Bruce Belden has been on the job for a matter of weeks, and he’s curious when the pace will settle a bit.
The first-year Pleasant Grove High School athletic director was working with his second coach in football and baseball before school started last week. Jason Rossow, who in the spring became the second football coach in program history, underwent brain surgery last week to remove a tumor. Rossow said he will be fine, but his ”dream job” is on hold as he rests and recovers. Rossow previously coached the Eagles’ junior varsity.
Russell Gardner, a Bee All-Metro tight end and Rossow’s teammate at Elk Grove in the late 1990s, is the interim coach. The Eagles, ranked No. 12 by the Bee, scrimmage Laguna Creek in a jamboree Saturday at Cosumnes River College at 11 a.m. Rossow won’t be there, but he said he’ll check his texts regularly for updates. He expects to return to the classroom by spring. Rossow, the son of longtime Elk Grove football and track coach Tom Rossow, said he has been overcome with emotion as family, friends, faculty and players have texted words of support.
“It means the world to me,” Rossow told The Bee via text.
Said Belden: “I know he’s itching to get back to the classroom and the football field to be with the kids. It means a lot to him.”
Gardner, a Sacramento fireman, said he’s moved by his friend’s plight.
“Jason’s working through it, recovering well, and we’re texting back and forth,” Gardner said. “The players have gone through a lot of changes, but they’re handling it well.”
Joe Cattolico started the Pleasant Grove football program when the school opened in 2005 and led the Eagles to four league championships, a section title and seven successive playoff berths. He applied for the school’s athletic director job that went to Belden and has said that he will someday return to coaching, possibly in the Elk Grove Unified School District.
Rusty McLain is the new baseball coach for Pleasant Grove, a regional power coached by Rob Rinaldi for years. A football and baseball player at Elk Grove in the mid 1980s, McLain coached Rio Americano to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in 1996 and Elk Grove to the Division I title in 1997. He said he was ecstatic to land the job. Rinaldi stepped down earlier this summer, fatigued from the varsity grind. He has since accepted the school’s freshman baseball job.
Nolan Dunkly, the Eagles’ veteran JV coach and a Pleasant Grove social studies teacher, initially replaced Rinaldi but stepped down after a week with a change of heart.
National soccer rankings – Jesuit and Granite Bay, longtime section soccer powers, are ranked this preseason by Top Drawer ( www.topdrawersoccer.com).
Jesuit is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 6 nationally, while Granite Bay is No. 2 and 33, respectively. Jesuit was ranked No. 2 in the nation last year when Granite Bay beat the Marauders 2-1 in overtime to win the 2013 Division I section title on a goal by Dominic Scotti (now at Wake Forest).
The programs are led by two of the state’s winningest coaches in Paul Rose (Jesuit) and Steve Fischer (Granite Bay). Led by Luc Barbe, Gonzalo Garcia and Diego Buesrostro, Jesuit opens against Marin Academy of San Rafael on Sept. 5. Granite Bay, led by Corban Anderson and Zach Vane, opens against El Camino on Aug. 29.
Football scrimmage dates – Area teams will scrimmage in game-like conditions Saturday – with referees and clocks – to prepare for Aug. 29-30 openers. They include No. 5 Grant hosting No. 10 Sacramento, No. 15 Whitney and St. Mary’s of Stockton at 9 a.m.; Colfax at No. 4 Oak Ridge, 9 a.m.; No. 8 Granite Bay at No. 6 Jesuit, 11 a.m.; No. 7 Franklin vs. Woodcreek at Cosumnes Oaks, 9 a.m.; No. 13 Burbank at No. 11 Inderkum, 10 a.m.; Davis at No. 1 Folsom, 7 p.m.; No. 2 Elk Grove at Cosumnes Oaks, 7 p.m.; Casa Roble at No. 3 Del Oro, 7 p.m.; Valley, West of Tracy and South Tahoe at No. 16 Rio Linda; Yuba City and Center at No. 18 Roseville, 7 p.m.; and No. 20 Vista del Lago, Franklin and Bear Creek of Stockton at No. 19 Monterey Trail, 7 p.m..
Football luncheon – The Sacramento Chapter of the National Football Foundation/College Hall of Fame will hold its annual kickoff brunch on Sunday at the Carmichael Elks Club at 9:45 a.m. Max Miller, the section’s winningest football coach (now retired), will emcee the event.
For information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about the number of league championships and playoff berths to which Pleasant Grove football coach Joe Cattolico led the team. He coached Pleasant Grove to four league championships and seven consecutive playoff appearances.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.