josh played an amazing game for us."
Et cetera Randy Fasani, the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit as a senior at Del Oro in 1996, is coaching Ripon Christian, which plays at Division VI top seed Foresthill tonight. Fasani can still toss 60-yard practice throws without warming up.
Del Oro two-way junior lineman Tanner Woods helped pave the way for Brandon Monroe's 225 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-21 victory over Yuba City in Division II, and he had two sacks.