Former Rio Linda and Hiram Johnson standout Houston Roots, who will play in Saturday's 52nd annual Optimist All-Star Football Game at American River College, says there has been plenty of good-natured trash talk going on between the players from the North and South teams.
"I'm been hearing from guys from Johnson, Christian Brothers and Franklin," said Roots, who will play at Sierra College in the fall. "MySpace, text-messaging, e-mail, cell phone. It's going back and forth. But it's all in fun."
There's much talk that the Roots and his defensive mates will have their hands full against South quarterbacks Cary Grossart of Folsom and Dominic Carmazzi of Jesuit, who are headed for Northern Arizona and Sacramento State, respectively, on scholarships.
"(North) Coach (Mike) Dimino said he heard someone say the South should spot us 21 points, that they are that much better because they have scholarship quarterbacks," Roots said. "But we'll be all right. We'll have some surprises of our own."
GRIMES IMPRESSING NORTH COACH
Inderkum's Greg Grimes is one of the most high-profile players on the North team.
But even though he already has a scholarship to Boise State, the 6-foot-1, 290-pound Grimes has been acting like a guy trying to battle his way into the starting lineup at North practices, according to coach Mike Dimino.
"He has been a terrific leader, a great teammate," Dimino said. "He's one of small group who hasn't missed a practice. He works hard, has a great attitude, and he's a force on the field."
While Grimes has wowed Dimino, South coach Kris Richardson has been impressed with 5-foot-11, 170-pound running back Greg Turner from River City.
"He has completely blown me away," Richardson said. "Most of the players I've either seen them or heard about them. But I didn't know anything about him, probably because he comes from a small school. But he's as good an athlete as we have out here."
THOMPSON SAVORS LAST PREP GAME
North wide receiver Peyton Thompson of Granite Bay will report to San Jose State on Sunday, where he will play on scholarship this fall.
While a number of area players with college football scholarships have again bypassed the charity game, Thompson thinks they have made a mistake.
"It's my last high school game and a chance to compete against some of the best players in the area, guys you don't normally get to play against," Thompson said. "I don't see why you'd pass it up. Most people are going to red-shirt anyway when they get to college, so why not have some fun."
Kato Serwanga, whose younger brother Isaac is playing wide receiver and defensive back for the South team, seconds Thompson's comments.
The former Sacramento High standout who played at Cal and in the NFL said competing in the 1994 Optimist game remains one of the highlights of his football career.
He really doesn't like the thought of college coaches discouraging participation.
"Sadly I think that is a case of kids being outsourced more and more," Kato said. "Time goes so fast but as you get older you appreciate those moments more: It was a chance to play against the best in the city.
"(The Optimist Game) is a moment for the athletes to celebrate themselves and their accomplishments."