The most moving speech in Placer County this week wasn't delivered by a coach or an athlete.
It came from a sorrowful and reflective John Redding. His son Matt Redding was killed by a drunken driver on Highway 65 while on duty as a Rocklin police officer in 2005. Friday night's Sierra Foothill League championship showdown between No. 2 Del Oro and No. 5 Rocklin was the fourth Matt Redding Battle of the Shield event to honor a Del Oro graduate who lived in Rocklin, and the emotionally charged night was set up by John Redding speaking to both teams.
Del Oro prevailed 14-13 in a defensive standoff that was fitting for the types of smashmouth ball to which the teams subscribe. The Golden Eagles rejoiced in the program's seventh league championship since 2004 under coach Casey Taylor.
The veteran coach said the Redding presence reminded his players of real life – lived and lost.
"I told both teams that it's not just about winning or losing, it's about being the best you can be, and to enjoy life," said John Redding, who attended the game with his wife, Marilyn. Redding presented the Battle of the Shield trophy to Del Oro and commended the Golden Eagles for a game well played.
As he has all season, Dylan Kainrath paced the run-heavy Golden Eagles. He chugged for 109 yards on 22 carries, and his 2-yard touchdown plunge tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter. Kainrath missed parts of the second and third quarters with a shoulder so battered he could barely keep his eyes open. His coaches initially tried to sit him, but Kainrath in effect ran back out onto the field to compete.
Kainrath is nicknamed "Princess" – a name he rolls with – for his myriad hurts and aches this season. Be it a knee, his back, his head or shoulder, Kainrath has been one sore senior this season. He's also quite prolific. He has 20 touchdowns and 1,208 yards.
Michael Moore provided more steady quarterback play for Del Oro, passing for 108 yards and hitting Justin Gazzaniga for an 11-yard touchdown and 14-7 third-quarter lead.
Rocklin struck first, on the game's second play, when Logan Webb hit Max O'Rourke for a 75-yard touchdown. He hit O'Rourke for a 24-yard scoring play with 1:11 left in the third, but a botched PAT accounted for the final score.
The teams, rivals since Rocklin opened 21 years ago, could meet again in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. It's happened before.
Del Oro beat Rocklin for the SFL and section championships in 2005, and Rocklin pulled the sweep in 2009.
What adds to the rivalry is the proximity of the schools, the fact that players grow up competing against each other and the respect among coaches.
Del Oro is 11-3 against Rocklin under Taylor.
"Great rivalry, great games, great players," Taylor said of the series. "We've had some great battles over the years with a lot on the line."
The SFL champion of late has gone on to do good things in the postseason. Rocklin went to a CIF state bowl in 2009, Del Oro in 2011 and Granite Bay last season. Seeding for the section playoffs will be announced tonight.
Winners of seven games in a row, the Golden Eagles are unbeaten in the section, last losing to state-ranked No. 1 De La Salle of Concord.
Follow on Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD. Davidson and Mike Finnerty break down Week 10 of high school football and preview the playoffs on ESPN1320 from 9-10 a.m. (linked later to ESPN1320.net).