Casey Taylor said he had an inspired feeling about his Del Oro High School football team this week. Good, crisp practices. Attention to detail. One-for-all mantra, the veteran coach said in sizing up the general theme in Loomis.
But this good? This unique? Believe it.
Exhibiting championship grit and resolve in facing a fast, physical defense that owned them in the first half, the Golden Eagles scored all of their points in the final, frantic quarter behind poised senior quarterback Michael Moore to register a stunning 20-19 knockout of Elk Grove on Friday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II final at wet, windy and otherwise miserable Sacramento State.
It was miserable for Del Oro in the first half for sure and joyous in the fourth quarter, when a rout became a game and then an improbable triumph. Now the misery belongs to Elk Grove, which can speak of major momentum swings. A week ago in a semifinal, Elk Grove scored the final 22 points to devastate Rio Linda 22-14.
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“We told them after the third quarter we still have 12 minutes to play,” a soaking-wet Taylor said. “We told them to believe in the process, and they believed, and they gutted it out. Our guys made plays and they played their hearts out. Wow.”
This marks Del Oro’s ninth section championship since 1989, the most for any larger school in the section. Taylor hoisted his fourth trophy since 2005, and his teams played for three others since 2004.
By any measure, this is one of the storied programs in Northern California, and it just added a dramatic chapter to its history. The Golden Eagles (12-2) are unbeaten against section opponents this season, riding an 11-game winning streak. The last loss was to national power and state-ranked No. 1 De La Salle of Concord, a game that forced the Golden Eagles to reassess the program.
Moore and the punting game were especially bothered by the gusty wind in the first half Friday, elements that tore pop-up covers and sent them crashing into an ambulance, cracking the windshield. Short punts set up the Thundering Herd (12-2) with a short field, and Moore hit more air than targets. But he warmed up, the offensive line headed by Brandon Johnson, Tanner Woods and Emileo Campos provided protection, and he turned the momentum in the fourth.
A week after tossing five touchdown passes to beat Yuba City in a semifinal, Moore hit sophomore receiver Trey Udoffia for scoring plays of 10 and 11 yards, the second score coming with 5:35 left after a recovered onside kick that Elk Grove players and coaches were certain wasn”t legal. Del Oro then recovered a fumble at midfield, and Moore immediately hit Udoffia for a 29-yard pass. A moment later, Moore found tailback Dylan Kainrath for a 5-yard score with 1:06 to play. Mason Humes, who beat Grant and Granite Bay with field goals this season, drilled the deciding extra point.
Del Oro held Elk Grove on downs at midfield, and the celebration was on.
Moore passed for 155 yards and Kainrath rushed for 120 yards. Elk Grove’s Wadus Parker rushed for 120 yards after going for 91 in the first half. The senior had touchdown runs of 1 and 37 yards, and Spencer Sheff made it 19-0 with a 61-yard touchdown sprint in the third.
Two missed extra points hurt the Herd as the wind also pushed away Humes’ 56-yard attempt inches shy on the last play of the first half.
Del Oro now awaits a NorCal Regional game, likely against Serra of San Mateo, which beat Mitty of San Jose 21-7 on Friday in the Central Coast Section Open title game.
The state’s 10 section commissioners will meet Sunday to determine NorCal opponents and locations for next week. That Del Oro even has another week of practice is a reward in itself, Taylor said.
“We were fortunate to stick around in this game,” the coach said. “So proud of these guys.”