Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Coach Matt Costa's Kennedy team ended a 28-game losing streak and has since won two in a row.

High school football: Natomas hopes to end state's longest losing streak

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 - 11:00 pm | Page 2C

The Cougars are in the clear now.

The 28-game losing streak that engulfed the Kennedy High School football program is history, courtesy of a 49-6 Metropolitan Conference win over Johnson on Oct. 25.

The good cheer continued Thursday with a 38-26 win over Florin.

Now the burden of a measure of success – at least a single victory – rests squarely on Natomas.

The Nighthawks own the state's longest active losing streak in the state with 31 after falling to No. 12 Yuba City 53-0 on Friday in a Tri-County Conference game.

And it won't get any easier this week in the Nighthawks' regular-season finale. Natomas faces nearby No. 11 Inderkum, coached by Terry Stark, who founded the Nighthawks program in 2000 and won the program's only league championship in 2002.

Kennedy coach Matt Costa said the key to prep football survival for those desperate to shed a losing culture is continued effort, confidence and hope. Regardless of outcome, his Cougars have competed admirably, as have Valley, Florin and Laguna Creek despite minimal rewards on the scoreboard.

Finding hidden gems on campus certainly helps, too. For Kennedy, that was Floyd Hillis-Cooper. He put on shoulder pads for the first time before last season, and the senior tailback set a school record with 318 rushing yards against Florin. He has 1,745 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

"We're slowly turning it around, and other teams can, too, as long as they work at it," said Hillis-Cooper, who has received recruiting feelers from Oregon State and TCU. "I know I'm glad I gave football a try. What a fun experience."

Natomas' misery started with a 35-21 loss in Woodland to Pioneer in 2010 under veteran coach Frank Negri.

Losing was mostly foreign to Negri, who won 238 games at Foothill over a 42-year stretch. He retired from the grind only to return with the Nighthawks in 2009. He took over a program that had suffered four successive 1-9 seasons.

Negri's first team went 6-5, then 4-6 in 2010 before bottoming out at 0-10 in 2011. Negri stepped down to recharge and is now an assistant at Roseville.

Jeff Remington was the Natomas coach last season, and Ryan Battle is in charge this season. Since its football inception, the team has battled low numbers, eligibility woes and a transient student body that includes athletes coming and going in an open-enrollment district.

Scoring has also been an issue. The Nighthawks have managed six or fewer points six times. Their 44-23 loss to Pioneer in Week 8 represented a season-high points total.

A closer look at the area's longest losing streaks, where the only joy was finding a bit of humor amid the chaos:

• 26: Galt, ending in 2002. It was so grim the Warriors' leading rusher at one point was the punter – on three busted plays and a fake.

• 28: Sacramento, ending in 1985. Coach Ron Reclusado said then his assistant coaching brother Pete felt like a celebrity in receiving "calls from old girlfriends."

• 28: Encina, ending in 1990. Victory seemed foreign for the school that had just switched mascots from Apaches to Bulldogs, until tailback Greek Harvey led the way.

• 28: Kennedy, ending this season. Costa said the victory ensured a chance for him to sleep in on a Saturday for a change.

• 30: Rio Linda, ending in 1983. Commitment was the first thing to change as it wasn't uncommon for players to skip practice to go quail hunting.

• 33: Colfax, ending in 1975. Before the Falcons soared in recent decades, they suffered with a streak that stood as an area record for 30 years.

• 36: McClatchy, ending in 2005. The highlight was practicing a victory formation, then using it in beating Rio Americano.

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD. Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down Week 9 and preview Week 10 via podcast on ESPN1320.net.

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