When you’re the coach of the latest top-ranked football team back home, not even bumper-to-bumper traffic on a Sunday afternoon in the Los Angeles area can dampen the mood.
And Justin Reber wasn’t the only person smiling at Sacramento High School during Monday afternoon’s practice in Oak Park. The Dragons were a bit giddy, too, knowing they are top-ranked by The Bee, a spot ahead of Folsom – which Sac High knocked from the perch last month.
Reber and his players bristle at any notion that the Dragons’ 32-27 win over Folsom on Sept. 16 was a fluke. Sacramento led 32-14 at one point. Folsom may not have been at its best, but Sacramento was, and there are no standings or style-point losses for fluke games.
“It’s a good week,” said Reber, who this weekend drove to Laguna Niguel, south of Los Angeles, to pick up his 3 1/2 -year-old daughter, Harlow, who was visiting her mother. “I’ll take Harlow to a pumpkin patch, the zoo, and she’ll spend time with grandparents, too. And to be ranked No. 1? It’s very cool. Very cool for our kids and our community. It’s exciting. I know there’s been a lot of banter on social media wondering if we deserve it, but I tell our players that they earned it, that they won that game against Folsom.”
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The Dragons, who have played football since the 1920s, have not been ranked No. 1 since the 1960s when Metro League games at Hughes Stadium against rival McClatchy attracted crowds of 16,000.
Sacramento endured a 28-game losing streak in the 1980s, recovered to field its first playoff team in 1992, under coach Tom Rutten, then suffered some more with low player participation and coaching turnover. Doug Cosbie coached the program to its second playoff showing in 2007, and the Dragons won a playoff game for the first time in 2013, with Paul Doherty at coach.
A charter school the past decade with 900 students, Sacramento (5-1) is still basking in its upset of Folsom. The Dragons stopped Folsom’s regular-season winning streak at 48 games, knocking and them off The Bee’s top spot for the first time in 64 weeks, dating to 2011.
There will not be a rematch, however. Folsom will be in the Division I playoffs as a four-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champion. Sacramento will be in D-II.
Sacramento lost its opener 35-7 at state-ranked JSerra of San Juan Capistrano despite amassing nearly 500 yards of offense. The Dragons play in a league that has no other ranked teams, unlike No. 3 Folsom and the Sierra Foothill League that includes No. 3 Del Oro, No. 7 Oak Ridge and No. 9 Rocklin.
Cal-Hi Sports has St. Mary’s of Stockton ranked No. 1 in the section, followed by Folsom, Sacramento and Del Oro, the argument being that Folsom has faced stronger competition.
The Dragons start just four seniors, including top player Tariq Hollandsworth. He has rushed for 995 yards and nine touchdowns, including 192 and three, respectively, in a 69-10 rout of Laguna Creek on Saturday. Quarterback Derek Shelton, a junior, has passed for 802 yards and 10 scores.
“After playing JSerra and Folsom, our kids know they can compete with anyone,” Reber said. “We’ve gotten over that mental cloud of doubt. It’s an exciting time, but we have to keep it going or this doesn’t mean anything.”
Titans power – Parity and unpredictability have been the themes this season for regional football, resulting in one unbeaten Top 20 team (Antelope) and just two (also Bradshaw Christian) in the region. But rankings are not standings, and No. 6 Antelope (6-0) has one win against a ranked team, though it was emphatic: 42-7 over then-No. 11 Roseville.
If Sacramento and Antelope win out, they likely will be the top seeds in the D-II playoffs. Antelope beat Sacramento 31-24 in the playoffs last season.
Eagles soaring – El Camino rolled rival Rio Americano 37-0 in a Capital Athletic League opener behind the efforts of Jahari Kirkendol. The senior defensive end had five of his team’s eight sacks for 46 yards of losses, four other tackles for losses of 16 yards and 12 total tackles.
William Horne rushed for 100 yards and two scores for the Eagles (4-2), who play Casa Roble on Friday and then No. 18 Christian Brothers and No. 15 Vista del Lago to decide the league race.
The Bee’s Top 20
With last week’s ranking
1. Sacramento (2) 5-1
2. Folsom (3) 6-1
3. Del Oro (1) 6-1
4. Elk Grove (4) 5-1
5. Grant (5) 5-1
6. Antelope (8) 6-0
7. Oak Ridge (9) 5-1
8. Jesuit (7) 4-2
9. Rocklin (6) 4-2
10. Whitney (10) 5-1
11. Monterey Trail (14) 5-1
12. Franklin (12) 4-2
13. Roseville (11) 5-1
14. Sheldon (13) 4-2
15. Vista del Lago (15) 4-2
16. Inderkum (16) 4-2
17. Liberty Ranch (17) 5-1
18. Christian Brothers (18) 4-2
19. Capital Christian (10) 4-2
20. Davis (-) 2-4
This week’s schedule
Games start between 7-7:30 p.m, unless noted
McClatchy at Burbank, 5:30 p.m.
No. 2 Folsom at Nevada Union
No. 3 Del Oro at No. 9 Rocklin
No. 4 Elk Grove vs. Pleasant Grove at Sheldon
No. 5 Grant at No. 11 Monterey Trail
Cosumnes Oaks at No. 6 Antelope
Granite Bay at No. 7 Oak Ridge
Oakmont at No. 10 Whitney
No. 12 Franklin vs. No. 20 Davis at Cosumnes Oaks
No. 13 Roseville at Bella Vista
No. 16 Inderkum at Woodland
No. 18 CBS vs. Rio Americano at Hughes Stadium
No. 19 Capital Christian at Lindhurst
Bradshaw Christian at Rio Vista
Casa Roble at El Camino
Foothill at Bear River
Center at Placer
Colfax at Lincoln
Cordova at Union Mine
Rosemont at Galt
Mesa Verde at San Juan
Emery at Delta
Pioneer at River Valley
River City at Yuba City
Liberty Ranch at El Dorado
Ponderosa at Del Campo
Natomas at Marysville
Johnson at Kennedy
Valley Christian at Foresthill
Woodland Christian at Western Sierra
Vista del Lagovs. Mira Loma at Folsom
Laguna Creek vs. Florin at Cosumnes River College
Valley at No. 1 Sacramento, 1 p.m.
No. 14 Sheldon at No. 8 Jesuit, 1 p.m.
Dixon vs. West Campus at Burbank, 7 p.m.
Highlands vs. Encina at El Camino, 7 p.m.