Justin Reber grew up around football.
He set receiving records at Capital Christian High School, played semi-pro ball, coached a bit in college and then led a small school in Southern California to the playoffs.
But what the first-year coach at Rio Linda experienced Friday night tops it all in the frantic, clutch-your-chest variety. After giving up a touchdown at Cosumnes Oaks with 30 seconds to go, Reber called for a short pass to his best player and hoped for the best. He got it as Marcel Brown pulled in Zak Burden’s wheel-route pass and took off untouched 70 yards to stun the Wolfpack 38-35 and move the No. 11 Knights to 3-0.
“Craziest game ever,” Reber said. “Marcel just outran everyone. All of our coaches were running with him, but he was too fast. We just wanted to get Marcel the ball in space and let him go.”
Burden came in with no touchdown passes but had four Friday as Reber aims to provide balance for Brown, perhaps the Sac-Joaquin Section’s top running back.
Club 200 – When Terry Logue was applying for the Bear River coaching vacancy in 1988, he was asked by interview committee member Duane Zauner to simplify a square-root problem. Logue never flinched. A math buff, he aced the answer, and then he sort of aced coaching, too, in turning the Bruins into a small-school section powerhouse.
Scott Savoie knew he was destined to be a Bear River teacher and coach and, ultimately, Logue’s good friend and co-coach, because his young son could perfect a screeching sound. Savoie’s son, Landon, placed second at the 1992 Nevada County Fair by belting out a pig squeal. On Friday, Logue, Savoie and Zauner celebrated Logue’s 200th coaching victory, a 35-7 win over Argonaut. Bear River wasn’t at full strength yet still prevailed when John Voter, best known for his linebacking duties, rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns for the Bruins (2-1). Voter’s brother, Jason, was a late fill-in at quarterback and admirably led the team.
Coaching wins – Max Miller is the section’s winningest coach at 261, mostly from two stints at Cordova. He’s now retired. Mike Alberghini of Grant and Dan Carmazzi of Christian Brothers entered the weekend with the most active wins with 232 each. Closing in on Miller for the section record is Mark Loureiro of Escalon, who has 259 along with eight section championships in 14 title-game appearances.
Dragons pride – It wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding, Sacramento coach Paul Doherty said of his No. 8 Dragons beating Vista del Lago 31-19 in Folsom. Waiting until nearly 1 a.m. for the team bus to come back from Oak Park after dropping off the junior varsity team was the taxing part, he added.
Caden Voges passed for 442 yards and four touchdowns, and Lonny Powell had five sacks and a 65-yard touchdown run for the Dragons, who denied the Eagles any points on three trips inside their 30. Next is a game at No. 6 Rocklin (3-0).
Linemen leaders – The reason Nick Bonniksen was able to account for 348 yards and six touchdowns in El Dorado’s 72-28 win over Rio Americano and why the Cougars are 3-0? The big guys in the trenches, Cougars coach Joe Volek said. They are: Eric Abbott, Austin Danker, Joe Lucier, Nathan Hicks and Sam Osterhout.
Volek was already in good spirits before kickoff. His son, Chris, caught four touchdowns in the junior varsity game, a 49-26 victory.
A’s for Atteberry – Grant linebacker Chris Atteberry vowed to have a “great season,” and the senior is backing it up. Atteberry had 14 tackles and two sacks in the No. 4 Pacers’ 28-14 victory over Bullard of Fresno. Atteberry had 12 tackles and a sack last week in a 36-13 victory over Central of Fresno.
The region is 3-0 against Fresno teams, with top-ranked Folsom blasting Clovis North 49-13 while resting all starters in the second half.
Oh, Owens – Travis Owens rushed for 218 yards on 13 carries in No. 18 Nevada Union’s 26-20 victory at Lincoln for a tidy average of 16.8 yards per carry, boosted by a 97-yard scoring run. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, Miners coach Dennis Houlihan called him “a mighty mite. He has a big heart and is a great leader.”
The coach also raved about Mo Nieves, who ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns against the Zebras.
Petrissans’ start – Former Christian Brothers coach George Petrissans has Central Section power Clovis West, considered that region’s biggest pressure-cooker job, off to a mixed start at 2-1. Petrissans is the sixth coach for the Golden Eagles in nine years, a program that has won nine section titles and chews through coaches. Clovis West opened with a wild 49-39 win over Merced, topped another highly regarded team in Centennial of Bakersfield 9-2 in a baseball-like score and then agonized over a 27-21 loss at Turlock, blowing a 21-0 lead.
Said Petrissans to The Fresno Bee, “The expectations should be high with the tradition this school has. We’ll strive to play hard.”