The Inderkum Tigers can rejoice. Their ol’ coach, too.
They’re champions – again.
Relying on playmakers Austin Thurman and Larry Hardy, dominating interior line play and a defense that refused to get pushed around, The Bee’s No. 6-ranked Tigers rolled over No. 13 Rio Linda 62-21 in what amounted to the Tri-County Conference title game in Natomas on a damp Halloween night.
It’s the seventh such title for Inderkum since 2007, which emerged from new-school novelty to regional powerhouse in short order under coach Terry Stark, who reached a coaching milestone Friday and forever swears by the old-school values of the wing-T, blocking, attention to detail and effort.
Stark won his 100th game at Inderkum in a career that includes rebuilding his alma mater Mira Loma into a playoff program again after lean years in the mid-1990s and leading new Natomas to a league title in 2004. Stark is in his 10th season at Inderkum, and he was celebrating with hugs and high-fives after a week of fretting about the speed, balance and toughness of Rio Linda.
Stark was moved by a swarm of congratulatory players who mobbed him after the game was over, thanking them for their effort as they thanked him for leading the charge.
“It’d be really nice,” Stark said before the game of winning another league title. “Our kids wanted to celebrate after beating River Valley (30-12) on Oct. 12, but I had to tell them, ‘Hold on! Look who we still have left with Rio Linda!’ We’ve been playing really well, and Rio Linda is really good.
“We’ve had some really good teams and it’s been a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.”
Stark was also touched to see his high school coach – Gerry Kundert – attend the game as he has so often over the years. Kundert said Stark was a standout wing-T quarterback for Mira Loma in 1977 – tough, crafty, driven.
“Terry’s done such a great job,” Kundert said. “What a coach. Very proud.”
The Tigers (8-1) expected a fight to the finish in the first meeting between the perennial playoff programs, but they broke the game open with five unanswered touchdowns in the second and third quarters behind the fast feet and versatile talents of Thurman and Hardy. Thurman rushed for 164 yards and scored on runs of 77, 1 and 13 yards. Hardy ran for 114 yards and scored on bursts of 7, 43 and 22 yards.
As if that wasn’t enough for the Knights (7-2) to deal with, there were also the counter plays delivered by speedy and diminutive Jimmie Johnson, who sealed the result with touchdown sprints of 43 and 46 yards as the Tigers put together their finest effort of the season.
The root of Inderkum’s success is the line surge, to get just enough of a block to allow the backs to slip through, and the quarterback has to execute deception fakes. Jonathan Henry, one of the region’s unsung quarterback leaders, has been masterful, Stark said. Henry hit Hardy for a 33-yard touchdown pass for Inderkum’s first score.
“He’s very steady, very good,” Stark said. “He’s a great leader in the huddle and he’s sharp. He fakes extremely well. He’s happy with five passes a game and just wants to win.”
Inderkum was led on defense, in part, by standout linebacker Nu’umotu Falo. Rio Linda senior running back Marcel Brown had 77 yards, but few came easy after he came in with 1,219 yards and 20 scores in averaging 9.8 yards a carry. He did not reach the the end zone Friday, coming off games in which the Knights scored 42, 70 and 71 points.
“Falo is great – he just shuts down his side of the field,” Stark said. “Just a special player, like his brothers.”
As for Brown, Stark feared trouble. Brown has the ability to make defenses look slow and soft as the career rushing leader at Rio Linda.
Pieter Koopman scored on 2-yard run to open the scoring for Rio Linda, and quarterback Zak Burden had a 60-yard touchdown run for the Knights.