If the last month of the high school football season wasn’t already physically taxing and emotionally charged for Del Oro High School, now Casey Taylor is preparing another impassioned speech.
The veteran Golden Eagles coach will instruct his team to acknowledge and appreciate the man just beyond the end zone before it takes the field Friday against Roseville in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff opener. Wilbur Heath, Del Oro’s longtime equipment manager, has battled cancer and hasn’t been strong enough to attend recent games. But Heath, 75, persuaded his doctors to allow him to leave hospice care for a few hours to watch Del Oro, perhaps for the last time.
“It’s something Dad really wants to do while he still has time,” said Heath’s son, Brian.
Though Wilbur Heath will be on a gurney, perhaps in the back of the ambulance that takes him to Loomis, Brian knows his dad will talk his way into a wheelchair by the end of the national anthem.
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Taylor said he is touched by Heath’s will and appreciates that he had the opportunity to coach three of his sons in the last 10 years: Brian, who played tight end at Sacramento State; Jason, who played on the offensive line at UNLV; and Zach, an offensive lineman at American River College who is headed to Illinois.
“Wilbur’s been great to our program, a father figure to so many, just a great guy,” Taylor said. “It’ll be special to have him here.”
Del Oro had to win its last three games to muscle into the playoffs as the section defending champion.
Legging it out – Two weeks after kicking a section-tying 58-yard field goal, Natomas’ Alex Godinez said he’s ready to get the underdog Nighthawks on the board against top-seeded Central Catholic of Modesto, the two-time defending CIF State Division IV champion.
“I visualize kicking before I sleep, watching David Akers or Sebastian Janikowski of the NFL, and then imagine a game situation,” Godinez said.
Godinez missed a month of the season after suffering a gash in his shin as a soccer goalie for the Nighthawks. He was shoved into a post but played 30 more minutes before seeking medical care, which included 15 stitches.
Et cetera – Cosumnes Oaks assistant coach Jared Brown, a 1991 Bee All-Metro quarterback for Kennedy, is a big fan of Wolfpack quarterback Jaaron Stallworth, whom he works with closely every day. “He can do it all, but his strength is his mind,” Brown said. “He’s so good.” Cosumnes Oaks hosts Monterey Trail in a Division I game.
▪ Grant is in the playoffs for the 24th consecutive season, a section record.
▪ Granite Bay is in the playoffs for the 16th straight season and has won five consecutive openers.
▪ Del Oro has won nine playoff openers in a row.
▪ Elk Grove is in the playoffs for the 28th time; the Thundering Herd won its first playoff game and the first of five section titles in 1984.
▪ Valley ended a 15-year playoff drought, but the Vikings have a difficult Division III opener against No. 1 seed Inderkum, which has won nine consecutive playoff openers.
▪ El Dorado, 10-0 for the first time, seeks its first playoff win since 1987 (26-22 over Kennedy in Division I).
▪ Folsom has won eight consecutive section playoff games and 15 of 16.
▪ Vintage has a seven-game playoff losing streak, last winning in the 1986 Division I final against Christian Brothers.
▪ Folsom, Grant, El Dorado and Capital Christian are the only unbeaten teams of the 78 in seven divisions. An unbeaten team has won a section title in 18 of the last 20 seasons.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.