Del Oro High School football coach Casey Taylor took a moment Saturday to reflect on a roller coaster season of mixed results and emotions.
Despite an uncharacteristic 3-6 record, the Golden Eagles can make the playoffs if they beat longtime rival Granite Bay on Friday in their regular-season finale. A victory will secure fourth place in the Sierra Foothill League and the automatic berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs that comes with it.
“We’ve got a shot, and that’s all we could ask for after the season we’ve had,” Taylor said. “Our nonleague has been tough, but we’ve got to take care of business in league, and we haven’t done that.”
Del Oro, one of the elite programs in the section, has won three section titles and played in two CIF State Bowl games since 2011. This season, the Golden Eagles lost on last-second plays to Hawaii powerhouse Punahou (22-15) and Bellarmine Prep of San Jose (34-31), and lost a close one to No. 3 Oak Ridge, 24-21. They also were beaten 31-0 by top-ranked Folsom on Oct. 2 and 28-3 by No. 7 Rocklin on Oct. 9.
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Last week, Del Oro beat Woodcreek 24-7 behind quarterback Stone Smartt, wide receiver Trey Udoffia and a strong defensive effort.
“The nonleague games made us better, but Folsom and Rocklin hit us in the mouth and were really good,” Taylor said. “We’re better now. We’re starting to play our best football. We’ll see if it’s enough.”
It’s a must-win game for Granite Bay, too. The Grizzlies (5-4, 2-3) may be able to slip into the Division I playoffs with a loss to Del Oro, but coach Jeff Evans is telling his team it needs to win Friday to lock up fourth place behind Folsom, Oak Ridge and Rocklin.
Playoff chatter – Last year, Vista del Lago beat Christian Brothers on a late touchdown catch at Hughes Stadium to win the Capital Athletic League championship. On Friday, Vista del Lago, back in The Bee’s rankings this week at No. 17, hosts No. 16 CBS at Folsom High, with the title on the line again.
Vista’s only two losses are to Monticello Empire League power Wood of Vacaville 47-22 in the season opener and No. 8 Placer 42-39 on Sept. 25, and Wood and Placer are a combined 17-1. Vista is led by junior quarterback Brent Schaeffer, who replaced three-year starter Matt Jimison and has passed for 1,756 yards and 22 touchdowns, including 11 to Dylan Hackett.
CBS (8-1), led by quarterback Braeden Bourke and running back Jamarri Jackson, has lost only to Jesuit in the Holy Bowl.
▪ Woodcreek (5-4, 1-4) started 5-1 for the second season in a row, but it since has lost to Rocklin (38-3), Granite Bay (28-21) and Del Oro (24-7). The Timberwolves must beat Folsom – the Bulldogs haven’t lost to a section team since 2011 – because teams need at least two league victories to make the playoffs.
▪ Foothill coach Tim Trokey has said it will take a big victory to kick-start his program. How about two? After starting the season 1-6, Foothill has beaten Lincoln 69-62 and Colfax 56-33, and a win at home Friday against Center may be enough for the Mustangs (3-6) to finish third in the Pioneer Valley League behind Placer and Bear River and make the playoffs. In the win over Colfax, DeMariea Woodard had touchdown runs of 77, 60 and 49 yards, and quarterback Vernon Robertson rushed for three scores.
Around the region – Gigi Garcia of McClatchy, The Bee’s girls Basketball Player of the Year, has verbally committed to Washington. Garcia led McClatchy to the CIF State Division I championship last season. Garcia, a 6-foot-2 forward-center, will miss her senior season with a knee injury, though she is expected to make a full recovery.
▪ Capital Christian pitcher and outfielder Tiegen Jones has committed to Fresno State. Jones also stars for the basketball team; he helped lead the Cougars to the CIF State Division IV finals in March.
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The Bee’s Top 20
2. Elk Grove
3. Oak Ridge
10. Granite Bay
11. Del Campo
12. Cosumnes Oaks
14. River Valley
16. Christian Bros.
17. Vista del Lago
18. Cap. Christian
19. Bear River