Sacramento State’s Cody Demps marvels that one of his older high school football contemporaries will be on the opposite sideline Saturday when the Hornets host No. 14 Cal Poly in a Big Sky Conference game.
Demps, 22, considers himself the “old man” of a young Sac State football team as a fifth-year senior wide receiver playing his first year of college football. Demps was a standout Sac State basketball player his previous four years.
But Demps has nothing on his 23-year-old former Delta River League counterpart, Cal Poly quarterback Dano Graves.
They quarterbacked two of the area’s best high school football teams in 2010, Demps as a junior at Pleasant Grove and Graves as a senior at Folsom. They led their teams to Sac-Joaquin Section championship games at Sac State that season, Pleasant Grove in Division I and Folsom in Division II. The Bulldogs went on to win the state D-II title behind Graves’ heroics.
Graves still holds bragging rights over Demps. Graves led the Bulldogs to a 35-20 win over Pleasant Grove for the league title, the Eagles’ only regular-season loss that year. Two current NFL players also played in that game – New England Patriots safety Jordan Richards for Folsom and 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstread for Pleasant Grove.
“It was probably the most memorable season I had on the football field,” Demps said. “What I remember about Dano is being a great field general. He was really accurate with the ball, knew exactly where to go with the ball. It was like a well-run system over there at Folsom. Having that competition in the same league was something that made both teams better and obviously contributed to our success in the postseason, both of us winning section titles.”
Even though Demps is playing wide receiver for the first time this year, he quickly worked his way into a starting job. He had nine catches for 129 yards before suffering a ruptured spleen and bruised kidney in a 14-7 nonconference loss to Weber State in the third game of the season.
“It was weird because I didn’t feel any pain,” Demps said. “But right after the game I was urinating blood and had to spend a couple of days in the hospital.”
Demps returned last Saturday and played in the Hornets’ 27-19 loss at Northern Colorado and had one catch for seven yards. He said he didn’t think about turning in his shoulder pads to start preparing for a potential pro basketball career despite the severity of the injuries or the Hornets’ struggles.
“I put in too much work to just hang it up,” he said. “I wanted to come back out and play with my guys some more.”
While Sac State (1-7, 1-4) has endured inconsistency and injury at quarterback this season, Demps said he has no desire to get back behind center.
“That’s way past me now with all those different reads,” Demps said.
Happy returns – This will be local fans’ first chance to see Graves start since he was the National MaxPreps Player of the Year as a senior at Folsom six years ago.
He threw one pass and ran for a 4-yard touchdown in a fourth-quarter cameo in Cal Poly’s 56-27 rout of Sac State at Hornet Stadium in 2014. Graves did not play at UC Davis in 2013 because of an injury, and he redshirted last season .
Graves leads a thriving Cal Poly (5-2, 3-1) triple-option attack that ranks seventh in the Football Championship Subdivision in total yards (486.3) and second in rushing yards (347.9).
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Graves has passed for 939 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for 390 yards and six touchdowns, and leads the Big Sky in pass efficiency at 207.9.
“He plays the game like he’s 6-3 and 250 pounds, which is a little bit scary at times,” said Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh. “He’s just a lot of fun to watch. His decision-making process is everything as a coach you would want in this system. He’s got us in a good place.”
The Sacramento State men’s basketball team has been tabbed to finish eighth in the Big Sky Conference preseason media poll and nine in the coaches’ poll. The Sac State women are seventh in both polls, and senior guard Brianna Burgos was named to the six-player All-Big Sky preseason team.
The UC Davis women were picked second in the Big West Conference coaches’ poll and fourth in the media poll. Sophomore center-forward Morgan Bertsch was named to the All-Big West preseason team.
The UCD men were tabbed fifth in the Big West media poll. There was no coaches’ poll.