The construction in the nearby gymnasium and weight room symbolizes the football team building on something special in El Dorado Hills.
A football force seemingly since opening in 1980, Oak Ridge High School has won conference and Sac-Joaquin Section championships in Divisions II and III over the years. After flexing their considerable muscle in D-I the last two seasons, the fourth- ranked Trojans toppled No. 2 Pleasant Grove 28-14 on Friday night in a Delta River League contest to serve notice that they will be every bit a factor in the large-school playoffs.
Balance and strong defense against the speedy Eagles rewarded the Trojans (8-1) with their most satisfying effort of the season. And it came on senior night with another full crowd and the band, making for one of the most festive atmospheres in the section.
"The DRL is keeping us on our toes, for sure," Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. "It has made our program better, without a doubt."
Poised sophomore Ian Book passed for 181 yards and hit Justin Priest for touchdown strikes of 18 and 10 yards, and the running game churned and scooted for 227 yards. Drew Lackowski rushed for 112 yards on 12 carries, and his 29-yard scoring sprint gave the Trojans a 21-7 third-quarter lead. Stephen Douglas rushed for 68 yards on 13 carries. His 2-yard run with 4:52 left capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive and finished the scoring.
Tanner Hughes – with fans chanting, 'Huuuuuuughes!' – rushed for 45 yards on nine carries and provided some fierce blocking.
All this production came from an offensive line that returned not a single player who took a varsity snap in 2012. That unit consists of Nolan Book (Ian's older brother), Bishane Sagal, Kyler Flynn, Dalton Santos and Giuseppe Scalise.
Tight end Trent Buenzli played last season and was again a factor on both sides of the ball Friday. The linebacker recorded three crunching sacks. He's also a superb student with a 4.6 grade-point average. Oak Ridge linebacker Thomas Mahlman, also receiving recruiting interest, has been a two-year standout. He and his teammates knew they had to play their best game to stall Pleasant Grove.
Ian Book scored on a 2-yard run for the Eagles (8-1), and Dre Terrell hit Sedrick Thomas for a 42-yard touchdown.
Oak Ridge stopped Pleasant Grove three times on downs, twice in the second half.
And in carrying on tradition, Book is being mentored by Mark Watson, the former Oak Ridge coach who led the Trojans to section title success in the late 1990s. His defensive coordinator for the 13-0 team in 1998 was Jack Harnden, who passed away earlier this year. Harnden was the founding coach of the football program, and the stadium may someday bear his name.
In terms of the new facilities, the talent on hand and the goals, Cavaliere said, simply, "We're so lucky here."
As Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico said prophetically before the game: "Oak Ridge does everything well. Its quarterback and receivers are outstanding. They run the ball well, block well, tackle well, cover well, coach well."
Oak Ridge fell to Granite Bay in the D-I section final last season, capping a 12-win campaign, and Granite Bay went on to win the D-I state championship. The Trojans expect a return trip to the section final, this time to win it, certainly.
Oak Ridge now becomes a sudden supporter of Pleasant Grove, needing an Eagles triumph over top-ranked Folsom next week and to beat No. 14 Jesuit next Saturday to at least tie for the DRL championship. Oak Ridge has wins over ranked teams Rocklin, Grant, Franklin and now Pleasant Grove, losing only to Folsom.
Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down Week 9 of high school football today on ESPN1320 from 9 to 10 a.m. (linked later to ESPN1320.net).