The foundation and formula for Grant High School's best teams over the decades have been line play and defense.
Throw in some burly backs and those who race by you in a blur, and the Pacers made it a habit of stuffing their trophy case with some fancy winnings, including 14 league titles, six Sac-Joaquin Section banners and a state championship since 1992 to go along with 22 consecutive playoff teams, all under coach Mike Alberghini.
On Friday, No. 5 Grant flexed some of that familiar old-school muscle, relying on a power running game heavy with Deondre Whittington-Grays, with a bit of burst and that trademark stiff defense to beat No. 7 Burbank 28-14 in a nonleague affair in Del Paso Heights.
Grant employed four primary runners and eight total and a field-tilting, shadow-casting offensive line to seize control. Whittington-Grays, a bulldozing Jerome Bettis type at 5-foot-9 and 230 pounds, hammered away for 131 yards and scoring runs of 3 and 1 yards, the latter of which iced it with 3:25 to go on a time-consuming drive. David Moala pounced on a Burbank fumble in the end zone 19 seconds into the second half to make it 14-6, and TieNeal Martin ran in from 18 yards for a 20-6 lead.
"This is a litmus test how far have we come?" Grant line coach Clint Baer said before the game. "We'll know a lot more after this one."
Grant knows it's 3-0 after an uncharacteristic 5-6 finish last season, the season ending at Burbank in the Division I playoffs. The next test promises to be just as challenging with No. 4 Oak Ridge coming for a visit a year after the Trojans blasted the Pacers.
Outside of touchdown bursts of 61 and 69 yards by Burbank quarterback Ernest Jenkins out of the option, the Titans were denied much room to spur big plays.
Jenkins took Grant to task with rushing totals of 192 and 156 in two wins over the Pacers in 2012. He went for 107 this time, meaning he lost yardage outside of his two touchdowns.
Whittington-Grays heaped praise on his offensive line of Darrin Paulo, Shawn Matautia, Errick Dennis, Charles Bell and Soape Tupou and tight end Moses Moala. It's as large a front as Alberghini has had at Grant, and he's had some massive men as blockers.
Those linemen held their own against Ngalu Tapa, Burbank's dominating defensive tackle who recorded five sacks and six hurries against Grant last season in two games despite double teams. The senior had no sacks, though he did make some excellent plays, as did his sophomore brother Leki.
Burbank (1-2) opened the season with a 35-9 rout of Napa before falling to No. 3 Pleasant Grove 14-12. Titans players expect a rematch in the playoffs in one of the spirited rivalry games in the section.
The teams expect to extend their annual series next year.
"Grant's been great for us and we've been good for them, and we'll play them as long as they'll have us," Burbank coach John Heffernan said.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty talk Week 3 football on the ESPN1320.net podcast after 1 p.m.