February 28, 2008
Del Oro close, but not enough

Although Del Oro lost its boys and girls semifinal games Wednesday at Galt High School, the Golden Eagles took their higher-seeded rivals to the final seconds before falling.

The third-seeded Del Oro girls lost to No. 2 Sacramento and the third-seeded boys fell to No. 2 El Camino in back-to-back games.

Golden Eagles players got a huge boost from a large and raucous crowd that helped turn the Galt gym into a mini-version of March Madness.

- Bill Paterson

February 28, 2008
Sacramento boys get over big obstacle

One thing you have to like about Sacramento High School boys basketball coach Derek Swafford - at least if you are a journalist - is his honesty.

When looking ahead, many coaches use the cliche: "We're taking it one game at a time."

While Swafford knows that his top-seeded Dragons could lose if they play poorly against No. 2 El Camino in Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game at Arco Arena, he believes they have the right stuff to win their third section title in the last four seasons.

But he's already looking beyond.

"I think we can win (section), and I think we have the team to challenge for a state championship this time," Swafford said simply after the Dragons struggled to beat St. Mary's of Stockton 61-52 in Wednesday's semifinals in Galt.

The win was the Dragons' 16th consecutive and 27th of the season, with only two-point losses to Nevada power Reno and No. 11 (by Cal-Hi Sports) Etiwanda blemishing their record.

"Winning 16 games is tough to do at any level," Swafford said in reference to almost giving away a huge lead to the Rams.

But he also noted that St. Mary's always presents a challenge for the Dragons, whose 2005 and 2007 section championships are wrapped around losses to St. Mary's in the 2006 D-III section and NorCal finals.

"I think this game gets us over the hump a little because St. Mary's is a good team with a good coach (Ken Green) who always gets the most out of his players," Swafford said. "But that's what we're trying to do with our kids. That's what coaching is all about."

- Bill Paterson

February 28, 2008
Now, that's an improvement

Sophomore guard Ariel Thomas is the McClatchy High School girls basketball team's top overall player. But senior guard Janie Hironaka is the Lions' most improved shooter. Last season, the 5-foot-5 Hironaka made only four three-point field goals. This season, she has made 77, breaking the school record of 73 set by Courtney Hori last season.

- Quwan Spears

February 26, 2008
Playing defense until it hurts

Ben Rawlins is a basketball player, but these days the Bella Vista High School senior looks more like a boxer, or a hockey player.

The starting guard-forward had his two upper front teeth knocked out by Ponderosa star Rhett Beal during the Broncos' Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff loss to the Bruins on Friday in Fair Oaks.

"He's all right," said Joanell Rawlins, Ben's mother. "He's a pretty tough kid. But his lips are all cut up. He's pretty swollen."

The 6-foot-2, 150-pound Rawlins was playing defense on Beal along the right baseline early in the second quarter when the 6-3, 180-pound forward made a move toward the basket and hit Rawlins in the mouth with his right elbow.

Beal suffered a cut that rquired stitches, but Rawlins got the worst of it.

"It was like a bad dream," said Ben's father, Mike Rawlins. "One tooth was broken off at the gum - Ben said he heard it hit the floor - and the other was pushed back into his mouth. I was able to pull it forward, otherwise he couldn't close his mouth."

Mike Rawlins knows something about teeth - he's a dentist.

Ben Rawlins, a fierce defender who averaged 4.2 points a game this season, watched the rest of the game from the bench with an ice pack to his face. His father later took him to an oral surgeon who stitched the wounds but couldn't save the teeth.

Mike Rawlins said his son will need bone augmentation and either implants or a bridge, extensive work that could take as long as six months to complete. In the meantime, Ben wears a temporary bridge.

It wasn't exactly how he planned for his season to end, especially having to watch as the Broncos lost to Ponderosa 42-34 in the quarterfinal matchup.

But Rawlins knows how to handle pain. Joanell said he played the last five weeks of the 2006-07 season with what later was diagnosed as a broken left wrist.

"He was in a cast for five months," she said.

Ben previously wore a mouth guard, but he suffers from asthma and the guard worsened the effects of that malady, further restricting his breathing.

Rawlins' younger brother Tyler, a member of this season's JV team, no longer has such discretion.

"Yeah, he'll be wearing one from now on," Joanell Rawlins said.

- Bill Paterson

February 20, 2008
Winning small, but winning

One thing the Monterey Trail boys basketball team has shown is that height can be overrated.

The Mustangs have eight players shorter than 6 foot, and their tallest is 6-2. Opponents tend to withhold respect for them.

Example? Monterey Trail's 75-70 victory over Pleasant Grove in their first league game this season sparked an Eagles player - and parent? - revolt that led to the ouster of Eagles coach Lance Corgiat.

In a story last month in The Bee, we quoted a Pleasant Grove parent, who also put his critique of the Eagles online, who said there was no way a team like Monterey Trail should beat Pleasant Grove, a team averaging nearly 6-7 across the front line.

"From an outsiders' perspective you could see how people might think that," said Monterey Trail coach Ken Manfredi. "We obviously saw those comments and heard that talk.

"But we have a good group. They don't get rattled by the kind of talk."

In the end, Monterey Trail beat the Eagles two more times, including in last week's Delta River League tournament, a huge reason the Eagles are watching the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs rather than competing in them.

Manfredi's father, Al Manfredi, formerly a well-known and respected coach at Rio Americano (Ken was captain on the Raiders' 1990-91 D-III section champions), is the Mustangs' "satellite coach" who often watches from the bleachers and offers much-appreciated feedback.

"He's probably in the stands at 80 to 90 percent of our games," Ken Manfredi said. "He'll never say anything during the game. But sometimes we'll talk after the game or have a conversation the next day about what took place."

- Bill Paterson

February 13, 2008
Busy Battenberg relishes retirement

Terry Battenberg finds himself busy these days in retirement after ending a 31-year high school and college coaching career last season at Union Mine High School.

Battenberg, who led the Diamondbacks to a 26-2 finish in his farewell season, is a consultant for the El Dorado Union High School District, working with area coaches about how to handle the challenges of the job that goes beyond the X's and O's.

He also has written another basketball book, made a training video, scheduled several basketball camps - he will hold a Junior Postman Camp May 3 for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders at new Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove - done some college scouting and offered his insights as a color commentator for cable television high school games.

He says he doesn't miss coaching.

"I was ready for a break," Battenberg said. "I miss the winning, but I don't miss the losing. I miss working with the player. I could never get enough of that."

He also notices something these days about the high school game that he didn't pick up on when he was busy on the sidelines calling plays.

"The stress these coaches are under is incredible," Battenberg said.

- Bill Paterson

February 12, 2008
Loyalty by the numbers

Aidan Jang, a 7-year-old cousin of Del Campo High School senior offensive tackle Colin Lyons, loves it when the big man comes out and plays football with him and his friends at Del Dayo Elementary School.

But family bonds only carry so far.

When it was mentioned to Aidan that he could get a miniature version of a Del Campo jersey, he didn't want Lyons' No. 72.

" 'I'd rather have No. 35,' " Margaret Lyons, Colin's mother, recalls the youngster saying. "Colin says, 'What are you talking about?' "

Del Campo senior running back Carey Johnson wears No. 35. He was the player for whom the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Lyons cleared a path during the past two seasons.

"Aidan wears (Carey's) jersey around and sleeps in it," Margaret Lyons says.

Colin, who signed a letter of intent to play football for Oregon State last week, wasn't finished lobbying. He mentioned to Aidan that he might give him his first Beavers jersey when he gets to Corvallis.

"He told Colin, he still wants No. 35," Margaret Lyons said, laughing.

- Bill Paterson

February 6, 2008
Gobern quickly comfortable in Northwest

Del Campo High School senior defensive back Tony Gobern, who signed a national letter of intent today with Washington, knew the school was right for him as soon as he stepped off the plane during his first visit to Seattle.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Gobern loved the city, the weather and the Washington campus. But the biggest selling point was Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham.

"I've had some good talks with coach Willingham," said Gobern, a three-year standout for the Cougars and a Bee first-team All-Metro selection this season. "I know he is going to challenge me."

But what impressed Gobern even more is that they spent more time talking about things other than football.

"He's more like a father figure than a coach," Gobern said. "I felt we had a whole lot in common. "We both like 'The Art of War' (believed to be the oldest military treatise in the world). We both like philosophy and historical things."

Alex Gobern Sr., Tony's father, got the same impression.

"We felt at ease with him," Alex said. "His reputation and character are impeccable. You know when he says something he means it. There are no games involved."

Gobern wasn't rash about making his decision, however.

He made three visits to Washington, including an official visit Jan. 4. He also attended the Huskies summer football camp, where he performed well and received his scholarship offer.

He said it helped that his friend, Vacaville running back Terrance Dailey, decided to attend Washington. Also, former Cougars star Donald Butler is a junior linebacker at Washington.

Tony and his father stayed busy during the spring and summer.

Gobern attended camps at USC, Cal, UCLA and Stanford. He even checked out Georgia Tech, close to where relatives live. He also attended three combines, including one in Southern California.

It was a grueling itinerary, but worth it.

"Great things don't come easy," Gobern said. "If you want something to last for a long time, you've got to put in long-time effort.

Alex said it was important for his son to play in front the scouts to better show his "freakish" strength and sprinter's speed.

"Coaches at the important schools are really interested in seeing you in some type of game situation," said Alex, an assistant football coach at Del Campo. "It validates what they heard about you or seen on tape. The thing working in Tony's favor is that he always looks better live than on tape."

But the summer push might have been harder on Dad than son.

"I was probably just as tired as he was," Alex said. "They are stressful because you know there is this small window of opportunity at these camps, combines and senior-only events. I was always telling Tony to have a good day, just relax. But my stomach was in knots."

Among Gobern's other scholarship offers was a chance to play for the Air Force Academy, where his father, now a pilot for United Airlines, attended.

Legendary former Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry allowed Alex to walk-on, but Alex said his football career was derailed after a few weeks when he landed on academic probation.

"The school is really tough," Alex said. "From 6 in the morning to 11 at night you are doing something, and you only get to go home for five or six weeks out of the year. But I can't complain. Things worked out pretty well."

Said Tony: "That was a tough decision. I know the Air Force can set you up for life. But it just seemed like Seattle was the place for me."

Gobern said Washington's 4-9 season and 2-7 finish in the Pac-10 didn't scare him.

"Although they were struggling with a tough year, I've looked at it as if I can do my part and be part of a new, young team," he said.

Washington ranked last among Pac-10 schools in total defense, so he thinks he might be able to help right away.

"I'm told the DB spots are fair game," Gobern said. "Whoever has the best practices is going to play."

- Bill Paterson

February 6, 2008
Del Campo's Doverspike lands at Sac State

Nate Doverspike serves as proof of the importance of playing well as a high school senior.

Largely unknown by college recruiters at the start of the 2007 football season, Doverspike developed into one of Del Campo High School's top performers as a tight end-defensive end this season.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Doverspike was rewarded today by signing a national letter of intent to play for Sacramento State in the fall.

He'll get to play the sport he has loved since the age of 8 and do it at home for an intriguing program that hopes for a turnaround under second-year coach Marshall Sperbeck. Twelve of the 17 players he has recruited played high school or community college football within 90 miles of the Sac State campus.

Del Campo coach Mike Dimino said The Bee's All-Metro second-team defensive lineman has a huge upside. He has grown nearly two inches since the summer and just turned 17 in November.

"He is really coming on," Dimino said. "He stepped it up for us this season and more than held his own in that high school all-star game (the Holiday All-Star Classic on Dec. 22 at Grant)."

Doverspike said he has been recruited as a tight end, but Sac State has listed him as an offensive lineman in the signings list it released today.

Domino said Doverspike won't have any problem doing either one because he's still filling out and has a team-first attitude.

"When tackle Colin Lyons got hurt and had to miss a couple of games, I asked the team who wanted to volunteer to fill in for him," Dimino said. "Nathan put his hand up - 'I'll do it.' That's the kind of kid he is."

Dimino said don't be surprised if Doverspike plays tight end - "He's got soft hands and runs real well for a big guy" - or even winds up as a defensive end because of his versatility.

Doverspike said he started hearing from the Hornets about midway through the season but didn't get an offer until last month. The Holiday All-Star Classic performance at defensive end, in which he helped the North to a 56-15 win, seemed to seal the deal.

"Coaches liked what they saw, and it was fun for me," Doverspike said. "It just gave me another chance to show what I've got."

He's also looking forward to trying to turn around a Hornets program that had its last winning season in 2000. Sac State went 3-8 in Sperbeck's rookie season last fall.

"I'm excited to be a part of it," Doverspike said.

Mom's pretty stoked, too.

"I'm so proud of Nathan right now," said Debbi Doverspike-Brintz. "He's worked so hard. He loves the game, so I'm so happy for him."

And pleased that she won't have to go far to see him play.

"We're looking forward to Sac State growing as a team," she said. "But I'm a little nervous about him moving to campus because he's so young. But we have that safety net by being close by."

- Bill Paterson

February 6, 2008
Bill Walsh's influence reached Del Campo lineman

Credit a coaching icon for turning Colin Lyons into an offensive tackle.

The 6-foot-4, 307-pound Del Campo High School senior, who signed a national letter of intent today with Oregon State, was drilling at nose tackle during a hot summer day just before the start of his freshman season while playing at West Campus in 2004.

Watching from the sidelines was the late 49ers coach Bill Walsh. He was preparing to make a presentation to the West Campus players about the dangers of steroids and other performance enhancers.

"I didn't know a nose guard from a tackle because I knew nothing about football, and Colin was just starting to play," said Margaret Lyons. "But Bill watched for a few minutes and turned to me and said, 'He's got the size and the feet to be an offensive linemen. Tell your coaches that's where he should be playing.' "

Walsh also pulled over then West Campus coach Nnamdi LeBlanc, now a Del Campo assistant, and told him the same thing, then spent 10 minutes talking to Lyons about the ins and outs of the position.

"He talked about various things, such as how important footwork was for an offensive lineman," she said. "But some of it Colin didn't understand because it was his first summer playing football."

Margaret Lyons said Walsh talked to her son several times by phone and occasionally sent copies of inspirational articles to him.

"I just thought that was a really gracious thing to do," she said.

- Bill Paterson

February 6, 2008
The most important stat: Grades

It's not all about winning when it comes to securing a football scholarship. Or statistics.

Parents and athletes - and some of the younger coaches who are blinded by numbers - still don't completely comprehend this. When it comes to football, recruiters seek upside, size, speed. And most of all, grades. No grades, no chance. That simple.

This isn't like the old days when college programs could stockpile rosters with teenage talent that barely made it through high school or read like sixth-graders. More core classes are needed to graduate, meaning it's harder than ever for a prospect to earn great grades, never mind the scholarship.

All of this explains, in part, the relieved expressions of so many parents during letter-of-intent day today, where a son's signature could go a long way in securing his future. Stats are window dressing only. Recruiters glance only at select numbers: height, weight, 40-yard dash times, grade-point average, SAT and ACT scores.

John Elway missed half of his senior season 30 years ago as a prep in Southern California. Didn't mater. Every program in the country wanted him for his rocket arm and superb grades.

And if you don't have them, four-year college has to wait. Every year, there's a prolific talent around here who winds up at community college because of the one deciding factor: grades.

- Joe Davidson

February 6, 2008
Enjoying the accomplishment

Just beneath the anxiety and uncertainty, excitement, hope, elation and, sometimes, despair, flows a definitive undercurrent.

It's the pride that almost everyone shows when talking about "their" recruits.

In the last couple of days, parents and coaches have called and e-mailed, providing information about various football players, keeping us informed about their letter-of-intent options - some dead-on certainties, others long shots. There is, to be sure, a lot of hoping that goes into the process of getting a player recognized, recruited and signed to play college ball.

Virtually all of the contacts I've had have been positive - maybe a couple bordering on something less than that. Oh, well - and the correspondents have imparted a sense that this is a big deal. The best part is that it's shared by a lot of folks who have been involved with so many student-athletes' preparation; like football itself, a team effort.

The hard sell for blue-chippers is done, the search for a good fit for less-heralded talent also finished. More hard work awaits at the next level.

For now, though, it's nice to see people enjoy the acknowledgement and to look ahead knowing that they have done something special.

- Brian Blomster

February 6, 2008
QB competition shaping up at Sac State

If you're looking for a little intrigue heading into the fall, check out Sacramento State's quarterback situation.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, a 6-foot 4-inch transfer from UCLA with three years of eligibility remaining, and incoming freshman Dominic Carmazzi from Jesuit, whose signing is expected to be official later today, should provide plenty of competition for returning sophomores Jason Smith and Duncan White.

Look for at least one player to redshirt - most likely White - and for the Hornets to receive improved production at the position. The foursome should keep head coach Marshall Sperbeck, a former quarterback who loves working with young throwers, very busy.

- John Schumacher

February 5, 2008
Big day for big talent

The buildup ends Wednesday

National letter-of-intent day is the crowning moment for a slew of regional football prospects; a signature caps the emotional grinder otherwise known as recruiting. Area prospects have been courted since their junior seasons, some heavily, some hardly at all outside of a letter or two.

The area will be well represented with more than 30 prospects expected to sign. That's a great haul for this area, and it could increase. Where does Rio Linda's Houston Roots wind up? He's a talent at tailback or on defense, and he has good grades.

He'll sweat it out Wednesday morning while others across the land sign away, sort of like inking a five-year job commitment.

Here at The Bee, we're considering a number of angles to cover. We'll look at subjects such as Del Campo sending two players to the Pac-10 (and one to Sac State; good for the Hornets); the seven players from the Elk Grove Unified School District; Jesuits six (including Yale- and Princeton-bound soon-to-be Ivy Leaguers); three big talents at Folsom, including quarterback Cary Grossart; Kennedy's Steve Christian. A bunch of talented kids to be sure.

It should be quite a day. Stay tuned. We'll be writing about it all day long.

- Joe Davidson

About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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