Justin Reber’s voice was hoarse from months of intense mentoring and leadership, but he had enough to belt out one final message.
The first-year Sacramento High School football coach on Saturday afternoon gathered his giddy bunch around him, then let them have it good and loud.
“Hey! Hey! Metro League champs, baby!”
The Dragons collectively roared their approval, that declaration absorbed like sweet music to their ears. And it was a good sound for scores of Sacramento alums who have waited a good long while for this day.
Displaying offensive balance and stingy defense through three quarters, the No. 11 Dragons belted No. 12 Burbank 56-20 in the Metropolitan League title game expected to be much closer in front of an overflow gathering in Oak Park.
It’s not so much that Sacramento clinched its first league championship since 1992, and just its third since 1972, it was the manner in which the Dragons so thoroughly dismantled an athletic, proud program that should serve notice throughout the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff field.
Sacramento (6-3, 6-0) has just one loss on the field, a 28-14 setback to No. 8 Rocklin in nonleague play in September. But a clerical error on a seldom-used reserve player led to the Dragons forfeiting opening routs over El Camino and Vista del Lago. Still, the section selection committee that meets next Saturday in Lodi to hammer out playoff seedings likely will consider Sacramento an 8-1 team, rather than 6-3.
Reber, of course, won’t allow himself to look that far. He wants his upstarts to finish the regular season strongly in the annual Bell Game against decadeslong rival McClatchy. But one thing is certain: Reber has added a layer of intensity and purpose to a program that improved under previous coach Paul Doherty, who stopped by to watch the carnage in wishing his old charges well. Doherty now coaches at Whitney.
“Our guys played their (butts) off,” Reber said, still dripping from a celebration cooler dumping. “In every aspect of the game, we played tough. Wow. Every day, these kids lift hard in the weight room, run hard in practice, and it carries into the game. It’s a huge moment for the school.”
Friday’s buildup included team captains from both teams meeting for breakfast in a show of sportsmanship and unity. And there was a campus visit by Jim Breech, who quarterbacked the Dragons during that title season of 1972 and played 14 NFL seasons. He remains the Cincinnati Bengals’ all-time career scorer.
Tariq Hollandsworth rushed for 258 yards and four touchdowns – including sprints of 61, 88 and 55 yards – and Caden Voges had touchdown passes of 30 yards to Elijah Trosclair and 31 to Da Von Owens for the Dragons, who led 34-0 at halftime and 50-14 after three quarters.
Sacramento’s Deston Garrett opened the game with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, thanks partly to a crushing block by Bryan Sarente. Michael Roots scored on runs of seven and 76 yards for Burbank (5-4, 5-1), which had rolled to the last four Metro titles unbeaten.
No. 1 Folsom 35, No. 3 Oak Ridge 21 in El Dorado Hills – Quarterback Jake Jeffrey accounted for all of Folsom’s touchdowns as the Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0) defeated the Trojans (8-2, 5-1) to extend their regular-season winning streak to 40 games.
No. 2 Elk Grove 35, No. 10 Franklin 0 at Cosumnes Oaks – Ryan Robards rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns, and Jayden Machado passed for 108 yards and a score as the Thundering Herd (9-0, 6-0) piled up 418 yards to beat the Wildcats (5-4, 3-3) and clinch at least a share of the Delta League championship.
No. 4 Grant 73, Davis 35 in Davis – The Pacers (8-1, 5-1) trailed 14-0 against the Blue Devils (3-6, 1-5), then took off as Deshawn Collins rushed for 372 yards and six touchdowns on 21 carries, while Mike Green ran for 107 yards and three scores in the Delta.
No. 6 Antelope 40, Bella Vista 14 in Fair Oaks – Elijah Dotson rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass, and Isaiah Hardy ran for a touchdown and returned an interception 53 yards for a score as the Titans (9-0, 6-0) beat the Broncos (4-5, 2-4) to claim at least a share of the Capital Valley Conference title.
No. 8 Rocklin 27, No. 7 Granite Bay 24 in Rocklin – William Floyd tossed three touchdown passes, and the Thunder (6-3, 3-2) recovered a late fumble to hold off the Grizzlies (5-4, 2-3) in the Sierra Foothill League.
No. 9 Placer 49, Lincoln 7 in Auburn – Owen Scott scored five touchdowns, including an 82-yard strike from quarterback Marcus Ante, as the Hillmen (9-0, 4-0) routed the Fighting Zebras (5-4, 2-2) for their fourth consecutive Pioneer Valley League title.
No. 13 Del Campo 39, Oakmont 13 in Fair Oaks – Ben Purcell threw four touchdown passes, including a 77-yarder to Ray Griffin, to lead the Cougars (7-2, 5-1) past the Vikings (2-7, 0-6) in the CVC.
No. 16 Cosumnes Oaks 35, No. 14 Whitney 32 in Rocklin – Dante Davis rushed for two touchdowns and caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Maurice Hayden Jr., who threw for three touchdowns, as the Wolfpack (6-3, 4-2) held off the Wildcats (6-3, 4-2) in the CVC.
Center 27, No. 15 Bear River 21 in Antelope – The Cougars (5-4, 1-3) forced a turnover with 3:39 to play, then scored a touchdown and made a two-point conversion with 1:06 to play to stun the Bruins (7-2, 2-2) in a Pioneer Valley League contest.
No. 17 River Valley 68, River City 7 in Yuba City – Dante Love rushed for five touchdowns, Avery Gould and JoJo Penn combined for two scores, and Clarence Pierson had a 50-yard touchdown run as the Falcons (8-2, 5-1) rolled over the Raiders (1-8, 0-5) in a Tri-County Conference game.
Monterey Trail 28, No. 18 Jesuit 3 at Monterey Trail – Robert Holt rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 59 yards and two scores to lead the Mustangs (4-5, 2-4) over the Marauders (5-4, 3-3) in the Delta to keep their playoff hopes alive. Holt ran eight yards for a score that capped a 99-yard, 10-play drive to open the second half. Monterey Trail had 19 first downs and 280 total yards and possessed the ball for nearly 30 minutes.
No. 19 Christian Brothers 55, Casa Roble 13 in Orangevale – Braeden Bourke threw six touchdown passes, four to Malcolm Anderson, as the Falcons (8-1, 4-0) beat the Rams (2-7, 1-3) in a Capital Athletic League game. Jamarri Jackson scored two touchdowns, one on an 85-yard pass reception, and Carlos Stahl had a 75-yard rushing touchdown for Christian Brothers.
No. 20 Capital Christian 62, Mesa Verde 3 in Rosemont – DeMarcus Ross scored four touchdowns, including a 63-yard scoring strike from Jacob Norville and a 35-yard interception return, as the Cougars (9-0, 5-0) rolled past the Mavericks (3-6, 2-3) in the Golden Empire League.