Ernie Cooper is playing against familiar colors tonight in a homecoming of sorts.
The Granite Bay High School football coach will welcome the Aptos Mariners of Santa Cruz County to Placer County in a nonleague game sure to tug at his emotions. Cooper is a 1980 Aptos graduate, and he was the Aptos coach from 1989 to 1995 before starting the Granite Bay program from scratch.
So why is the coach giddy and anxious?
“The competitor in me wants to play them because it’s a great game, but the friend in me doesn’t want this game because I know a lot of coaches on that staff,” Cooper said. “If they win, they’ll feel great but will feel bad for me, and if we’re fortunate enough to win, it’ll be the the same thing.”
What’s more, Cooper is coming off his team’s most crushing defeat, a 63-0 loss to top-ranked Folsom to open Sierra Foothill League play, and the Grizzlies need a victory to distance themselves from that memory.
Aptos is coached by Randy Blankenship, a 242-game winner and former Nevada Union coach who led the Miners to City Championships in 1989 and ’90 before a myriad of coaching stops that eventually brought him and his wing-T offense to Aptos in 2010. Aptos reached the Central Coast Section Division III final in 2012 and won it last season. The Mariners, riding a 13-game winning streak, are 4-0 after routing Clovis East of Fresno 70-27.
“It was great to see him back, and he’s endured so much over the past year,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “When he broke that 60-yarder, it was one of the highlights of my coaching career. Great kid who has had a great impact on our program on and off the field.”
Laguna Creek was realigned to the Metropolitan Conference along with Valley, a good fit for the programs in terms of enrollment, logistics and competitive balance. Laguna Creek had shared Elk Grove’s stadium since opening in 1994, but now calls CRC home, as does Valley.
On Thursday afternoon, Center learned that it, too, will have to forfeit its Oct. 10 game against Placer since the Cougars won’t have a full team because of the number of players serving one-game suspensions. Center has a bye this week.
Stark benched Hardy for the Monterey Trail game last month for disciplinary reasons and he sat Thurman last Friday at Yuba City for the same reasons.
“They’ll learn, I hope,” Stark said. “They’re great athletes, and we need to get them the ball. Exciting players.”