As if Ryan Robards wasn’t enough of a headache for opposing football teams to deal with, now there’s this matter of a passing game.
Elk Grove High School showed Friday night that Robards may be the leading man in terms of grit, effort and outrageous performance, but he’s hardly a one-man show.
He’s the first to point that out, too, doing so after The No. 2 Thundering Herd steamed past No. 19 Jesuit 63-14 in a Delta League contest at appropriately named Thunder Stadium.
Robards, the remarkable do-all senior talent, ran for 199 yards and three scores, including an 88-yarder, but the night also belonged to emerging quarterback Jayden Machado.
The junior emerged as the starter on the eve of the season and was steady in the early weeks as the “Hammerhead” offensive linemen ravaged defenses, freeing Robards. With Jesuit loading up the box to slow down the run, Machado went to work. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 193 yards and four touchdowns, hitting Gavin Reinwald seven times for 164 yards and three scores. Machado also hit Jonas McMillan for a 34-yard touchdown for a 42-7 lead and was still giddy well after the game, a grin creasing his sweaty face.
“We knew we had it in us to be able to pass the ball,” Robards said. “And when a team stacks 10 in the box to stop the run, we’ll take the pass. Machado’s really grown as a quarterback. He’s getting better and better. We’re not just a running team. We can do it all. It’s all good now.”
All good in all facets.
Elk Grove (6-0, 3-0) also dominated on defense, a unit led by Jake Belleci and Dylan Eldred, bottling up Stanford-bound running back Beau Bisharat. He had 76 hard yards on 22 carries and had a nine-yard scoring run a year after rumbling for 184 in a 42-38 Jesuit win. Elk Grove defensive coordinator Jeff Carlson was well aware of the Bisharat fear factor, saying before the game that containing the bullish back was paramount. The Herd contained him.
The Marauders (3-3, 1-2) now must find themselves. Two weeks ago, they were routed 48-9 by Pleasant Grove, then bounced back with a 42-26 victory over Davis. Four turnovers doomed Jesuit here, and the defense had no answer for Robards or the passing game. There’s still plenty of time to salvage the season, certainly, and that’s what Jesuit coach Marlon Blanton told his team afterward.
Elk Grove, meanwhile, wants to maintain the momentum. It certainly has a confident, close-knit team with an emerging quarterback.
“It was a terrific team win, a great job by the O-line and the defense and receivers,” Machado said. “I feel really good about all of it.”
Machado hit Reinwald for scores of 11, 34 and 45 yards. Jalen Brown scored on a 13-yard run for the Herd as the reserves played the fourth quarter, and Eldred added a 24-yard scoring run.
Run, pass or both, the Thundering Herd is poised to do both as it bears down on another league championship.
Said Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon, “Machado’s really stepped up. He’s becoming a leader, and he’s tough and he’s gritty. We threw three times last week against Grant and we won, and we threw more this week and we won. Whatever works.”