Brian Baer / Special to The Bee

Elk Grove Thundering Herd's head coach Chris Nixon looks on during the third quarter as Elk Grove High School hosts Grant High School, Friday, October 18, 2013.

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Optimist game brings back memories for South coach

Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 - 5:53 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 - 10:44 am

Chris Nixon is so into the spirit of this game that he unearthed an old jersey – a throwback look for two reasons to toast the end of the season.

One, to display his Optimist All-Star football pride. And two, to show that, yes, he was a player back in his day. It wasn’t just a rumor.

Nixon is the Elk Grove High School football coach who heads the South team into today’s 57th Optimist game, excited to the point he’d love to play a down. He ran practices while wearing his blue No. 33 jersey from the 1984 game that capped his Nevada Union career. And he didn’t have to grease his torso to slip it on.

“I might’ve been the slowest defensive back in the history of this game,” Nixon told his team this week, adding Friday, “I’ll leave my leather helmet at home, though.”

Nixon said he’s like a mad scientist with new gadgets and toys for experimenting. He has six players who can play quarterback. He has a lineman in Ngalu Tapa of Burbank, headed to Washington State, who is agile enough to run a tunnel-screen receiver play. And another lineman in Kameron Schroeder of Cosumnes Oaks, bound for Duke, who got in a little work at cornerback, for kicks.

Mostly, Nixon is moved by the passion of the players.

“What’s so cool is that they all have great respect for the game and the charity they’re playing for,” Nixon said.

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Skyler’s the limit – North linebacker Skyler Gonzalez of Rocklin has yet to land an athletic scholarship but plans to enroll in college next fall regardless. An honors student who scored a 30 on his ACT, Gonzalez has been offered an academic scholarship to Alabama to study mechanical engineering.

A standout on Rocklin’s defense in football, he’s off to a 13-0 start this wrestling season at 182 pounds.

Flash forward – Nixon is glad to be coaching Calvin Green of Burbank instead of coaching against him. Green electrified with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and made some impressive catches in an 18-12 playoff loss to Elk Grove. Now Nixon hopes the North kicks off to Green, whose nickname, “Flash,” matches his quickness. He is headed to Washington State on scholarship.

Et cetera – North tight end David Entwistle, a 6-4, 223-pound senior from Foothill, is dedicating today’s game to his father, who has been battling health issues.

• North linebacker Anthony Baumgart of Antelope is headed to UC Davis next year.

• North lineman Christian Long of Lincoln plans to enlist in the Army after graduation.


Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his “Extra Point” every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson



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