The downer to a season quickly going south came on an opposing field in El Dorado Hills.
The Rocklin Thunder had just absorbed a 23-21 loss to then-No. 4 Oak Ridge on Sept. 6, a week after a two-touchdown setback to No. 3 Pleasant Grove. Adding to the anguish was the loss of defensive captain Patrick Ryan to a season-ending broken leg.
The Thunder was presented with two scenarios. Bounce back or buckle. Rocklin bounced back emphatically, peeling off five consecutive victories, none more satisfying than Friday's 31-14 triumph of No. 4 Granite Bay in a Sierra Foothill League contest that could go a long way in deciding the champion. No. 9 Rocklin ends the regular season at home against No. 5 Del Oro on Nov. 8.
"When we lost that game and Patrick, it was the low moment," Rocklin coach Greg Benzel said. "We've come a long way. (Friday) was a great win."
The offense has been balanced and efficient with quarterback Logan Webb, running back Evyn Holtz and wide receiver Blake Laurin. The defense has been superb at times, allowing seven or fewer points four times.
Linebacker Skyler Gonzalez heads a unit that includes fellow linebackers Jake Sutton and Andrew Castle and linemen Dain Davirro, Beau Tautu and Chase Hatada. The secondary also has improved with Ryan Durgarian, Josh Gurnaby and Garrett Kauppila.
Against Granite Bay, the Thunder forced two fumbles on hard tackles.
Defensive coordinator Jason Adams was just as active as his defense, racing up and down the sideline, pumping his fist, imploring his players to compete.
"Jason does a tremendous job, and the guys have bought in – they believe," Benzel said.
Hammering Herd – No. 2 Elk Grove entered Friday's Delta Valley Conference contest against No. 7 Grant as a defensive power that also can light up the scoreboard, having scored 43 or more points four times in storming to a 6-0 start.
The defense took center stage in keying a 7-3 victory over the Pacers as the Herd had gang tackles, flattened receivers on short routes, produced three sacks and generally stalled a power run game with a speed element. Defensive linemen B'won Canada, Sai Ta'amu and Dior Vela and linebackers Noah Letuligasenoa, Elijah Jones and Spencer Sheff, considered the brains of the defense, keyed the stops.
"It was one of the hardest-hitting games I've ever seen, but I like it," Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said.
Tyrel time – A week after getting sacked seven times in a loss at Lincoln, Center's Tyrel Anderson produced the game of his life. He returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, scored on runs of 65 and 26 yards in which he broke tackles and had one of his team's three interceptions in a 45-28 victory over 6-0 Colfax. Matt Cooper returned one interception 55 yards for a score.
In the name of Justice – Capital Christian star Justice Shelton-Mosley had 395 yards of all-purpose yards in a 40-34 Golden Empire League win at Marysville. The junior rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass, returned a kickoff 72 yards for a score, had an interception, forced a fumble and made six tackles.
"Incredible night," Capital coach Phil Grams said. "I have never seen anything like it."
Raiders rumble – A week after getting blasted by 40 points against Vista del Lago, River City moved to 3-1 in the Sierra Valley Conference with a 35-0 rout of Liberty Ranch. That's the same Liberty Ranch that earlier stunned Vista del Lago 20-14. The Raiders forced six turnovers, including four interceptions, and David Vincent rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty offer a podcast breakdown of Week 7 in high school football with a peek ahead at ESPN1320.net.