Two high school football teams that are new rivals had so much fun getting here that they decided a rematch might be fitting, next time for even higher stakes.
Sixteenth-ranked Vista del Lago beat No. 11 Christian Brothers 41-35 on Friday night at Hughes Stadium to win the Capital Athletic League championship on the strength of a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matt Jimison to Blake Martin on the final play. It is the program’s fourth title since 2010. This is the first in the CAL, which brought these teams together this academic year via realignment.
The teams came in riding six-game winning streaks, thanks to wake-up defeats, offensive balance and pleas from coaches to improve and maximize opportunities. Now both await the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff seedings, to be released tonight.
CBS and Vista will be in Division III, a deep division that also includes defending champion Manteca, surging Sierra of Manteca, No. 5 Inderkum and No. 12 El Dorado.
“Man, it’s great just to get to this game, to play for a league championship after the start to the season we had,” Vista coach Mike Struebing said before the game. “We just got better and so did CBS.
“In looking at the teams in D-III, it looks like a lot of really good teams. No matter what seed we get, it’ll be a hard road, and we could see CBS again. It’s an honor, and it speaks for the quality of football in all divisions around here.”
Colby Carrera rushed for three touchdowns for Vista (7-3), which would have stunned even him had someone dare suggest his offensive impact before the season. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound junior was fourth string on the Eagles’ depth chart when the campaign started. But with Vista sitting at 0-3 after shootout losses to Wood (63-49), Ponderosa (43-42) and Sacramento (31-25), Struebing inserted Carrera into the lineup to join three-year starting quarterback Jimison, and the Eagles found a new gear. Carrera has 27 touchdowns this season, 25 since becoming the lead back.
“Colby has been the catalyst that changed us from 0-3 to where we are now,” Struebing said. “He’s tough, he’s physical, he runs hard, just relentless. Completely changed us.
“Had an opportunity and ran away with it, forgive the pun.”
The game and the setting had extra meaning for CBS coach Dan Carmazzi, who bleeds Falcons blue. He played quarterback for the school in 1969 and ’70, got his coaching start there in 1976 and returned last season after a 30-year run dotted with a lot of championships and playoff teams at Jesuit.
As fate would have it, Jesuit was the last team to beat CBS, on this very turf at Sacramento City College. Carmazzi knew he had a leader in Chris Guillen, a three-year starter who had three touchdown runs, including a keeper and two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter to tie the score 28-28.
Guillen also had touchdown passes of 25 and 70 yards to Jalen Swanigan, and Jamarri Jackson had a 74-yard scoring run.
“Guillen is one of the best I’ve ever had,” Carmazzi said. “He does it with his legs and his arm. He has a really good feel for the game.”