A week ago, Justin Reber could not rest.
He tossed and turned, fussed and fumed, undone by a lethargic showing by his Sacramento Dragons football team in Fairfield.
And on Friday, the coach was restless again, but this time for all the joyous, right reasons.
Basking under the glow of a glistening full Harvest Moon and reaping the benefits of skill and athleticism, and sheer energy and will, the Dragons staged an epic performance at Folsom, bouncing the top-ranked Bulldogs 32-27 in a nonleague contest sure to reverberate the rest of the season.
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Specifically this: How do the No. 13 – and sure-to-climb-fast – Dragons respond from their sudden good fortune? And what about Folsom, which now can compete without the burden of a state-leading 48-game regular-season winning streak and a regional-record 52-game run against Sac-Joaquin Section competition?
“Sleep? Not at all,” Reber said with a laugh Saturday morning. “We didn’t play well (beating Vanden 15-9) last week, but we knew we could be a good team. Our guys responded great, and they played out of their minds.”
They had to, in order to derail a Bulldogs program ranked No. 1 by The Sacramento Bee since the start of the 2012 season – a run of 64 consecutive football weeks – and had rolled up 55, 42 and 55 points in successive weeks to open this season.
But that moon, and the odd bounces of an oddly shaped ball? All Dragons.
Sacramento came up with three interceptions, returning two for scores – EJ Haag-Larry for 88 yards and Anthony Bradley 24 yards. The Dragons recorded five sacks, three by Jaime Cousey. Isaiah Randall passed for two touchdowns, one to Bradley as he secured a bobbling ball while on his back in the end zone for a 32-14 lead. Tariq Hollandsworth, the heart and soul of the program, rushed and rumbled for 268 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown moments after Folsom fumbled at the 5.
Folsom led 14-0, and then, in a flash, trailed 32-14 before closing the gap late. Then, Dragons celebrated what was the biggest regional regular-season upset I can recall in my 27 years on the local beat.
But the mood was tempered by Reber with a simple reminder.
“Our postgame lasted 30 seconds,” Reber said. “I told the kids that we’re not the greatest practice team. We practice awful. We’ve had two good practices the last two years – one of them Burbank (leading to a win and the Metropolitan Conference title), and this week. If we put the time in, it’ll pay off. They’re high school kids. Come Monday, we’ll see if we need to motivate them.”
Why the sluggish practices? One reason, Reber said, is that as a charter school, Sacramento students start classes at 7:55 a.m. and are excused at 3:40 p.m., followed by study hall, and then practice that sometimes doesn’t start until 5 p.m.
“There’s a lot going on, and this is a tough academic school,” Reber said. “But what a great place to be.”
Folsom reaction – Folsom coach Kris Richardson heaped praise on Reber and the Dragons.
“Sac High played their butts off,” Richardson said. “We will bounce back.”
Folsom can still pursue its quest to win the Sierra Foothill League, or win a fifth consecutive section championship, or compete for its third CIF state title this decade.
Streak busting – City schools have played a mixed role in area streaks, good and horrifically bad.
Sacramento snapped a 28-game losing skid in 1985 as coach Ron Reclusado was hailed as a campus hero. Kennedy halted a 28-game skid in 2013, then went 8-3 last season under coach Matt Costa, whose team plays Sac High next.
In 1987, Johnson scored one for the Metro League and underdogs everywhere when the Warriors staged a last-minute drive to beat powerhouse Cordova on its field, ending the Lancers’ 11-year, 56-game streak against Sacramento City Unified School District teams. Johnson won the Metro that season for the first time in 20 seasons led by coach Don Dillon and All-Metro running back Kyron Vandell.