October 29, 2008
Check it out - another chance to share your opinions

In addition to our Prep Blog, which has been getting more and more attention thanks to our readers and prep writers, The Bee has recently created another venue for high school sports enthusiasts. We have started a High School Sports forum that allows for a more conversational approach to teams, players, games and more.

Unfortunately, it can be a little hard to find on our Web site. So, I urge you to persevere and to share. The forum can be found on the High School Sports page on our Web site and also at sacbee,com/forums.

Please give it a try. Right now, I am wondering what people think of this week's matchup between Roseville and The Bee's No. 1 team, Granite Bay. Do the Tigers have a chance? Let us know what you think.

Thanks. Bob Rudy, assistant sports editor/preps

October 28, 2008
Awesome atmosphere for Oak Ridge-CBS volleyball

The atmosphere tonight at for Oak Ridge-Christian Brothers in El Dorado Hills was incredible. Standing-room-only crowd, pep band playing Europe's "The Final Countdown," and "Here's your napkin, you just got served" t-shirts - good stuff.

But who was behind it all?

Certainly the Oak Ridge student body deserves a bulk of the credit as the El Dorado Hills campus was adorned with posters advertising "Our biggest rival!" and "Show your Trojan pride!"

Hint: It was a coach.

No, not the one who also happens to be math teacher at Oak Ridge (Becky Potter). Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter had a hand in creating the atmosphere as he told Kayla Berringer and Kaleigh Durket, both of whom have played for him in club ball, that he was bringing a bus full of Brothers backers up and that they'd better respond in kind. The result was a crowd unlike any other for high school volleyball and one the Trojans used to their advantage in a shellacking of the Falcons.

"That support was incredible," Potter said. "I haven't seen anything like it."

But why would Deter lead his team into the lion's den like that? Simple. It's what Deter does. You'd be hard-pressed to find a craftier, more knowledgeable coach in the area. Deter knows - especially with two losses in league play - that his team will need to win at least one big match on the road in the section playoffs.

The Falcons were third in the section's power ratings released last week, behind Ripon and Vacaville Christian. The Falcons should remain in that slot if they take care of business in their final two games meaning they would play a semifinal match at either Ripon or VC. Ripon is known as an especially difficult place to play, typically with a raucous crowd. The Falcons did win at Ripon earlier in the year, coming back from down two sets.

Deter's scheming benefits Oak Ridge as well. The Trojans are all but guaranteed home matches until the championship round at the Pavilion in Davis, as the Trojans were No. 2 in the D-II power ratings behind Rocklin. Oak Ridge could get the No. 1 seed if the Thunder falters tomorrow at Nevada Union in its SFL finale and the Trojans take care of their final two matches with Vista del Lago and Cordova.

At least one Trojan likes their chances if the crowd persists.

"We fed so much off that energy tonight," Durket said. "I think they'll keep coming out after what they saw tonight and I'll tell ya if we keep it up, we could go to State."

October 28, 2008
Nevada Union's turnaround took place last year

Looking for a time when the Nevada Union High School football team turned things around?

Try the final two games of last season. Although the Miners finished 4-6 and didn't make the playoffs, they developed.

As result, the maturation carried over into this season. The No. 4-ranked Miners (7-0, 2-0) are undefeated heading into their first-place battle in the Delta Valley League at No. 9 Laguna Creek (5-2, 2-0) Friday.

"I'll admit it," Humphers said. "We were a young team and we struggled the majority of last year. But in those last two games, we scored over 40 points, stayed positive and got better."

The Miners have knocked down all opponents in their path so far.

Improvements on both sides of the ball have been key. They showcase a new version of their famous Wing-T offense, one that has quarterback Broughan Jantz taking snaps from the shotgun position.

The Miners have scored 318 points this season. Last season, they scored 233. The defense allowed a Delta Valley League high-302 points in 2007. They have surrendered the fewest this season at 86.

"Each team has a personality of its own," Humphers said. "But the key to this team is that it has gained confidence over time. Plus, our junior class has really stepped up."

Jantz is one example. He is second in the DVL in passing yards behind Adam Kennedy of Franklin (825) with 823.

He plays steady and manages the game. In the Miners' 35-17 win over Franklin of Elk Grove last week, Jantz completed 9 of 10 passes for 142 yards, including a 28-yards scoring toss to Cameron Ryan.

He also comes through in the clutch. He not only threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Duncan Chapple, but also scored the two-point conversion on a nifty run in the Miners 15-14 come-from-behind victory over Ponderosa in Week 1.

Can he continue his stellar play against Laguna Creek? The Cardinals feature senior defensive lineman Sean Nill. They also dominated Elk Grove 37-7 on the strength of running back Keenen Williams' three rushing touchdowns. The Miners will need Jantz and more to win.

"Laguna Creek has a great team," Humphers said. "Probably the best we've seen in a long time. They have size, speed a lot of experience. And Nill is fabulous. In fact, I'm going to Laguna's graduation in the spring to make sure he graduates. We don't want to deal with him anymore."

October 28, 2008
I agree with the CIFSJS on this one; administrators are responsible

I don't agree with everything the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section does. However, I commend the governing body that oversees high school sports in this region (Merced to the south, Grass Valley to the North, Napa to the west, and the Nevada state line to the east) for issuing a reminder to all 185 schools about their responsibility to ensure the eligibility of their players.

That three high profile programs -- Florin, Placer, and Stallworth Academy in Stockton -- have been given penalties for violating the same rule is mind-boggling, unacceptable, embarrassing and heartbreaking to the student-athletes, fans, alumni and community supporters of those schools who depend on school administrators to take care of business.

If school administrators expect student-athletes to comply with rules, then school administrators should do the same, especially after the CIF-SJS goes to great lengths to educate them about eligibility rules by such means as the administrative workshop conducted every August; individual meetings will all 26 leagues ever September and October; and a workshop for athletic directors every fall.

I agree with CIF-SJS President Ralf Swenson, who said in a press release on Monday "The rules are clear, ironclad and don't allow us any room to work things out after the fact."

If school administrators take care of business on the front end, then fewer problems will manifest themselves in the future and the student-athletes, the ones who matter the most, won't suffer the penalty.

October 26, 2008
Clearing the air on Florin forfeit

At first glance, the Florin forfeit mess reeked of rotten luck for a hard-luck Panthers team and seemed to warrant some finger pointing.

When news broke that Florin, off to a rousing 4-2 start, had to forfeit its victories after it was learned the team had unknowingly played a fifth-year senior, there was an avalanche of e-mails and calls to me charging Pleasant Grove was the whistle blower, that in a moment of spite, the Eagles picked defeat as the motive to rat on their Delta River League rivals.

Not at all. This sort of thing has happened before, where coaches and administrators pick and chose times to blow the whistle. Not in this instance.

It's true that the player in question - a special teams performer who played about five plays a game - was discovered during Florin's 26-24 upset victory over Pleasant Grove in Week 6. And it's true that Eagles athletic director Jeff Caton looked into it. What also needs to be understood is that it's the responsibility of Caton and any administrator to investigate any eligibility situation. Caton didn't call the Sac-Joaquin Section office. He called Florin athletic director George Smith, who then launched his own investigation. Stunned at what he found, Smith then reported it to the section.

Caton said this afternoon that a former Eagles player filming on the Pleasant Grove sideline recognized the player during the game and told Caton, "he was a junior at Pleasant Grove two years ago."

Still, when he informed Joe Cattolico, the Pleasant Grove coach didn't want it to cost Florin any victories.

"He told me, 'Don't make an issue of it; I don't want to win this way,''' Caton recalled. "I told him that as an AD I have to report it, that it's my job. If I didn't do it now, four weeks may go by before someone discovered it and Florin would have to forfeit the whole league. Then I would kick myself for not saying anything earlier. But it still made me sick to my stomach to have to report it.

"It's terrible, and I feel bad for Smith (and Florin coach Mike) Morales and the team."

That's because the athletic directors are not looking to skunk one another. Jim Smrekar, the athletic administrator for the Elk Grove Unified School District, hosts a monthly meeting with the nine district athletic directors. Transfer issues are generally the first topic of discussion. The Florin name came up but it didn't ring any bells because he did not compete in athletics at Pleasant Grove. He appeared to check out residentially and academically.

What no one realized was the player had started school in 2004, and by graduating in 2009, he would be a fifth-year student, making him ineligible. It's extremely rare that a fifth-year student competes in athletics, particularly if he hadn't played a sport before.

The student, since removed from the Florin team, started high school at Florin, then bounced from Grant, back to Florin, to Pleasant Grove and finally back to Florin. He did not attend a comprehensive high school last year, which aided in the confusion as to how many semesters he had accumulated.

The end result is staggering for Florin. The Panthers did not recover from the Friday news and were shelled at Jesuit on Saturday. They now stand, wobbling, at 0-7. Pleasant Grove is 2-0 in league play but not at all feeling triumphant on Florin's behalf.

October 26, 2008
Sac High's Clinton Johnson among Week 7 Prep Stars

Here are more Week 7 high school football standout performances:

• Clinton Johnson rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries; Malcom Ajayi had 105 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and Denzel Pruitt caught two touchdown passes in Sacramento's 54-18 win over Hiram Johnson.

• Travis Snider rushed for 217 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries and Chris Piwinski completed 14 of 19 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in Jesuit's 42-12 win over Florin.

• David Graves passed for five touchdowns, all to Andrew Benavides, and also ran for a touchdown in Folsom's 54-19 win over Monterey Trail. Sedale Hunter rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries for Monterey Trail.

• Devontae Booker ran for four touchdowns; Howard Warren had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown and caught a five-yard touchdown pass; and Kipeli Koniseti passed for 96 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 54 yards in Grant's 61-0 win over Kennedy.

• Sam Martinez completed 9 of 19 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns and Matt Satchwell rushed for 150 yards on 10 carries in Casa Roble's 46-19 win over El Camino.

• Jeff Anderson completed 8 of 11 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown in Dixon's 21-13 win over Center.

• Trevor Moheit rushed for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and had two sacks and Kyle Allen completed 8 of 15 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns in Vacaville Christian's 52-0 win over Delta.

• Manuia Fruean completed 14 of 28 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a touchdown in West Campus' 28-13 loss to Rio Linda.

• Cameron Ryan rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and also caught four passes for 75 yards and a touchdown in Nevada Union's 35-17 win over Franklin.

• Chris Parker rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and Marcel Louis-Jacques had two interceptions, including one returned for a 41-yard touchdown, in Valley Christian's 29-18 win over North Hills Christian.

• Miles Freeman rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and completed 11 of 14 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown; David Gray rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries; Terence Mitchell returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown and Siaosi Heleta returned a fumble 29 yards for a score in Burbank's 44-6 win over Rosemont.

• Anthony Mull threw three touchdown passes in Vista del Lago's 41-14 win over McClatchy.

• Ryan Dimino completed 8 of 12 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and Larry Gasaway had three receptions for 69 yards and a score; a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery in Del Campo's 48-0 win over Mira Loma.

• Zach Graves rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in Whitney's 40-6 win over Mesa Verde Saturday night.

October 25, 2008
Bee's Section Top 10 football results

Here's a look at The Bee's Sac-Joaquin Section poll entering the weekend and how the teams fared. The new poll will be unveiled on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California High School Sports X-tra.

By all means, feel free to comment on who should move up or down or in or out, who is the best in D-I, D-II, D-III and matchups you'd love to see.

1. Granite Bay (7-0)
Grizzlies throttled Rocklin 41-13 in the Sierra Foothill League a year after Rocklin throttled them 33-0. Funny thing: Granite Bay hasn't lost since. Clark Partridge had two touchdowns and the defense again dominated.

2. Grant (8-0)
Pacers are eager for a real game, specifically the Metro League finale against Burbank, after plowing through winless Kennedy 61-0 as Kipeli Koniseti accounted for two scores and Devontae Butler rushed for four touchdowns.

3. Merced (6-1)
The Bears have a classic game-breaker in Stephon Mathis, who scooted for 204 yards in 11 carries and three touchdowns in a 41-16 rout of Golden Valley and are in clear control of the Central California Conference.

4. Nevada Union (7-0)
Miners are rolling along merrily after dumping Franklin-Elk Grove 35-17 with dominant line play, running game that features Cameron Ryan and defense. Next game is even bigger: vs. Laguna Creek, with the Delta Valley League title at stake.

5. Folsom (7-0)
David Graves is sizzling, having tossed four of his five touchdown passes to ace receiver Andrew Benavides in a 54-19 rout of Monterey Trail in maintaining early control of the Delta River League. Next is dangerous Florin, which offers speed.

6. Casa Roble (7-0)
The spread offense with Big 3 of Sam Martinez, Matt Satchwell and Tristan Baer continue to steam all comers, including El Camino 46-19 in a Capital Athletic League game to keep pace with rival Del Campo.

7. Napa (6-1)
The Indians rolled Wood 49-7 in a Monticello Empire League contest as juniors continue to lead the way in quarterback Charles Boyett and tailback Logan Hess.

8. Whitney (6-0)
Play Mesa Verde tonight at 7 p.m.

9. Del Campo (7-0)
Offense, defense, special teams, line play - it's all working for the Cougars who played at Mira Loma today.

10. Lincoln-Stockton (6-1)
The Trojans scored seven first-half touchdowns to bury struggling Franklin-Stockton 63-7; Robb Post tossed four touchdowns and Michael Spanos scored three times as Lincoln keeps the San-Joaquin Athletic Association title in clear focus.

October 25, 2008
Better to compete than fuss, Miners

High school football players crave any morsel of motivation, to the point of exaggeration to fire themselves up, to have a cause.

In the case of Nevada Union, the Miners have used The Bee as means of motivation all season. Players sneered when they felt they were ranked too low in the first Bee poll, howling of disrespect (the fact that the team was 3-7 on the field in 2007 might have had something to do with the low initial ranking, no?). On Friday, after belting a formidable Franklin-Elk Grove team 35-17, the Miners were still grumbling.

Lineman Trendon Amuzie told Brian Hamilton of the Grass Valley Union, "The Sac Bee is saying we're supposed to lose and that we haven't been playing anybody yet. So, yeah, we've got something to prove. And we've still got something to prove."

Correction, son. The Sac Bee never wrote that the Miners were supposed to lose, only that they will have a challenge in the Wildcats. We don't pick teams to win or lose, though somehow athletes will study the words in the paper and find a way to come to that conclusion. And in comparing last year's nonleague schedule of Del Oro and Granite Bay to Chavez, Franklin-Stockton and Natomas? Not even close.

Amuzie was right in that the Miners had plenty to prove and are still proving that they are back with a vengeance this season.

For the record, the Miners are indeed one of the stories of the season. They're dangerous again, prolific and on a roll. It's a credit to coach Dave Humphers, whose team was mired in injuries last season and suffered a down season after years of championship success.

The offensive line is superb, the running game is hard to slow down with Cameron Ryan and Jared Ralph, and quarterback Broughan Jantz is expertly running the wing-T.

But still, complaints. You can report in a preview of a game that it should be a showdown and players will rally behind that and insist their bunch was being knocked. Coaches can't stand reading comments like those from Amuzie in the paper, and opponents view it as sour grapes, which plays a role when coaches pick all-league teams and when media pick All-Metro and All-Section teams. Just play the game and compete.

And consider this, the Miners have it better than most any in the state when it comes to media coverage: radio in Grass Valley, daily coverage by Hamilton and company in the Union, weekly mentions on the Comcast California High School Sports X-tra TV show on Tuesday nights, being ranked, covered and reported on in The Bee. That's darn good living.

October 25, 2008
Laguna Creek rolling with line play, running, defense, leadership

Laguna Creek put together its best game of the season in dismantling Elk Grove 37-7, knowing full well that it had the golden opportunity to put the cleats to their rival's neck - and push.

Mission accomplished.

The No. 10 Cardinals have established themselves as an area power, and it sets up Friday's Delta Valley Conference showdown with No. 6 Nevada Union as the league title match. We've said it before and it bears mention again: Laguna has the ingredients to keep rolling: dominant line play on both sides of the ball, headed by Matt Hambrick and Sean Nill, impact linebackers with D.J. Hill, a steady passers in Chris Jackson, a breakaway threat in Keenen Williams and a coaching leader in Mark Nill who knows how to keep it all together.

"We've got a great defense and we can score,'' Sean Nill said.

Nill, the coach's son, said his team was plenty inspired to play their best outing against the Herd.

"They've done it to us in what seems like forever, knocking us out of the league title,'' Nill said. "We came ready to play. We wanted to make history."

Nevada Union provides the ultimate test, as the Miners also have the championship ingredients. Expect a thriller to the wire.

October 25, 2008
Herd is spinning out

It wasn't too long ago that Elk Grove was cruising along at 4-0, ranked No. 4 by The Bee and playing every bit as well as it had in the previous two seasons, when the club posted back-to-back 12-1 seasons.

Then the pot hole, and now the alignment problems and struggles to avoid the logs on the road.

Since losing a gut-wrenching 27-22 game at Del Oro when referees ruled that Elk Grove had not inched into the end zone on the final two plays, it's been all despair for the blue and gold. Homecoming night on Week 6 resulted in a beat down to Franklin of Elk Grove, which deemed it the program's greatest achievement.

Friday was no better as Laguna Creek rolled 37-7.

Elk Grove is hampered with injuries and has found out in a hurry that other teams are stronger up front and faster to the ball. But this is a program and true programs survive. It's a challenge for coach Chris Nixon to keep the troops looking - and marching - forward. He said following Friday's game that he has leaders in Brandon SooHoo, Keke Frank and others, and the rest have to follow their lead.

Either that or veer off hard left into the ditch.

October 25, 2008
Davis Blue Devils among the living now

Finally, a victory.

Davis is a football program with a rich history, making this season's 0-6 start all the more difficult to stomach for Blue Devils young and old, past and present.

Davis was formidable in the 1960s under Bud Henle, in the '70s under Ralph Villanueva and enjoyed its real hey day in the 1980s and early '90s under one of the region's all-time classy leaders in Dave Whitmire.

The Blue Devils 20 seasons ago won the Sac-Joaquin Division I championship with Villanueva the offensive coordinator, Bob Johnson running the defense and Whitmire calmly leading the franchise. The team had a host of unsung stars and two future NFL players in Jason Fisk and Tony Cline, stunning state-ranked No. 1 (and nationally ranked No. 3) Merced.

Fisk has returned to help coach the Blue Devils, and Friday was finally a day to rejoice after downing Valley 31-16.

The Blue Devils were routed in opening games against Folsom and Del Campo, clubs that are a combined 14-0 now, then lost competitive games to Wood (22-7) and Pioneer (21-7) and gave Laguna Creek a battle last week before falling 20-0.

Dan Gazzaniga was the Davis offensive coordinator last season when the program reached the postseason for the first time in 10 seasons. The former UC Davis standout lineman and assistant coach is the head man now, relieved that his message finally made sense: Compete and there will be results.

October 25, 2008
Surprise! Oak Ridge tops the SVC football standings

For those of us who thought the Sierra Valley Conference was a two-team race between No. 8 Christian Brothers and No. 13 Ponderosa, we got kicked in the teeth Friday night.

Oak Ridge, a team that lost its first four games (all nonleague), is now the league leader at 3-0 after beating the Falcons 27-14. CBS fell into a three-way tie with Ponderosa and Galt for second at 2-1, although the Bruins barely beat the Warriors, 6-3.

• Is it possible that perennial powers Del Oro at 0-2 (and 2-5 overall) in the Sierra Foothill League and Elk Grove at 0-2 in the Delta Valley Conference might miss the playoffs completely this season?

• So much for 5-0 starts. Bella Vista is now 0-2 in the Capital Athletic League and West Campus is the same in the Capital Valley Conference after going unbeaten in the nonleague season.

• Wow. Wouldn't it be fun if Granite Bay, Grant, Casa Roble, Whitney, Nevada Union, Del Campo and Folsom were in the same league. Of course they wouldn't be a combined 48-0.

October 25, 2008
Casa Roble's Ryan says state bowl talk is premature

The area football team positioned for the best shot at a state bowl game at this time is Casa Roble.

The Rams (7-0), who beat El Camino 49-16 last night, were No. 2 in the latest ESPN-CalHiSports.com Northern California Division II bowl rankings.

But the Cal-Hi staff kept the Rams at No. 2 even though top-ranked Valley Christian of San Jose (6-1) had lost to Bellarmine on Oct. 17.

The Bells are the NorCal D-I bowl leader so they felt the 27-16 loss wasn't enough for Casa Roble to flip-flop positions with Valley Christian. That won't likely change when the new rankings come out next week because Valley Christian beat St. Francis of Mountain View 47-14 last night.

Of course all the bowl talk is premature, especially as far as Casa Roble coach Norm Ryan is concerned.

Only section champions get consideration and since Casa Roble has never won a section title, Ryan thinks any bowl talk at this time is ridiculous.

"I'm old school, anyway," Ryan said. "I still think it's more about winning league and your section."

But what if Casa Roble runs the table, goes undefeated and wins the Division III section title?

Then does he think his team deserves to be the representative over Valley Christian or No. 3 St. Mary's of Stockton, which might still leapfrog the Rams by winning the D-I section title?

"I'd let our record stand for itself," Ryan said. "We'd be 33-3 over three years. I'd say we'd have to be a part of somebody's consideration."

October 24, 2008
Florin, Placer forfeits hurt many

No one wins when it comes to forfeits, especially when teams unknowingly used ineligible players.

The news this week that Placer and Florin had to flush away three and four wins, respectively, is troubling on several fronts. It's a domino effect, impacting many.

I'd bank my career in the conviction that Placer and Florin run clean athletic programs. I know the athletic directors - Mark Lee at Placer and George Smith at Florin - and I know their character and good standing. Excellent leaders in every regard.

Placer didn't realize it had a transfer student from Bethel High in Vallejo who was not "residentially eligible", but some how, someone within the Pioneer Valley League did, and calls were made to the Sac-Joaquin Section office. It's a thankless job for commissioner Pete Saco and assistant John Williams, but they have to follow through on written rules.

It's just too bad such a mess can't be avoided. In other words, why not iron out that snafu before the first league game? Why wait until you lose before blowing the whistle? Placer isn't in the business to cheat, and that's why Lee is sick to his stomach about the news.

And Florin isn't in the business to bend rules, either.

Florin has had years of rotten luck and bad bounces in football. It went 0-10 in 2004 and 1-9 last season. The Panthers enjoyed their 4-2 start, the highlight coming Friday with the stirring upset of Pleasant Grove on a late touchdown.

You would be hard pressed to find a coach who pours his heart and soul into his program more than Mike Morales. He feels for his kids. He cries with them, rejoices with them. Now he's just as angry as they are.

The Panthers didn't know they had a 5th year senior on their roster, and who would think of having one if they did? The player did not compete in sports before this season and he did not attend a comprehensive high school last year. When the nine Elk Grove Unified School District athletic directors meet each month to discuss issues such as tranfers, the player did come up in terms of his residential and academic eligibility. He was deemed eligible in both areas. It wasn't until this week that anyone discovered that the student was in his fifth year.

Pleasant Grove did the right thing in alerting Florin administrators that there was a player in question. Florin did the right thing in investigating it (and Smith was stunned to learn that the student was indeed a fifth-year guy) and reporting it to the section office.

The shame is how the rest of the program suffers.

Still, Morales vows that his bunch will respond. The playoffs are still within grasp. And like Placer, Florin has no shortage of motivation now. Both teams are playing with a real cause now.

October 24, 2008
Florin coach and football program battle "Haters"

The one thing about high school students across the country is this: they prefer success.

If their school sports a good football team, students tend to reach for the band wagon. They offer encouragement and high fives. They attend games. They pal around with the tailbacks, linebackers and tackles.

And struggling programs?

The criticism can be biting and cold.

Florin knows. Coach Mike Morales calls them "Haters."

The Panthers have endured some tough times in recent years, including an 0-10 season in 2004 and a 1-9 mark last fall. The "Haters" were there in full force on campus, smirking, sneering, telling players in so many words that they "stink".

This fall, Florin is off to a rousing 4-2 start. The Panthers are ranked No. 17 by The Bee. There are good players and good guys, including leaders such as brothers David and James Kilson. It's a fun bunch to watch, yet the "Haters" remain because old habits die hard.

"I don't understand that and I never liked it,'' Morales said. "Students can be pretty mean. Players don't need that. Sometimes it's the parents, too. I've had kids tell me that the first thing a parent asks them when they come home from a game is, 'did you lose?'"

Too bad, too, but it's actually more hip and cool to be part of the "Supporters" than "Haters." And funny thing about "Haters." They are not athletes. They generally do not participate in anything besides honing up on their hate.

And that makes them "Losers" in our book.

October 23, 2008
Placer athletic director 'sickened' about football forfeits

Placer High School's Mark Lee is a good guy and one of the area's most respected athletic directors.

So it hurt him greatly earlier today to have to tell the Hillmen football players that they had to forfeit three victories, including two Pioneer Valley League wins, because of a mistake he made.

A transfer player Lee thought was eligible and played in five of the Hillmen's first six games turned out to be ineligible under California Interscholastic Federation rules.

So instead of being undefeated heading into Friday's PVL game against visiting Bear River, the Hillmen are now 0-2 in league and have a huge battle on their hands to still try to land a playoff berth.

The Sac-Joaquin Section is making Placer forfeit league wins over Mesa Verde and El Dorado and a nonleague win against Rosemont.

It's something Lee feels horrible about.

"I am sickened about this situation," he said in a press release. "I feel terrible about the forfeiting of our hard fought wins and putting our league championship and playoff run, that our athletes and coaches have worked so hard to obtain, in jeopardy."

CIF eligibility rules are getting more complicated in this age of school shopping.

But Lee isn't making excuses.

"I have tried very hard over the past 10 years as athletic director to make sure things like this never happen," he said in the release. "The CIF bylaws are clear and I accept full responsibility for my misinterpretation of them."

He thought the player in question, who played varsity as a sophomore last season at Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo, had made a "bona fide" change of residence when he moved back to Auburn to live with an aunt.

But because the original Vallejo residence - he was in foster care - hadn't been "abandoned as a residence by the immediate family" or because the "entire immediate family" hadn't made a residential move, Placer needed to submit hardship paperwork and get approval from Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco.

In failing to do so, the school violated Bylaw 208.1 which states, in part: "If a student participates without the correct paperwork being submitted to the Section office, the student in question will be treated as an ineligible student."

But there is a little stink to this.

A nice profile story of the player had run recently in the Auburn Journal.

Soon after, some rival PVL schools started querying Saco's office about the player's transfer.

Maybe the CIF needs to set a time frame when transfer eligibilities can be reviewed and contested, perhaps before league play gets under way, unless blatant cheating can be proved.

It just seems that a lot of kids and coaches wind up paying a heavy price for what is often an easy-to-understand misinterpretation of the rules by someone doing a thankless job to begin with.

October 23, 2008
Pondering the Coach of the Year possibilities

Of all the levels of football, coaches make the most profound impact at the high school level.

They have to multi-task. Some are counselors and father figures as much as they are strategists and leaders.

With four weeks to play in the regular season and four weeks of playoffs - five if a local team reaches a state bowl game - now's a good time to handicap some area Bee Coach of the Year candidates (in no particular order).

Ernie Cooper, Granite Bay
Cooper will downplay this, of course, per his humble nature, but area coaches and his players rave about how special of a leader he is. He has figured out a way to avoid burnout for his players, refusing to allow his athletes overload on the sport. A superb strength and conditioning teacher, it's no wonder the Grizzlies are so fresh every week, and so dominant. Granite Bay has the makings of a 13-0 team, no easy task given the strength of the Division II playoff field.

Mike Morales, Florin
The coach looks tired, and no wonder. He's worked wonders with a school saddled with some of the same concerns that level city schools or those within the San Juan Unified School District. A year after going 1-9, Morales has the Panthers inspired, intense and eager. And if the 26-24 triumph of defending Delta River League champion Pleasant Grove - with three scoring drives of 80 or more yards - is any indication, the man has Florin playing championship football.

Kris Richardson, Folsom
Richardson has slowly built the Bulldogs into an area program of note after some mediocre seasons, and he has crafted the school's best team in at least 18 seasons. The offense is a nightmare to contend with and the defense is battering foes. Bulldogs could race right into the City Championship game, they're that good.

Mike Alberghini, Grant
A year after a very un-Grant season followed a very Grant-like campaign in 2006 (with a 13-0 wrecking crew), Alberghini has the Pacers looking fierce and formidable again. His challenge now is keeping his club focused the next few weeks in Metro League games that will have running clocks, until the Week 10 showdown against Burbank. A 13-0 season likely means a victory over Granite Bay in what would be a game for the ages.

Mark Nill, Laguna Creek
The Cardinals have the makings of the best team in school history, thanks to line play, defense and coaching leadership. The coming weeks will be telling, including a Week 7 showdown with rival Elk Grove. Laguna Creek is perfectly capable of making a City Championship run.

Andre Johansen, Christian Brothers
CBS was a regional power in the 1960s and '70s under coach Dick Sperbeck, the 80s under coaches Craig Rundle, Jeff Tisdel and Dan Hawkins and most recently in 1992 with a Metro League co-championship under George Smith. The Falcons are in a clear upswing again, with Johansen the primary reason why. He's made it work despite being an off-campus coach.

Chris Nixon, Elk Grove
The last two games notwithstanding, Nixon has the Herd looking strong as an overall program again after an off-season of coaching uncertainty. He should have been interviewed for the vacacy initially, but was not due to ridiculous in-house politics, but he eventually landed the post. Nixon was the absolute right choice, and his players have for the most part responded. The challenge is recovering from the two-game skid, with plenty of time to inflict a lot of damage.

Mike Dimino, Del Campo
It's not really a rebuilding year for the Cougars, as Dimino has stated before many times this fall. It's reloading, meaning he has elevated his program nicely. With a junior-dominated roster, Del Campo has beaten formidable teams in Ponderosa and Elk Grove, and the Capital Athletic League will be a test right to the end, including Casa Roble. That Dimino works off campus as a CHP officer makes his impact with the Cougars all the more impressive.

Norm Ryan, Casa Roble
The Rams have to produce in the playoffs, yes. Ryan knows that, and his players certainly know it. Casa Roble has played like a group inspired and hungry to make up for last season's 10-1 finish, which made the 10-0 start bittersweet.

Mike Gimenez, Whitney
The Bee's Coach of the Year last fall after the Wildcats had their memorable coming of age season as a new school, Gimenez has his program looking even more seasoned now. It's a credit to the program he has built. He talks of still trying to build tradition. It's happening at warp speed, with his finger prints all over the blue prints.

Dave Humphers, Nevada Union
Talk about bounce-back years. Yes, people have criticized Humphers for dropping Del Oro and Granite Bay on the schedule and replacing those monsters with Natomas and Chaves of Stockton, but the real test of the Miners is in the Delta Valley League and the D-I playoffs. Still, this team has come light years from the group that won just three times on the field last season.

Terry Stark, Inderkum
Only loss was to Elk Grove, and how the Tigers fare in the D-III playoffs will be telling. Stark is a program builder, and he's kept players inspired, eligible and productive on the field, a true mark of respect by his pupils.

October 21, 2008
Observations: What's up with Elk Grove, Pleasant Grove and Jesuit

Here are this week's observations.

When Oak Ridge played Cordova in previous years, it was usually for the Sierra Valley Conference championship. Last week, Oak Ridge defeated Cordova 55-21 in a throw away game. That's how far these two programs have fallen.

Here is something else to ponder? When was the last time Oak Ridge, Cordova, Jesuit and Colfax were not ranked in The Bee's top 20 like they are now?

Give props to Christian Brothers. They took down renegade Stallworth Academy, a new charter school composed heavily of players from Franklin of Stockton, the school that had to forfeit all its games in 2007 and wound up on probation for violating CIF rules. Throw away the final 4:12 of their 20-19 loss to Jesuit, a game in which they squandered a 12-point lead, and Christian Brothers would be undefeated right now.

How good is Granite Bay? It's one thing to score 68 points against a struggling Vacaville team. It's another thing to score 50 against a decent Del Oro team. And let's not forget the Grizzlies defense. It has allowed an average of eight points in six games. Consult Del Oro for a reference.

Speaking of Del Oro: Will the Golden Eagles bounce back from their 50-8 beat-down loss to Granite Bay? It appeared the Golden Eagles were gaining momentum after their tough 21-14 loss to Merced and their 27-22 victory over Elk Grove. Granite Bay, however, sucked the life out of the Golden Eagles last week. Lets just say it's gut-check time for the boys in Loomis this week.

What's up with Pleasant Grove? The Eagles have dropped three straight after winning their first three. They are perhaps three or four bounces away from being 6-0. Instead, the Eagles have dropped more games than last season (10-2). Like Del Oro, it's gut-check time for the Eagles, too.

What's up with Elk Grove? Was the Thundering Herd still stunned from it's 27-22 loss to Del Oro two weeks ago? It appeared that way in its loss to Franklin. The Herd committed five first-half turnovers. That's unacceptable for any program, especially for a perennial power like Elk Grove on homecoming night. It's also gut-check time for the Herd as well.

Jesuit's defense is weak against good passing teams because the Marauders lack a pass rush and overall team speed. Consult St. Mary's of Stockton and Folsom for references. Both handed the Marauders two of their worst defeats in recent memory. St. Mary's beat them 52-0 to start the season and Folsom pounded them 63-13 last week. Forget gut check time for the boys in Carmichael. The Marauders are in search of their Big Red pumping heart this week.

October 19, 2008
Casa Roble defenders among Week 6 Prep Stars

Here are some more Week 6 football prep stars:

• Jaycob Shoemaker had 10 tackles and two fumble recoveries and Zach Hackett had three quarterback sacks in Casa Roble's 55-3 over Bella Vista.

• Josh Tucker rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and Michael Lahey completed 10 of 18 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns in Christian Brothers' 49-20 win over Stallworth Academy.

• Kyle Dodge rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and Jenner Long scored three touchdowns, including a 90-yard kickoff return in Rio Americano's 63-14 win over Mira Loma. Alex Gomes completed 13 of 19 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown for Mira Loma.

• Adam Kennedy completed five of six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown and also ran 10 yards for a score and Aaron McCowan had a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown in Franklin's 35-14 win over Elk Grove.

• Michael Madkins rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries; Darius Powe-Reed had 13 tackles and Greg Williams rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, had a 32-yard field goal and 10 tackles in Pleasant Grove's 26-24 loss to Florin. David Kilson rushed for 101 yards on 22 carries and had seven tackles and Antonio Rodriguez had an interception and eight tackles for Florin.

• Teddy Bryant passed for 144 yards and two touchdowns and also ran 16 yards for a score and Ryan Loder returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown in Granite Bay's 50-8 win over Del Oro.

• James Nunley rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in Woodcreek's 14-13 win over Rocklin.

October 18, 2008
Super 8 provides formidable volleyball field

Mike Yates needed a hug on Saturday.

The usually fiery Union Mine volleyball coach was under the weather, with strep and his throat was so swollen he couldn't speak, his team was missing four players and dropped five tough matches at the Super 8 Tournament at St. Francis High School.

The Diamondbacks were spry, winning sets over No. 4 St. Francis and Stockton powerhouse St. Mary's, but ultimately fared the worst of the eight team field. Such is life at the late-season mega-competitive volleyball summit.

All in all the tournament field comprised: No. 1 Oak Ridge (the eventual champion), No. 4 Nevada Union, No. 5 St. Francis, the aforementioned Diamondbacks, No. 8 Golden Sierra, No. 9 Davis, No. 15 Granite Bay (the consolation bracket champions), and St. Mary's-Stockton which, if it were in the Bee's coverage area, would be ranked in the Top 5. That field could potentially produce three section champions and in D-II will provide a bulk of the top seeds awarded in that bracket.

After Davis ended Union Mine's day in the consolation semifinals, Yates was game enough for an interview, in which he wrote his thoughts on a steno pad.

"We now know our goals, our route," he wrote, "so we know what to work on and how hard we need to work to get there."

Top-ranked Oak Ridge (31-3) took the tournament crown with a resounding 25-19, 25-14 victory over Nevada Union and are now decidedly on a roll. The Trojans haven't lost since a Sept. 9 five-game thriller with Rocklin and haven't dropped a set since downing then top-ranked Christian Brothers on Oct. 2 to take over the top spot. For the second straight Saturday the Trojans swept through a tournament as they won the Carmichael Invitational last weekend.

"I thought being ranked No. 1 would put a lot of pressure on us but it hasn't," first-year Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter said. "I'm blown away by how well we've played."

In stark contrast to the win over Christian Brothers, Saturday's matches had a free-and-easy vibe as the Trojans casually - but firmly - took care of business.

"I was nervous at that vibe at first," Potter said. "But I'm OK with it as long as they perform."

Oak Ridge's unquestioned on-court leader Kaleigh Durket seemed to embody the feeling the most and had a characteristically stellar day.

"We trust each other a lot more now," Durket said. "These big victories keep giving us confidence."

The Super 8 was founded by Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter in 2004 while he was at Golden Sierra but for the last three years has been run by St. Francis coach Alynn Wright. It's no mistake that each year eight elite programs agree to meet up on the third Saturday in October.

"With the way the leagues are set up in our section, we're craving competition at this point in the season," Wright said.

At the midpoint of league play teams like Wright's Troubadours, housed in a light Delta River League, and Golden Sierra, long a powerhouse in the Golden Empire League, often find themselves on cruise control until the brick wall that is the Section Playoffs begin on Nov. 11.

"This is the best way to prepare for playoffs and State," said Deter, whose No. 2 Falcons sat idle on Saturday. "You have to play the best to be the best."

In recent years the Super 8 has been an accurate barometer for postseason success as the last three winners have reached at least the NorCal final, and St. Francis using the Super 8 crown to springboard a State Championship run in 2005.

"Sick!" Durket said upon learning that fact. "We're ready to make that two state titles."

Complete results

Pool 1:
St. Mary's def. Granite Bay 25-19, 25-16
St. Francis def. Union Mine 17-25, 25-21, 15-5
St. Mary's def. Union Mine 21-25, 25-14, 15-8
St. Francis def. Granite Bay 25-17, 25-20
Granite Bay def. Union Mine 25-20, 25-23
St. Mary's def. St. Francis 25-22, 25-23

Pool 2:
Oak Ridge def. Davis 25-18, 25-8
Nevada Union def. Golden Sierra 25-14, 25-14
Oak Ridge def. Golden Sierra 25-10, 25-6
Nevada Union def. Davis 25-15, 25-19
Davis def. Golden Sierra 25-15, 21-25, 15-13
Oak Ridge def. Nevada Union 25-19, 25-17

Consolation semis:
Granite Bay def. Golden Sierra 25-17, 25-23
Davis def. Union Mine 25-21, 25-17

Championship semis:
Nevada Union def. St. Mary's 25-17, 23-25, 15-10
Oak Ridge def. St. Francis 25-20, 25-20

Consolation championship:
Granite Bay def. Davis 25-16, 16-25, 15-11

Oak Ridge def. Nevada Union 25-19, 25-14

October 18, 2008
Franklin and Florin: Beware the danger teams

That was quite an encouraging showing for the third oldest school in the Elk Grove Unified School District and one of the upstarts in the same district.

Florin opened in 1989 after Elk Grove opened somewhere around the time the Eart cooled and after Valley opened in 1977. There was much promise for the football team, but the football team posted just two winning seasons entering this season.

So far, so good for coach Mike Morales and company, particularly after stunning No. 11 Pleasant Grove - the defending Delta River League champions - 26-24. Brothers James and David Kilson each rushed for more than 100 yards, with James scoring three times, and Tim Okunev had a 7-yard touchdown pass to Devon White with 27 seconds left to set off a mad-house celebration for the Panthers (4-2).

And here's what makes Florin a viable league contender: It had three scoring drives of 80 or more yards. That's championship football. And the defense only allowed Pleasant Grove to have the ball for just over seven minutes in the first half.

Meanwhile, Franklin walloped Elk Grove 35-14 after losing to the Thundering Herd in each of the past two seasons to decide the Delta Valley League title. Most galling for Elk Grove was the game was home contest, on Homecoming night.

First-year coach Brian Prahl - one of the really good guys in the business - vowed better days after losing a gut-wrenching close game to Pleasant Grove to open the season. He implored his young team to be patient, that their day would come.

He was right. A 2-4 record never felt so good, particularly after Franklin pulled the biggest win in school history. It was the first victory over the Herd for a program that came of age from new-school wonder to playoff team under previous coach Mike Johnson.

Franklin had big outings from Erik Prudhome, Aaron McCowan and improving quarterback Adam Kennedy. Next up is another tilt at No. 5 Nevada Union (6-0).

October 18, 2008
Random thoughts on ranked teams

The good teams pull away. The great ones really pull away.


•: After trailing 8-0 to No. 10 Del Oro in a Sierra Foothill League opener, top-ranked Granite Bay scored the next 50 points. The 50-8 loss is thought to be the worst in Del Oro's rich history that includes championship success stretching four decades.

•: No. 4 Whitney and No. 16 Bear River were tied 7-7 at the half of the Pioneer Valley League tilt before the visiting Wildcats found success on the ground and on defense to surge to a 25-13 win (with Bear River's final touchdown coming in the closing moments).

•: No. 7 Del Campo led El Camino 14-7 at the half then got mad about t and pulled away 35-7 in a Capital Athletic League game the Cougars absolutely had to have.

•: No. 13 Laguna Creek led winless Davis 7-0 at the half before Chris Jackson hit C.J. Daniels for second half scoring tosses of 62 and 16 yards in a 20-0 win.

•: No. 3 Casa Roble was tied with No. 18 Bella Vista at 0-0 for about a moment after the national anthem before taking off for a 35-0 halftime lead an a 55-3 rout in a Capital Athletic League opener featuring 5-0 teams.

•: Florin - soon to be ranked? - trailed No. 11 Pleasant Grove 10-7 at the half and then used three 80-yard drives to pull out a 26-24 upset of the defending Delta River League champions.

October 18, 2008
Section rankings take a beating

Yikes. The upsets continue and teams continue to fall.

A closer look at how The Bee's Sac-Joaquin Section Top 10 fared (new poll can be seen on Comcast SportsNet California's High School Sports Xtra on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m.):

1. Granite Bay 6-0

Blasted Del Oro 50-8 in as thorough and complete a rout of a quality team as you'll ever find. Grizzlies may storm to 10-0 regular season without breaking much of a sweat, though coach Ernie Cooper will sweat plenty in urging his troops to maintain the focus and intensity - like he does.

2. Grant 7-0

Pacers have looked every bit as good as a top-ranked team, belting state-ranked No. 1 teams from Idaho and Utah, and all local clubs. Offense, defense, special teams - it's all working.

3. Merced (5-1)

Bears are easily the class of Central California Conference with some of the best talent in the school's rich history. Tailback Stephon Mathis rushed for 208 yards in 10 carries and ripped off scoring runs of 74, 43, 25 and 54 yards in a 56-18 rout of Buhach Colony.

4. Sonora (5-1)

Expect a big drop in the next poll here after 28-14 loss to Manteca, a club that could inch into this poll soon.

5. Casa Roble (6-0)

Rams are Division III, yes, but playing every bit as good as a D-I or D-II team because the truth is there isn't any separation any more. Crunched 5-0 Bella Vista 55-3.

6. Elk Grove (4-2)

Stunning 35-14 loss to 1-4 Franklin because it was the Herd's homecoming, because the Herd had five first-half turnovers, because the Herd didn't rebound at all from 27-22 last-play loss at Del Oro. And consider this: Laguna Creek is next, where a Cardinals victory could spell a short season for Elk Grove, a program that reached the last two City Championships.

7. Del Campo (6-0)

Cougars are not rebuilding at all. Reloading is more like it, with 35-7 win over El Camino the latest example. The running game and defense have been superb. Can we move the DC-Casa Roble game to, say, now?

8. Napa (5-1)

With Logan Hess rushing for a career-high 194 yards and three touchdowns, the Indians downed Armijo 43-28 to open Monticello Empire League play. Napa is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as league champs, unless someone can offer another suggestion.

9. Whitney (6-0)

Wildcats broke free from 7-7 game at the half with tough Bear River to post 25-13 win in taking early control of the Pioneer Valley League. Mike Gimenez has a team perfectly capable of going 13-0, not that our 2007 Bee Coach of the Year wanted to hear any such talk, of course. Excellent line play, defense, running game with Zack Graves and an emerging passing game with Charlie Hetland make it all possible.

10. Lincoln-Stockton (5-1)

Trojans scored on all six first-half possessions and rolled Tracy 44-18 in the San-Joaquin Athletic Association. Good program that won 2000 D-I section title.

October 18, 2008
El Dorado runs amok

There's no secret to Rick Redding's game plan these days.

The El Dorado coach prefers a running game, and no wonder. He has two tough backs, a mixture of burst with C. J. Wheeler and brawn with Boise State recruit Trevor Peterson, who was moved from full-duty tight end to the backfield to get him the ball.

Wheeler had 183 yards and three touchdowns and ran for two two-point conversions, and Peterson had 63 yards and two scores in El Dorado's 35-28 Pioneer Valley League victory over Lincoln.

The Cougars have gone 3-1 since an 0-2 start. Keep in mind that this is the team that stunned Whitney a year ago, and El Dorado is better this time around.

Wheeler has 748 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, averaging 9.47 yards a carry. Peterson has 551 and four scores (and three more receiving) and is averaging 9.3 yards a pop.

All told, El Dorado had 359 yards against Lincoln, meaning Peterson and Wheeler owe the offensive lineman some steak dinners.

October 18, 2008
Kudos to the AD's

In our line of work, the athletic director can be an invaluable resource.

Coaches know it. An AD that speaks their language - the need for fundraising, the need to keep pushy parents at bay - is a good friend indeed.

Same for us. Nothing more hilarious than to be told by obnoxious and pompous boosters stuffing a press box that there's no room for media.

Hmmmm. "What exactly is this structure we are standing in amid all this good cheer?" "A press box," I have heard before, "but media's not allowed. Bye."

Not with the AD's we have run into this season, men who understand the value of athletics and media coverage. Of the games that I have covered this season, the class and hospitality of the following has not gone unnoticed:

Mike Cody of Franklin, Jeff Caton of Pleasant Grove, Zach Leach of Elk Grove, Monte White of Del Oro, Duwaine Ganskie of Bear River, Matt Hinton of Inderkum. Thank you, sirs, for the seat, the insight and the cold hot dogs!

October 18, 2008
CBS to play football team today that several others have dropped

Earlier this year, Christian Brothers football coach Andre Johansen was looking to fill an Oct. 18 open date.

On the Sac-Joaquin Section's Web-site he saw that Samuel Hancock Christian of Stockton was looking for a game the same week.

"So I e-mailed them and they responded," Johansen said.

But today's 1 p.m. game at Christian Brothers (4-1) will be more intriguing and mysterious than Johansen could have ever imagined.

Hancock, since renamed Stallworth Academy (3-1), has at least eight players on its 18-man Maxpreps.com roster who played last season at Franklin of Stockton, the renegade program that had to forfeit all its games and was put on probation after an extensive investigation by the section found the use of ineligible players.

In its first season of football, Stallworth is already a formidable and controversial program, although it isn't a member of a league and has has only six games listed on its schedule.

The Eagles have beaten Monterey and Bay Area teams Piedmont and Acalanes of Lafayette in one-sided games and lost late to Granada of Livermore, a team that plays in the same league as national power De La Salle of Concord.

At least three schools, Carmel, East Union of Manteca and Cristo Rey of Sacramento have dropped the Eagles from their schedules.

Athletic directors and coaches at those schools have either complained about being mislead initially about the quality of Stallworth's team or the inability to reach school officials to firm up details.

Johansen had no such thoughts, even though he said on Thursday that Stallworth officials weren't returning calls, and he had to get game tape of the Eagles from "an independent source."

Sam Fant is listed on Maxpreps.com as the coach but rumors have circulated that former Franklin coach Tom Verner, who resigned amid the controversy last season, may have a hand in guiding the team.

Johansen has heard those rumors, too, put isn't worried one way or the other.

"We just look at it as another football game, a chance to prepare for our league," Johansen said. "We're looking forward to a tough football game."

October 17, 2008
Seven things to ponder heading into Week 5

A quickie breakdown of football items of interest to digest:

1. Granite Bay's defense -

Specifically, can the Grizzlies maintain their defensive toughness tonight in the Sierra Foothill League tilt against a Del Oro offensive line that has been superb, and can it contain leading rusher Bryce Pratt (four touchdowns to beat unbeaten Elk Grove last week) and swift receiver Spencer Butterfield?

So far, Granite Bay has yielded little, outscoring a solid nonleague collection 202-40 in storming to a 5-0 start. Thomas Haney, Ryan Bertrand, Mike Wade, Ryan Loder and Corey Vanderbeek have keyed the defense.

2. Will Grant get any competition from here on out?

The Pacers could be looking at a running clock in the Metro League against every foe except defending champion Burbank in Week 10. Officials are quick to ask coaches about a second-half running clock to spare any more humiliation or injuries in routs.

If Jesuit, as good a program as you'll find anywhere, can play with a running clock in the second half during a 52-0 loss to St. Mary's, then anyone can.

The Pacers, rolling along at 6-0, play struggling Sacramento, which went with a running clock in a 59-0 loss to Burbank last week.

3. Can the Herd rebound?

In a word, absolutely. Elk Grove coaches and players are still seething over the last play against Del Oro last week, when referees did not signal a touchdown on the final play despite the diving effort of Zach Miller, who was deemed just short.

The Herd plays host to a very dangerous 1-4 Franklin team that is physical up front and loves to run the ball tonight in a homecoming game, with a three-peat Delta Valley League title in mind. Expect coach Chris Nixon and team leaders such as Luke Copp and Brandon SooHoo to insist on a high level of play for the Herd.

4. When will NU be tested?

Soon, but not tonight against Valley in a DVL opener.

A year ago at this time, Nevada Union was in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the longest such skid in decades for a program blessed with a lot of good living. Now, the Miners and coach Dave Humphers are 5-0, thanks to the efforts of quarterback Broughan Jantz (10 touchdowns) and runners Cameron Ryan (seven scores) and Jared Ralph (three TDs).

5. Can Keenan Williams keep it up?

Count on it. The Laguna Creek tailback is coming off of a 301-yard effort against Jesuit that keyed a 27-24 victory, and he has 601 yards in his last two games. He and an impressive offensive line now takes on an 0-5 Davis team.

6. Can Woodcreek upset Rocklin?

That's our pick. Speedy back James Nunley and steady quarterback Tommy Murphy lead the Timberwolves, who are hoping to welcome back dynamic all-purpose threat Jackson Cummings, who has been sidelined with injury.

7. Should Pleasant Grove be worried about Florin?

Big time. Coach Mike Morales has Florin off to an encouraging 3-2 start, and PG has lost back-to-back gut-wrenching games to Elk Grove and Del Campo. Florin is led by tailback James Kilson, and Pleasant Grove's strength has at times been defense.

October 16, 2008
Whitney rolls on

It isn't just Zack Graves doing all the damage on opposing defenses this fall for No. 4 Whitney, though the senior tailback has certainly done his part.

It's the offensive line that returned three key starters from last year's 10-win season that has anchored one of the region's most prolific offenses. And yes, it's an offense that features a game-breaking touchdown machine in Graves, who leads the Sac-Joaquin Section in rushing with 971 yards and has 16 touchdowns (and he has three touchdown passes, too).

It is a physical and cohesive lot of lineman that have allowed Graves to average a whopping 9.08 yards a carry for a 5-0 team that has averaged 7.24 yards a pop. Left tackle Mike Hathorn, a team captain, is joined in the trenches by right guard Andrey Feyster and center Zach Ramos.

What's more, Charlie Hetland has been solid at quarterback for coach Mike Gimenez and Jake Snyder has caught five touchdowns.

The line, Graves and company prepare for No. 16 Bear River on Friday, where it will boil down to this: Who ever runs the ball, wins it, and probably the Pioneer Valley League as well.

October 16, 2008
A look at CalHiSports rankings (too much love for Bay Area?)

Kudos to CalHiSports and editor Mark Tennis for putting together state rankings. It's quite a chore considering this just happens to be the most populated prep state in the country.

And keep in mind that rankings play a role in state bowl bid decision making. Still, it's the same theme to me: Too much emphasis on Bay Area teams.

Division I North

Granite Bay (5-0) and Grant (6-0) are ranked No. 4 and 5, respectively, with Merced (4-1) at No. 9.

Bellarmine (5-0), De La Salle-Concord (4-1) and Oak Grove-San Jose (5-0) occupy the top three spots. Others getting consideration are Elk Grove (4-1) and Nevada Union (5-0).

Division II North

Valley Christian of San Jose is ranked No. 1 in Division II, and bravo to you guys.

Keep in mind that this is the same Valley Christian program that refuses to play Grant any more after getting their helmets handed them to them by the Pacers in previous seasons. Same thing would likely happen again, which is why Valley Christian suddenly hits "ignore" on the cell when Grant coach Mike Alberghini calls.

A key game this week is D-I North No. 1 Bellarmine playing Valley Christian. Bellarmine of San Jose belted St. Mary's of Stockton and St. Mary's humiliated Jesuit 52-0 this season in a game so bad there was a running clock in the second half, if this is any sort of gauge.

D-II North

Casa Roble (5-0) is behind Valley Christian at No. 2, but should Valley Christian lose a close game to Bellarmine on Friday, would it remain No. 1 based on reputation and given the strength of Bellarmine?

Hard to argue the point, especially considering Casa Roble has not played nearly as tough a schedule.

Also in D-II, St. Mary's (3-2) is No. 3, Whitney (5-0) is No. 4, Del Oro (2-3 with close loss to Merced) is No. 6, Sonora (5-0) is No. 8 and Rocklin (2-3) is No. 10.

And plenty of motivation for Casa Roble was the CalHiSports crew explaining that should St. Mary's go on to win the D-I section title and should Casa go 13-0 and win the section D-III title, St. Mary's would warrant stronger consideration for the state bowl D-II nod due to schedule. Let the fussing and fuming begin.

There's still Del Oro, of course. There was the one-point loss to Idaho power Lake City when key Golden Eagles receiver Spencer Butterfield went down after dominating; and there was the 21-14 loss to Merced in Week 4 and the 27-22 win over 4-0 Elk Grove in Week 5.

Of course, beating Granite Bay on Friday would be an, um, slight boost.

Division III North

Cardinal Newman is No. 1. That team downed Central Catholic, which just beat St. Mary's, and Cardinal Newman has a victory over Del Oro, too.

Central Catholic is (4-1) is No. 3, Sutter (5-1) is No. 4 and St. Patrick's-St Vincent of Vallejo(4-1) is No. 10.

Small Schools North

Modesto Christian (4-1) is top ranked (it downed Capital Christian this season) and Quincy (6-0) is No. 4. Capital (3-2) got a mention as an "Others" team to watch, as did Rio Vista (6-0) and Vacaville Christian (3-1).

October 16, 2008
A peek at a Section Top 10

Every Tuesday on the Comcast SportsNet California High School Sports Xtra, we like to unveil our Sac-Joaquin Section Top 10.

Here's a closer look:

1. Granite Bay (5-0)
Grizzlies are playing at an all-time high levelwith great mix of offensive balance and an unyielding defense; monster game against Del Oro next.

2. Grant (6-0)
The Pacers are thinking 10-0 again, but focus is the key from here on out with some blowouts in the Metro League before showdown with Burbank in Week 10.

3. Merced (4-1)
The Bears have lost only to powerhouse Edison of Fresno, and they have more D-I recruits than just about anyone in Northern California.

4. Sonora (5-0)
Tradition-rich program has been in 14 section title games in D-II, III and IV.

5. Casa Roble (5-0)
Big test Friday against 5-0 Bella Vista, but the real question is who will slow down Rams' Spread offense with Sam Martinez, Tristan Baer and Matt Satchwell?

6. Elk Grove (4-1)
An inch or so away from being 5-0 and still being ranked No. 3, the Herd is piping mad about the referees not signaling touchdown on last play against Del Oro.

7. Del Campo (5-0)
Cougars are rolling after nonleague wins over Ponderosa and Pleasant Grove. Very strong in D-III, to be sure.

8. Napa (4-1)
The Indians outscored Rocklin 24-7 in the fourth quarter to roll, and they open Monticello Empire League play as defending champs and favorites.

9. Whitney (5-0)
Wildcats have not slowed down a bit from 10-win season in 2007, with Zach Graves playing like a section MVP with 19 touchdowns; vs. (4-1) Bear River next.

10. Lincoln-Stockton (4-1)
Showdown looms against St. Mary's for SJAA title, and maybe D-I south supremacy as well, though Merced will have a say there, too.

October 16, 2008
High on Del Oro's Spencer Butterfield and Casey Taylor

Monte White is the athletic director at Del Oro, and he beams at the talent on hand.

He raved about the determination and skills of Spencer Butterworth, the Golden Eagles' fabulous junior receiver who dominated the season opener against Idaho state power Lake City with two scores before straining his knee and missing time in the second half. The injury was initially thought to be a season ending ACL tear, but it was later diagnosed as a sprain.

Good thing for Del Oro, too, because Butterfield is a difference maker.

Elk Grove knows. He had eight catches for 173 yards against the Herd in a 27-22 victory in Week 4, and he'll certainly present Granite Bay with quite a challenge on Friday in the Sierra Foothill League super showdown.

"Spencer was probably the best athlete at our school last year as a sophomore,'' White said. "He's an amazing athlete. There's nothing he can't do."

White said he has been impressed with how Del Oro coach Casey Taylor handled his team's 1-3 start.

"You couldn't tell if we were 1-3 or 4-0 with how positive and up he was,'' White said. "He's a very impressive coach, and the kids feed off of his energy."

October 16, 2008
Capital Christian prolific again

Capital Christian hasn't missed a beat.

New quarterback? No problem.

James Lee has stepped in admirably for record-setting passer Kramer Hagan, now on scholarship at Portland State.

Lee, a junior, waited his turn in the program and has made the best of it, rating among the state leaders in yards passing (1,309) and touchdown throws (17) for a team that has won three straight heading into Friday's homecoming game against 3-2 Placer.

There's still a Hagan in the mix in senior receiver Spencer, kid brother to Kramer. Spencer has 591 yards receiving and eight touchdowns, and he has plenty of help with tailback Cody Barsam (five touchdowns), T.J. Oates (three touchdowns) and Jeremiah Oates (three touchdown receptions).

Extra note: T.J. and Jeremiah are not the sons of Capital basketball coach Phil Oates, though the coach said he is looking forward to having them in bigh tops this winter. And being their agent someday!

October 15, 2008
Foothill tries to overcome preseason inconsistency tonight against West Campus

Looking to see why Foothill High School is 0-5 entering tonight's Capital Valley Conference football opener against visiting West Campus, coach Allen Berg says it starts with an inconsistent offense.

"Offensively we have really struggled," Berg said. "We're still shuffling guys around."

Berg has used three different quarterbacks and nine running backs all trying to play behind an offensive line that has perfomed like one giant Yo-Yo.

"You'll see one side of the line go down and pancake guys but someone on the other side misses a block," Berg said. "We just need all six guys to come together."

The Mustangs are only averaging 210 yards and 15 points per game. They obviously miss graduated running back C.J. Woodbury, who rushed for 2,171 yards and 27 touchdowns in a Bee All-Metro season in 2007.

The Mustangs have played better defensively, although the offense often puts them in a hole.

Returning 2007 CVC Defensive Player of the Year Mike Exford is back at linebacker and is the team's top tackle while 6-foot-1, 250-pound defensive end Anthony Cox has five sacks "and has come into his own the last couple of weeks," according to Berg.

But the Mustangs lack depth on the defensive line, one reason a couple of converted defensive backs - 5-8, 150-pound Fou Saechao and 6-1, 160-pound Israel Johnson are playing up front.

"They give us a different demension because they are so quick off the ball," Berg said. "Sometimes you stick a little guy in there across from a big guy, and he's hard to block."

There may be something to that. Johnson, a nose guard, has a team-high six sacks.

October 15, 2008
Undefeated Franklin boys soccer is talented, deep

Franklin High School, which beat then nationally ranked Davis 2-0 last week in a Delta Valley Conference match, is playing for the present and for the future at the same time.

First-year varsity coach Eliseo Lopez has a senior-dominated starting lineup that is 15-0-3 entering today's game against Elk Grove. But he also has a talented group from a JV program that went 17-0-1 last season waiting in the wings.

Junior midfielder Meka Ofodire, one of two non-seniors in the starting lineup, is arguably the team's best player. He's a crafty playmaker who leads the team with 17 goals and 11 assists.

"He isn't afraid to take defenders on one on one," Lopez said. "And he has great vision."

But he's only a part of an explosive offense.

Senior forward Alex Acosta has 15 goals and 13 assists and was named the MVP of the recent Folsom Tournament.

"Alex is one of the fastest kids in the school," Lopez said. "Last year he only had a handful of goals because he was playing on the wing. He's much more dangerous now that he's up the top near the goal."

Senior forward and team captain Jameil Hall has seven goals and nine assists.

"They work so well together," Lopez said of of his trio of scorers.

The supporting cast includes the Azevedo brothers, Zach at outside forward and Alex at sweeper; gritty 5-foot-5 stopper Travis Lloyd; heady goalie Frank Vang; outside midfielder and team captain Anthony Velasquez; and defender Myles Baxter, all seniors. Starting sophomore midfielder Javier Lopez is the only underclassman on the roster.

There also is plenty of depth, with 10 other juniors on the roster waiting their turn to contribute.

"We have 23 players, so we already have the starting 11 for next year in place," Coach Lopez said. "The kids are headed down the right path. The chemistry is all there."
Lopez says the winning has sparked a lot of interest in the soccer team at the school, especially with the football team 1-4.

"We've kind of played in the football team's shadow," Lopez said. "But on Wednesday against Davis there were 200 or 300 people watching the match. That's something new for the kids."

October 15, 2008
Granite Bay's Cooper explains rants and raves

Ernie Cooper is a good guy. Honest.

His players like him, his family loves him and his daughter, Miko, adores him.

Game referees? They're a bit leery of the Granite Bay football coach but no more than any other coach who gets a heated during a game. Cooper rants. He raves. He fumes.


"Referees see my picture in The Bee and they think I'm a crazy man,'' Cooper said, laughing. "They see me waving my arms, getting excited. I remind the referees that it's the Italian side of me, my mother. That's how Italians communicate -- with their hands and loud voices."

Expect Cooper to be in full communication mode Friday when the top-ranked Grizzlies play host to No. 10 Del Oro.

October 14, 2008
Rio Americano is pretty good. Give us a call coach.

Rio Americano High School football coach Mike Smith likes to shy away from the media. Trust me on this. I left two messages with him prior to the Raiders game against Inderkum on Oct. 3 and he never returned them. I told him I wanted to talk to him about his improved team. Still, the phone never rang.

I finally caught up with him after the Raiders dropped a 20-10 decision to No. 9-ranked Inderkum, to which he said: "We wanted to see if we could play with one of the top teams in the area. And I think we did."

That's fine coach. But we want to know more about your team. Let us know how Rio Americano is having their most significant season since 1994. That year, the Raiders reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II final, losing to Del Oro 22-0. The Raiders are 4-1 for just the second time in five years and are ranked No. 20 in The Bee's poll.

Let us know how good players like Mardell Johnson have performed. Tell us Adric Jope is the best kicker in the Sacramento area and that your team has a pretty good defense.

We appreciate that you consistently put your team's stats on MaxPreps.com and that you regularly call in your team's score to The Bee.

But we want to know more. We want to know what makes the Raiders tick, how hard they worked during the off-season to get better. The only way we can find out is unless you call us back and give us some insight.

If the Raiders continue to win, then your school, fans and the media will want more. The football is on your side of the field. My phone number at the office is listed in the newspaper. Thanks coach.

October 12, 2008
West Campus coach hails from a football dynasty

As coach Nathan Preston tries to establish a football tradition at West Campus High School, he need only look to his own experiences for reference.

Nathan played tight end for his father Pat Preston at Bakersfield High School, considered one of California's legendary football programs.

During his 11 seasons as coach, Pat Preston compiled a record of 138-38-2 and won eight league and four section championships. During a three-year period from 1988-1990, the Drillers won 39 consecutive games, three section titles and three league titles.

"We're a football family," said Nathan Preston, in his sixth year at West Campus and second as head coach. "My dad coached and played at Bakersfield, I had a couple of uncles who played there and my younger brother Todd played, too."

Preston has become a part of another football family. He was urged to join the West Campus football staff (under then head coach Nnamdi LeBlanc) by former UC Davis fraternity buddy Gino Moio, now the Warriors' defensive coordinator.

"I never planned to go into coaching," said Preston, who is a substitute teacher in the Sacramento City Unified School District. "Gino recruited me, and it turned into something I really like."

Moio coached under Mike Dimino at Hiram Johnson, then joined LeBlanc when West Campus started its own football team in 2002. He and Preston remained in the program after LeBlanc was replaced by Greg Roeszler, now at Encina.

"I have seen three coaching changes at West and finally we have a core group of coaches that are doing their best to balance their lives both personal and professional while still finding time to coach these kids," Moio said. "We preach family; we preach academics first and athletics second."

West Campus is 5-0 this season after beating Kennedy 34-6 Friday.

October 11, 2008
Bella Vista's Rice among more Week 5 Prep Stars

Here are some other top football performers from Week 5:

• Eric Rice had two interceptions, one that he returned 28 yards to Center's one-yard line, in Bella Vista's 20-2 win over Center.

• Miles Freeman rushed eight times for 184 yards and two touchdowns and also threw for a touchdown in Burbank's 59-0 win over Sacramento.

• Demetrius Williams threw touchdown passes of 37, 38 and 25 yards in Inderkum's 30-17 win over Woodcreek.

• Zack Davis rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and Anthony Clark rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries in Roseville's 48-13 win over Pioneer.

• Trevor Moheit rushed for 200 yards and five touchdowns on 10 carries and Kyle Allen completed five of seven passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns and also returned an interception for a touchdown in Vacaville Christian's 81-0 win over North Hills Christian.

• Jimmy Laughrea completed 16 of 32 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns in Rocklin's 40-23 loss to Napa.

• Michael Madkins rushed for 140 yards on 23 carries in Pleasant Grove's 21-20 loss to Del Campo. Ryan Dimino rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries for Del Campo.

• Tristan Baer caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Jaycob Shoemaker had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery in Casa Roble's 45-6 win over Foothill.

• Devontae Booker rushed for 143 yards and four scores in Grant's 58-9 win over Rosemont.

October 11, 2008
Now the action should really intensify

Five weeks of nonleague play in the books and the league openers are officially here.

The early schedule as a whole might be some of the best games for the opening month the area has seen in some time, at least this decade.

Much of it had to do with ambitious scheduling, with Division III teams such as Del Campo taking on D-I programs in Pleasant Grove (and prevailing 21-20 on Friday), or D-II Del Oro taking on D-I Elk Grove (and winning with a last-play defensive stand at the goal line, 27-22).

Here are four games to ponder for Week 1 of league play (No. 15 CBS downed No. 11 Ponderosa 38-21 in a Sierra Valley Conference opener Friday, if that's any indication of an "upsets" to come from here on out):

1. Del Oro at No. 1 Granite Bay - Comcast TV wanted to air this Sierra Foothill League game on Thursday, but the schools didn't want to have one fewer day to prepare - and teachers and coaches aren't exactly thrilled about the prospect of late nights for students on a school night. So it's a Friday tilt that should be every bit as good as advertised.

Del Oro is feeling frisky again, and Granite Bay has crunched all comers in starting 5-0.

2. Bella Vista and Casa Roble - In a matchup of 5-0 clubs, we find out in a hurry how far the Broncos and tailback supreme Troy Samas have come as they venture into Orangevale for a Capital Athletic League eye-opener. The Rams have been prolific behind quarterback Sam Martinez, running back Matt Satchwell and receiver Tristan Baer.

3. Whitney and Bear River - The teams are a combined 9-1, and Whitney remains the Pioneer Valley League and section favorite in Division IV behind tailback ace Zach Graves and coach Mike Gimenez. But the Bruins are formidable with runners Johnny Jewett and Jason Varni.

4. Folsom at Jesuit - Jesuit has long been a quarterback factory with Ken O'Brien, J.T. O'Sullivan and C.J. Bacher, among others. Now it's Folsom's turn, with David Graves dominating his craft this season with 16 touchdowns already this season as a first-year starter. This Delta River game is a Saturday game.

October 11, 2008
Beware the Napa Indians (again)

Napa may not be the Napa of last fall when the Indians stormed to a 13-1 record and claimed the City Championship over Elk Grove in a thriller and the Division I section title over St. Mary's in another nail biter affair.

But coach Troy Mott has the Indians poised for a Monticello Empire League repeat after his bunch belted No. 12 Rocklin 40-23 to douse Rocklin's homecoming.

Charles Boyett, kid brother of 2007 Bee Player of the Year John Boyett , rushed for 99 yards, and Logan Hess had a 50-yard touchdown and 141yards rushing.

Keep in mind that Napa's only setback is to Merced, which is 4-1 and has beaten Del Oro and has lost only to 5-0 Edison of Stockton.

October 11, 2008
Junior talent is impressive in Sacramento region

Some of the best talent in the region this fall includes juniors.

They include: tailbacks Lyndell Scarr of Ponderosa, Jackson Cummings of Rocklin, James Nunley of Woodcreek, Sir Johnson of Mesa Verde, C.J. Wheeler of El Dorado and Devontae Butler of Grant.

Is there room for two more skill players for the All-Junior With More to Showcase Team?

Bryce Pratt and Spencer Butterfield of Del Oro are two primary reasons the Golden Eagles remained competitive during their brutal nonleague schedule, and they were the standouts in downing No. 3 Elk Grove 27-22 on Friday.

Pratt runs hard behind a superb offensive line, and he has good speed. He barreled in for four scores against Elk Grove. Butterfield missed the previous three weeks with a hyper-extended knee but looked All-World against the Herd, stretching one of the region's best defenses for quarterback Mason Maglby, who gives the Golden Eagles a potent 1-2-3 attack.

"Excellent players,'' Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said. "They took it to us."

October 11, 2008
Laguna Creek rebounds strong, downs Jesuit

One week later and it's good to be a Cardinal again.

The red isn't in the hue of embarrassment and fury in committing 19 penalties, turning the ball over four times and losing to winless Sheldon.

On Friday, the red was for the Laguna Creek school colors as the Cardinals handled the Jesuit red 27-24.

Laguna Creek moved to 4-2 as it prepares for a league opener against struggling Davis on Friday with hopes of securing playoff berth. Heck, make that a league championship. The Cardinals are perfectly capable.

"We played much better,'' Laguna coach Mark Nill said.

Keenan Williams rushed for 210 yards - his second 200-yard plus outing in as many weeks - and three touchdowns for Laguna. He took some direct handoffs out of shot-gun formation, ala Ronnie Brown of the Miami Dolphins and Darren McFadden last season at Arkansas (and many years ago, Marc Davis at Davis High in 1985 when as a national recruit at tailback, he took some quarterback snaps in an effort to maximize his talent).

The Laguna defensive front of Sean Nill, Matt Hambrick, Bernard Johnson and Nick Laswell played well in pressuring Jesuit, and Laswell scored on a 30-yard fumble recovery after Johnson blasted a Marauder.

And those ingredients to championship success? Old school stuff: a sound running game and a stubborn defense.

October 11, 2008
Del Oro-Elk Grove - an "instant classic", coach says

As good as advertised? No, better

All things considered, it worked.

The nonleague schedule paid dividends for Del Oro and coach Casey Taylor, who ramped up his early slate against every powerhouse program he could find. Cal has a bye today, but the Bears weren't willing to travel, and Al Davis wouldn't return calls to Taylor, who sought a Golden Eagles-Raiders rumble.

You get the point.

Taylor looked relieved - as did his team and the town of Loomis that crammed into the place Friday - after Del Oro posted a spirited and gutsy 27-22 victory over No. 3 Elk Grove. Thundering Herd players and coaches will forever be convinced that Zach Miller reached the end zone on that final, frantic effort to get in as time ran out, and for along, agonizing moment on the Del Oro sideline there was hesitation.

When no referee threw his arms up to signal touchdown, the Golden Eagles erupted.

"We needed this,'' Taylor said, adding later that the game was an "instant classic."

Of course, it gets easier from here. Sure, like going from the Swiss Alps to Mount Everest on a casual hiking tour. But the Golden Eagles are seasoned now, and dangerous as they head into top-ranked Granite Bay on Friday in a Sierra Foothill League opener.

"We totally believe in Coach T,'' Del Oro tailback Bryce Pratt said, with receiver Spencer Butterfield agreeing. "He knew exactly what he was doing with this schedule."

Pratt rushed for four touchdowns and Butterfield caught eight passes for 171 yards.

October 11, 2008
Del Oro gets boost just in time for top-ranked Granite Bay

So with No. 14 Del Oro holding off No. 3 Elk Grove 27-22 last night in Loomis, that makes this Friday's Golden Eagles-Granite Bay football matchup in the Sierra Foothill League opener even more intriguing.
Some were ready to write the Golden Eagles off after their 1-3 start but the return from injury of junior wide receiver Spencer Butterfield gives Del Oro a huge emotional boost as they try to get the upper hand on the top-ranked Grizzlies, the team that handed them both their losses last season, including a 49-14 pasting in the D-II section title game.

Other impressions from Friday night's football action:
• Watch out for Placer; worries for Colfax: The Hillmen are 2-0 after whipping up plenty of yards in a 41-19 Pioneer Valley League homecoming win over El Dorado. Coach Joey Montoya has the wing-T humming and the defense is improving. On the other hand, when is the last time Colfax started 0-2 in league? The Falcons lost 34-27 as Whitney scored the winning touchdown with 40 seconds to play.

Biggest surprises:
• Del Campo's 21-20 win at Pleasant Grove in what is supposed to be a rebuilding year. The Cougars are 5-0.
• Folsom putting 41 second-quarter points on Oakmont, a team with a pretty good defensive reputation, in an eventual 55-6 blowout.

Top performers:
• Oak Ridge's Brett Thompson. He's supposed to be a wide receiver. But to get more touches, he's been running the ball, which he did nicely in the Trojans' 30-7 win over Union Mine. He had 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns in helping the Trojans end their losing streak at four games.
• Josh Tucker continues his workhorse role for Christian Brothers as a two-way star, including rushing for 251 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 win over Ponderosa in what very well may have decided the Sierra Valley Conference champion.

Are they ready for prime time?
• Bella Vista coach Matt Polston has a nice bunch that shows good chemistry and discipline - no penalties through the first three quarters in Friday's 20-2 win over Center - but it will take a special performance on Friday for the undefeated Broncos to beat 5-0 Casa Roble. Put simply: the Rams are beasts, with 230-pound linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker looking like a guy who should already be playing at Portland State.

October 9, 2008
Freeman and Titans are worth watching

I spoke to a crowded room of students in John Hull's media/English class at Burbank today, and wouldn't you know it, among the most curious questions about our line of work came from football players.

This included Miles Freeman, the Burbank quarterback and team leader. He talked about his team, admitted that the Titans were too big-headed early in the season from last year's stirring Metro League championship glow. He said his team has been humbled and is now hungry to pile on a winning streak. He warned the rest of the region that his club will be playoff ready in a matter of weeks.

I asked him how the campus support was when it came to football. Typical Freeman, he offered his opinion there, too, with a frown and a nod. Not nearly enough support, said.

That's a shame, too, considering how talented and enjoyable Freeman and the Titans are.

Our advice? Be a Titan. Wear the blue. Go to a game. Be cool. Go ahead and bring your cell phone and text away furiously, but go to a game.

And check out Freeman. He's dangerous on the run as an option quarterback, and he can throw. He ran for three scores and tossed the game winner to beat No. 2 Grant 27-21 to secure Burbank's first Metro title in 40 seasons.

And against Riordon this season, he accounted for five scores. In short, Freeman is not boring, and neither are the Titans.

October 9, 2008
Story lines for Friday: Can Christian Bros. get it done? Is Laguna Creek overrated?

Here are some story lines going into Friday's games.

Can Christian Brothers (3-1) get it done in a big game or not? The Falcons have played solid ball for the majority of the season, except for the waning moments in their 20-19 loss to Jesuit Sept. 27. Remember, they blew a 12-point lead in the final 4:12. What Falcons team will show up against Ponderosa (3-2)? The one that dominated Burbank, San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) and Union Mine or the one that faltered down the stretch against Jesuit? Good teams step and win big games. The winner of the CB-Ponderosa game will gain the inside track to the Sierra Valley Conference title. Will CB be that team?

Is Laguna Creek overrated or underrated? The Cardinals (2-2) are expected to challenge for the top spot in the Delta Valley Conference? The Cardinals failed to get it done against Pleasant Grove and Sheldon the previous two weeks. The Cardinals host Jesuit (3-1) Friday. Lets see if the Cardinals defense can stop the Marauders run game. Remember, the Cardinals gave up 200 rushing yards in their 27-17 loss to Sheldon.

Can Del Oro (1-3) take the momentum it generated from its tough 21-14 loss to Merced, one of the top teams in the state, and sustain it against Elk Grove (4-0)? Granted, the Golden Eagles have played a tough schedule. But the Golden Eagles can't afford another loss. They don't want to fall to 1-4 heading into their Sierra Foothill League opener against Granite Bay next week.

Which of the three 4-0 teams--Bella Vista, Center or West Campus-- will remain undefeated after Friday? I say Bella Vista. The Broncos, who host Center Friday, have played a more competitive schedule thus far.

The pressure is on West Campus to win after being featured on the front page of Thursday's Bee. I'm not sure West Campus can handle the pressure of being in the spotlight. Plus, West Campus running back-safety Tristan Howard gave Kennedy (0-4) a reason to play inspired. See his quote in Thursday's Bee.

October 9, 2008
Oakmont coach: SFL's mediocre preseason reflects scheduling up

Oakmont coach Dale Mortensen says there is a simple explanation why Sierra Foothill League football teams don't have the gaudy preseason records of 2007.

"You look at the schedules, and you'll see that everyone has scheduled up," Mortensen said.

Mortensen needs only to point to his team's record last year compared to this season. In going 4-1, Oakmont beat Foothill, Mesa Verde, Union Mine and Folsom and lost to Cordova.

Entering Friday's final preseason game at Folsom, Oakmont is 2-2. The Vikings have beaten Foothill and Mesa Verde but lost to Pitman of Turlock and Las Lomas of Walnut Creek, who replaced rebuilding Cordova and Union Mine squads.

"We have been playing some pretty difficult teams, so our record is a little misleading," Mortensen said. "Pitman is a good, D-I playoff-caliber team. Las Lomas is a perennial (North Coast) section finalist. Yet I felt we went toe-to-toe with both of them."

He said that his league rivals also went for upgrades, a reason the SFL is 13-11 this season compared to 18-6 after four weeks last year. Roseville, Rocklin and Del Oro all were 4-0 at this point in 2007. They are a combined 5-7 this season.

"We all rescheduled and retooled," Mortensen said. "Everyone is playing tougher people. We all know we need to do this, though it's just brutal."

But whether the Vikings win or lose on Friday against Folsom, the second - and most important - season begins for his team Oct. 17 at Roseville.

"The bottom line is that on Monday morning we're going to be 0-0 as far as league is concerned," Mortensen said. "The preseason is about what lessons have we learned. Have we played teams that are going to get us better? Have we challenged our kids? We know we will be challenged next week."

October 8, 2008
Long-haired senior placekicker isn't short on experience

Andi Darr makes it a policy to keep a low profile on the football field.

"When I walk into the game, I keep my head down," Darr said. "I don't go, 'Hi, I'm a girl. Look at me.'"

Darr, who also goes by Alison, is a senior placekicker for the El Dorado High School football team.

She has long blonde hair and wears eye liner. But when on the football field, she keeps her helmet on and wants to be treated the same as her teammates.

This is her second season at the Cougars kicker, having sat out last year because of a groin injury. But she kept her head in the game as a team statistician.

This year she has some stats that would make many of her male counterparts envious. She has made 16 of 19 PATs and one of two field goals. The make: a 43-yarder, a pretty good distance even by an NFL kicker's standards.

While it's rare to see a girl on the football field, Darr said it's largely been a positive experience. She gets along well with her teammates and loves to be able to be on the same team as her brother J.D., a sophomore running back-defensive back.

Opponents have shown respect, too.

"After the game on Saturday (against Encina) a couple of their players came up to me and said they thought it was cool that I was playing," Darr said.

Darr, a longtime soccer player who is a goalkeeper for her Elk Grove club team and a forward for the high school team, got interested in kicking when her father was coaching a youth football team in Elk Grove.

To pass the time at practice, she'd boot the football.

"I've been playing soccer since I was 7, so I'm used to taking goal kicks and punts," she said. "It was just kind of an extension of what I already was doing."

Although she made 11 of 19 PATs and one of three field goals, she doesn't consider her sophomore year as El Dorado's placekicker a highlight.

"Honestly, being a sophomore on the varsity, I was really intimidated," she said. "I think I made more than I missed but I try to block out my sophomore year as far as football."

Darr isn't the area's first girl to kick for a high school football team. Center's Jen Munro, Rio Americano's Brina Jope and Laguna Creek's Danelle Pereira are among those who have come before.

Several girls have also played in the field, including Mesa Verde's Tracy Verra and Holly Hanaway, both defensive tackles.

October 7, 2008
Observations: Elk Grove's offense good and bad; Inderkum fan support disappointing

Elk Grove's ball-control and run-oriented offense is good and bad. It's good because it chews up the clock and shortens game. It's bad because it doesn't allow the Herd to work on its weakness, the passing game, which has the second fewest yards of any of the top six teams in The Bee's Top 20 poll, and is needed to keep opposing defenses off balance.

It will be an even bigger problem if the Herd falls behind in a game against a team that is strong against the run. The Herd will need to move the ball through the air, and it remains to be seen if they can do it.

There has been much talk about Folsom's offense, which features quarterback David Graves and his group of game-breaking receivers. But the Bulldogs defense deserves credit, too. Why? Because it's much improved. The Bulldogs have surrendered 63 points in four games. The team had allowed 96 at this time last year. We will know more about the Bulldogs defense in league play. In prior years, they have faltered. Will it happen in 2008?

Message to opponents of Rio Americano: Make sure you lead by four points or more at all times. Failure to do so could result in a loss. The Raiders' kicking game is stellar with senior Adric Jope, who booted a 49-yarder in a 20-10 loss to Inderkum last week and has been successful on five straight attempts in his last three games. The kid, who wears yellow soccer socks, can be a difference maker in a close game. What's more interesting is that Jope may not be the best kicker in his family. His sister, Brina Jope, also kicked a mean ball for the Raiders in 2003.

Will playing cupcakes -- Natomas, Franklin (Stockton), and Chavez (Stockton) -- help or hurt Nevada Union in Delta Valley League play. Tough competition generally makes teams better. Weak opponents tend to make strong teams lose their competitive edge. Remember, NU dropped Del Oro and Granite Bay from its schedule this season and replaced them with Chavez and Natomas. Friday's game against Franklin is not beneficial because Franklin's team is depleted after the CIF put it on a one-year playoff ban for recruiting players from American Samoa last season. As a result, several of its top players transferred to Stallworth Charter in Stockton.

How good is Del Campo? We will see Friday when it faces a strong Pleasant Grove team seeking to make up for a tough 13-7 loss to Elk Grove last week.

Finally, the fan support at Inderkum home games is disappointing and appears apathetic. Two weeks ago, Elk Grove fans outdrew Inderkum fans by a ratio of 2-to-1. And Elk Grove was the visiting team. Last week, Rio Americano fans had as many fans as Inderkum, despite traveling across town and enduring a slight rain.

Inderkum fans, this includes parents also, listen up. You have a great facility and a good team. If you need an example of how to support a football team, attend a game at Granite Bay, Del Oro, Rocklin or Grant.

October 7, 2008
Casa Roble proves to be a tough team to contain

Four games in and No. 4 Casa Roble has officially become a defensive coordinator's nightmare.

How does one contain - or even slow down - the Rams' spread offense? Simple answer: you really don't, and good luck trying.

"We're very capable of throwing the ball if we need to, and we already know we can run it,'' Casa Roble offensive coordinator Jeff Baer said. "We're kind of tough to stop."

Kind of?

Placer geared up for the run then got burned by Sam Martinez, who tossed four touchdowns in a 42-27 triumph. Against Oak Ridge, the Trojans prepared for the pass and wound up yielding 296 yards rushing and three touchdowns to Matt Satchwell.

Martinez has thrown 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Satchwell has averaged 11.25 yards a carry and has seven touchdowns. Tristan Baer has eight touchdowns receiving. That makes for a lot of options and a lot of headaches for foes.

"When we're clicking, we can be very difficult to defend,'' coach Baer said.

Satchwell is especially dangerous, having scored on his team's first play in four successive outings.

"Maybe we should throw it on the first play in the next game,'' cracked coach Baer.

Casa Roble will rely on the spread as it aims to defend its Capital Athletic League championship in a league that includes Del Campo, Rio Americano and Bella Vista, teams that area combined 11-1, with Rio losing only to No. 10 Inderkum 20-10.

October 7, 2008
Del Oro: Best 1-3 team in the state?

Never mind the 1-3 start.

Del Oro is still formidable, still dangerous, still every bit worthy of being ranked by The Bee this week. Find a team that has endured a schedule as daunting as this one.

It may pay off, losses aside. Don't be the least bit surprised if the Golden Eagles peel off a hefty winning streak from here.

The ambitious scheduling by coach Casey Taylor made sense. He craves a challenge and a chance to gauge his program. The goal is to produce a seasoned and battle-tested squad come Sierra Foothill League time. In this case, how about seasoned, angry and hungry for momentum?

The early schedule included the trip to Idaho and games against NorCal powers Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa and Merced. Merced has more Division I prospects on its roster than any team in the Sac-Joaquin Section, offering the Golden Eagles a chance to see top-flight speed and skill.

Still, the Bears -- top ranked by the Modesto Bee and a heavy favorite to represent the South in the section D-I title game -- needed a late turnover to hold off Del Oro 21-14 on Saturday night. And it doesn't get much easier. Elk Grove comes for a visit on Friday, where a win over a 5-0 team wouldn't necessarily rate as an upset.

October 6, 2008
Bella Vista has more to prove

Watch out for Bella Vista? That's what the Broncos' 4-0 record suggests. In fact, the Broncos have not been undefeated at this point in the season in five years. As a result, they cracked The Bee's top 20 at No. 19. So everything is fine and dandy at the campus on Madison Avenue with victories over Cordova, Mesa Verde, Yuba City and Foothill, all struggling programs.

Will it continue? We will see soon. Games against Center, Casa Roble and Rio Americano will prove if the Broncos are for real or not. If the Broncos handle these teams, then we can officially declare them a force.

October 5, 2008
Thundering Herd baseball star surprised he doesn't miss football

Although he was expected to be a key cog for the Elk Grove High School football team, Jake Rodriguez is surprised he doesn't miss the game as much as he thought.

As a sophomore running back, Rodriguez was the second leading rusher (106 carries, 695 yards, two touchdowns) for a Thundering Herd team that went 12-1.

But Rodriguez decided to bypass football this season to focus on baseball, his first love.
Rodriguez has been a varsity starter since his freshman year, made The Bee's All-Metro first team as a sophomore last spring and recently helped the United States 16-and-Under National Team win the gold medal at the COPABE "AA" Youth Pan American Championships in Veracruz, Mexico.

Rodriguez batted .394, drove in 13 runs, played flawlessly at third base and was a team captain.

"When I got back, I was able to start fall (baseball) and to play games," Rodriguez said. "I was at the football game Friday night (Sept. 26 vs. Inderkum), and I was surprised I wasn't missing it as much as I thought I would."

The 5-foot-9 Rodriguez says he is working in the weight room and doing drills to improve his speed. He's already verbally committed to Oregon State but by the time he is a senior he could be a top major-league prospect.

But his biggest goal now is to get the Thundering Herd back to the Sac-Joaquin Section D-I championship game. Elk Grove won three consecutive section titles from 2005 to 2007 before Jesuit dethroned the Herd last spring.

"We want to win section, but we know that Jesuit is going to be a tough team to beat this coming season," said Rodriguez, who expects to play shortstop and pitch. "But I really expect us to have a good season.

"This was the best summer team I've been a part of since the eighth grade - performance-wise and as far as team chemistry."

October 5, 2008
A look at more top prep football performances

More Week 4 efforts:

• Darvin McCauley returned punts of 48 and 45 yards for touchdowns and also caught a 52-yard touchdown pass in Grant's 62-6 win over Hiram Johnson.

• Manuia Fruean completed 4 of 8 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown; Carnell Davis had two rushing touchdowns and three sacks; and Tre Howard an interception and fumble recovery in West Campus' 62-20 win over Brookside Christian.

• Troy Samas rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in Bella Vista's 27-10 win over Foothill.

• Mike Moreno rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries and completed 7 of 13 passes for 94 yards in Roseville's 27-9 win over Woodland.

• Jason Varni rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown on 14 carriesin Bear River's 31-12 win over Colfax.

• Larry Gasaway recovered two fumbles and returned one 50 yards for a touchdown in Del Campo's 13-9 win over Woodcreek.

• Trevor Peterson rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown on seven carries; J.D. Darr rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on five carries and C.J. Wheeler rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on four carries in El Dorado's 52-0 win over Encina.

• Darius Powe-Reed and Russell Vonschoech each had 14 tackles in No. 3 Pleasant Grove's 13-7 loss to No. 4 Elk Grove.

• Randy Purdy had 180 all-purpose yards for Oakmont in a 21-9 loss to Las Lomas of Walnut Creek.

• Chris Parker rushed for 129 yards and one touchdown on 31 rushes in Valley Christian's 8-0 win over Foresthill.

• Pat Colin completed 8 of 11 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns in Pioneer's 21-7 win over Davis.

• Jacob Allen rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in Oak Ridge's 41-18 loss to No. 5 Casa Roble.

October 4, 2008
Turnovers doom Burbank in road loss at Pittsburg

If No. 13 Luther Burbank learned anything from its 35-6 loss at Pittsburg Friday night, it's that it doesn't pay to be charitable.

Checking the boxscore of the game in the Contra Costa Times, the Titans committed seven turnovers while the Pirates had none. Otherwise, it appears to have been a tight contest. Pittsburg had 207 total yards; Burbank 197.

The Titans led early on David Gray's 60-yard, first-quarter touchdown burst before Pittsburg (3-1) took a 7-6 lead in the second quarter on a 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown and successful PAT.

Things unraveled for the Titans (2-2) in the fourth quarter when they allowed 21 points.

October 4, 2008
Four teams eager to be ranked, but how good are they?

Teams eager to crack The Bee's Top 20 include:

Bella Vista, Center and West Campus. Each squad is 4-0.

But before any notion that we don't haven't expressed enough love or "respect" for these programs in terms of rankings, consider one thing: Strength of schedule.

We sure do.

Bella Vista, Center and West Campus have not played ambitious schedules, and in some cases, those programs didn't need to as they are trying to solidify their programs. Still, the 4-0 starts are to be noted. Progress is proof of the product.

Bella Vista is led by coach Matt Polston, whose toughest games loom in the Capital Athletic League with Del Campo, Casa Roble and Rio Americano. His top talent is tailback Troy Samas, one of the section's leading rushers.

Bella Vista has downed Cordova 43-22, Mesa Verde 20-0, Yuba City 14-7 and Foothill 27-10.

Center is under the direction of coach Digol J'Biely (hard to believe he was run out of the program a few years back by outsiders who were miguided and wielded too much hiring and firing influence). The Cougars have downed Highlands 33-6, McClatchy 33-6, Natomas 42-12 and El Camino 36-22.

The Cougars, by the way, play at Bella Vista on Friday.

And West Campus is off to an encouraging start under coach Nathan Preston after going 0-10 last season. Preston seeks the program's first winning season. West Campus is in its seventh season (the school for years was part of Johnson's massive enrollment).

West Campus has beaten Encina 54-12, Vacaville Christian 36-22, Mira Loma 33-0 and Brookside Christian 62-20 behind Manula Fruean, who stretches teams with his arms and his legs.

West Campus and Center are among the playoff contenders in the Capital Valley Conference, a league that includes Rio Linda.

October 4, 2008
Valley victory could boost program starving for a winner

Preston Jackson promised that better days were on the horizon.

He was right.

Valley's first-year coach has a triumph in which to build momentum on for a program that has struggled in recent seasons. The Vikings earned their first victory of the season by downing Monterey Trail 34-27 on the strength of four first-quarter touchdowns.

Marquis Dixon was the star, rushing for two scores and returning a kickoff 80 yards for another. Monterey Trail scored 21 in the opening quarter - what was this, an Arena Football League showcase? - before stalling the rest of the way.

Valley lost its season opener 13-12 to Sacramento, then was plowed under by Burbank 41-0 before losing to another ranked team in Whitney 35-6.

And Jackson, a Valley alum, will surely stress focus in practice this week. The Vikings next Florin for the Highway 99 trophy, where another victory will be two-fold.

October 4, 2008
Bear River BBQs Colfax, and fans get their digs, too

Terry Logue appreciates any defensive effort, so imagine the Bear River defensive coordinator's sigh of relief and moment of elation after his Bruins toppled No. 16 Colfax 31-12.

The Falcons had beaten the Bruins seven successive times with some offensive outbursts, a fact that Colfax fans made sure their visitors would know with a banner that listed the scores of the previous meetings. In addition, the Colfax banner read that the Falcons will "BBQ the Bruins." Ouch.

No wonder Bear River fans chanted "barbeque, barbeque, barbeque" down the stretch.

Bear River won with defense and with a running game that included Jason Varni (156 yards, two touchdowns) and Johnny Jewett (79 yards).

Not that Logue's job will get any easier.

The next two games? Lindhurst, an athletic bunch that played in the Division IV section title game, and No. 6 Whitney.

October 4, 2008
Sheldon pulls one of section's big upsets of 2008

It was a long time coming for Ed Lombardi and the Sheldon Huskies in Friday's stirring and stunning 27-17 triumph of No. 10 Laguna Creek.

A year after winning the program's first conference championship, the Huskies sputtered to a 1-9 finish last fall. It was a taxing and tiring season for Lombardi, the veteran coach who has a championship pedigree that stretches four decades and a fresh perspective on things that are timeless.

Lombardi won his 200th career game last fall, and flinched when some parents moaned that the coaching staff was the reason the program stalled, that players were dogging it. Ridiculous, of course, all of it. Lombardi is as golden as it gets, and his players always compete. I saw it first hand.

But that's the role of parents for you. They pay for their ticket, their hot dog and think inside the foil wrapper there's a green light to hiss and moan at players and staff.

And this season, one of promise, got off to an agonizingly slow 0-3 start. The hissing started again.

Zack Liebold's three touchdowns keyed the Laguna conquest. Sheldon also scored a defensive touchdown when Steven McCarthy pounced on a lateral in the end zone, and the Huskies came up with two interceptions.

What Sheldon does from here, of course, is telling.

Laguna, meanwhile, is in full spin cycle. A week after falling to Pleasant Grove 23-6, the Cardinals are working out the welts from this one.

October 4, 2008
Battle of the Groves was showdown of section D-I elite

We saw two of the very best Division I programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section on Friday when Pleasant Grove ventured into Elk Grove.

No. 4 Elk Grove, with one returning starter back from its 12-1 bunch of 2007, prevailed 13-7 over No. 3 Pleasant Grove in a contest that was tense right to the end.

The teams came in with a combined 28-3 record the past two seasons. They're located barely three miles apart, adn there was subtle talk that the teams could meet again in the playoffs when Friday's result will officially be deemed ancient news.

The Thundering Herd used a 14-play, 80-yard, time-consuming drive to open the game, a third-quarter 1-yard touchdown plunge by Zach Miller and some sound defense down the stretch to extend its regular-season winning streak to 18 games.

Pleasant Grove fans packed its side of the bleachers, armed with a banner declaring the program's conference championship in 2007 and a rowdy student body.

Fans and parents bemoaned the officiating and howled that the referees had to be Elk Grove graduates (attenion everyone: there isn't a more absurd claim by parents over the years than the tired, worn-out claim of homer refs who wear the school colors on their skivvies).

Eagles coach Joe Cattolico said that his team was actually too excited, too geeked up (as the kids like to say). Yes, there was a suspect pass interference call late that hurt the Eagles, but dropped catches and being stopped twice on fourth down and not establishing much of a running game (besides two long gains) doomed Pleasant Grove.

The Eagles will recover just fine. It is a superbly coached outfit with a play-making, driven quarterback leader in Taylor Congdon, a shifty tailback in Michael Madkins, a strong defense headed by linebacker Peter Kelly and a do-all threats in Kevin Harris and Russell Vonschoech.

Elk Grove will also continue to thrive. Coach Chris Nixon has his bunch playing hard, intelligent and - at key times - mistake free. The offensive line has been superb, the running game balanced and the defense opportunistic with 13 turnovers in four games. And there are leaders in Brandon SooHoo, Bryce Harper, Luke Copp and others.

Baring a collapse or a rash of injuries, these programs could be on course to meet in November. Maybe December, in the City Championship game.

October 4, 2008
Besides the headache, Pleasant Grove WR is ok

Jalen Saunders will be fine, if not saddled with a bit of a headache.

The junior receiver for Pleasant Grove was knocked out for a spell seconds before the half in the showdown game at Elk Grove. He was strapped to a stretcher - per policy for any such injury - but was said to be moving all of his limbs as he was taken to a nearby hospital, according to Pleasant Grove athletic director Jeff Caton.

"It's always scary, but he should be fine,'' Caton said.

Saunders is a key piece for the Eagles on offense and special teams. He scored three times in Pleasant Grove's triumph of Laguna Creek in Week 4, and he provides quarterback Taylor Congdon a deep threat.

No player wants to be strapped down and hustled off to a waiting ambulance. A player wants to jump up, shake it off, hustle back to the huddle. But Saunders, as coach Joe Cattolico, had his bell rung. Happens to every team, every season.

And Saunders could find relief in knowing that he received a standing ovation from both sides, and from his teammates and the Herd players.

How long he is sidelined is anyone's guess. Concussions can be extremely tricky. He'll have to weigh his eagerness to return and the good advice of medical staff and his parents.

October 4, 2008
Friday Night Lights: Bee prediction helps fuel Placer football turnaround bid

It's prominently displayed on the bulletin board.

The clipping of the Bee's predicted sixth-place finish for Placer in this year's Pioneer Valley League football race is a focal point of a Hillmen bunch with a lot to prove.

"It's been up there since the day it came out," Placer coach Joey Montoya said after the Hillmen beat Mesa Verde 49-20 in the league opener Friday night in Citrus Heights. "We're better than sixth place."

Placer was a disappointing 3-7 (3-3 in league) in Montoya's first season as coach in 2007.

Expectations are huge in Auburn because Montoya was weaned on football in that community. He's a Placer graduate, former assistant and player. He's the grandson of coaching legend Bill Miller, who led the Hillmen to five D-II section titles from 1975 to 1981.

Placer hasn't played in the title game since then.

Montoya had the midas touch in his first coaching gig at Pioneer, where he turned a new school into an immediate power. In his last year in Woodland, his Patriots lost in the D-III section title game to Del Campo.

But football is huge in the foothills and the PVL is one of the best small-school leagues around.

"It's the main show up here," Montoya said. "Friday nights at LeFebvre Stadium. The band. The cheerleaders. The stands are packed. Everybody goes to the games.
"It's a neat environment, a reason I wanted to come home. No doubt there's pressure on my staff (to win), but it's really about the kids."

His seniors won league championships as freshmen and junior varsity players, so they are hungry for more success.

They were 1-2 in the preseason but probably should have defeated No. 20 Woodcreek, an overtime loss in which the Hillmen made five turnovers, and they played No. 5 Casa Roble tough before falling 42-27.

But that's in the past. Now it's league play and the PVL gets three playoff berths this year rather than 2007's two.

"It looks like the league is wide open," Montoya said. "Whitney has shown that it is the team to beat. But anyone of us has a chance to be right there in the (playoff) hunt. So that makes every game in league a big one."

Against Mesa Verde, quarterback Matt Ross was on target, completing all 10 of his passes, including three touchdowns. The Hillmen had 412 yards of total offense and led 35-7 at halftime.

"The kids are having a great time, and they are getting better," Montoya said.

More Friday highlights:
Top performers:
• Zach Graves rushed for 257 yards and five touchdowns in Whitney's 49-13 win over Lincoln.

• Marquis Dixon rushed for two touchdowns and returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown in leading Valley past Monterey Trail 34-27.

• Adric Jope kicked a 49-yard field goal in Rio Americano's 20-10 loss to Inderkum.

Look who is 4-0!!! - Bella Vista, Center and West Campus.

Look who is 0-4!!! - Franklin, Foothill, Davis.

Biggest surprise - Previously winless Sheldon beats No. 10 Laguna Creek 27-17.
Other surprises: Mira Loma over River City 21-20; Yuba City over Rio Linda 15-8; and Bear River over No. 16 Colfax 31-12.

Road trip blues - No. 13 Burbank didn't enjoy its trip to the Bay Area, falling 35-6 to Pittsburg, a game that will be shown on tape delay Monday night on Comcast Sports Net West.

October 3, 2008
Sac High's Tapley: Fisher, San Diego State are the right fit

Chase Tapley has a pretty good understanding of college basketball history.
His father, Tommy, played at Arkansas State and Chase has had a natural curiosity about some of the NCAA's great teams.

So when San Diego State's Steve Fisher started recruiting him three years ago, he saw more than a coach nearing the twilight of his career.

"I'm familiar with his background," Tapley said. "I know all about the 'Fab Five.'"

That was the team, with Chris Webber as the centerpiece, that Fisher coached to the NCAA championship game in 1993 while at Michigan. Fisher, 63, also coached the Wolverines to the NCAA title in 1989 after replacing Bill Frieder just before the start of the playoffs.

Fisher's past success was part of the reason Tapley decided to verbally commit last week to the Aztecs rather than wait for an offer from a Pac-10 school.

"He's a man who has had much success," Tapley said of Fisher. "He's a person I feel I can learn a lot from. He's a great, great guy - almost like a grandfather figure."

Tapley said loyalty played a role, too. Fisher and assistant Justin Hutson continued to call and show support after the 6-foot-3 Tapley broke his leg during a game early in his sophomore season.

"They were really the only school still recruiting me at the time," Tapley said.

And even when the scholarship offers started to flow after a junior season that saw Tapley help Sac High to the CIF state Division III title game at Arco Arena, Tapley admits Fisher had the touch.

Tapley enjoyed his official visit to the San Diego State campus and hit it off with the players. The deal was sealed when Fisher visited the Tapleys at their home late last month.

"Coach Fisher stole me," Tapley said. "Just the way he presented himself, the way he's so straightforward. I talked with my dad and mom and they said that if it felt right, there was no sense in waiting."

The Aztecs have been to the postseason five times in the last seven seasons. While the Mountain West Conference isn't the Pac-10, Tapley figures his chances are good of not only seeing lots of playing time immediately, but having the potential to lead a NCAA playoff team if he continues to improve his game.

"They are going to have six seniors leaving, so there's a good opportunity to play right away," Tapley said. "It's a program with a lot of potential."

October 2, 2008
Cartwright, Briggs remain larger than life

I attended an adult basketball league game the other day at Elk Grove High School, and no, it wasn't a community service assignment handed down for being a repeat car-pool offender.

I was there to watch a friend, Vaughn, play hoops (poor guy missed half his shots and looked like he was running up hill the entire second half; but other than that, he's got mad game). I was flanked by two "J-Dawgs" - Julie and tireless daughter Jolie - and Vaughn's son Jaden, who wasn't sure if his dad was tired or just played out of gas all the time.

Before long, young Jolie noticed the gigantic photo image of Bill Cartwright splashed on the gym wall. She couldn't believe it was a life-like shot, that anyone could stand so regal. Yep, it's real - all 7-feet, 2 inches of Cartwright, from the floor and nearly to the rafters.

Cartwright remains a larger-than-life figure in these parts. I listed him as the area's greatest prep basketball player in a Bee story earlier this decade, for his incredible achievements with Elk Grove in the mid 1970s, not just the fact that he won three NBA championships with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls (he's also an all-time gentleman, too). Every December, Elk Grove hosts a winter basketball tournament named in his honor.

Near the Cartwright image is a retired Cartwright jersey, and near that, a retired Lance Briggs jersey. Briggs is the greatest Elk Grove football player of them all. He was a two-way terror of instincts and physicality at fullback and linebacker for the Thundering Herd's 1998 championship team that rates as the area's all-time best. He is a two-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the Chicago Bears (Elk Grove players make a pretty good living in the Windy City, apparently).

Later this fall, Elk Grove will honor members of that 14-0 team before a home game as a 10th-year anniversary tribute.

October 1, 2008
Grant and Rio Linda should resemble Granite Bay

I find that most high school coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and fans enjoy media coverage only if it's positive. Criticize players and teams and some feel it's unjust. In most cases, high school teams and players set the bar for coverage. The more success they have, the more praise they receive. Some even earn a celebrity status of sorts.

However, when teams and players don't meet expectations, it's the media's responsibility to tell why. The media should never demean a high school athlete. Still, it should tell the truth. If the area's top softball pitcher gives up seven hits in a game, and the total is a season high, then the media should report it and have the right to say the pitcher got "pounded" for seven hits. Fans should not take offense.

If the area's best boys pole vaulter jumps 15 feet, 4 inches in a postseason track and field meet, and the mark is well below his season's best of 17-4, and the athlete is not injured, then the media has the right to say the athlete had a "poor" performance in the event. Fans should not take offense.

This season, two local schools -- Rio Linda and Grant -- have suspended football players for breaking team rules. The football teams at those schools receive media coverage for stellar play on the field, and they should receive coverage for troubles off it.

Neither the school nor the media can provide names of minors involved in illegal activity. Still, school administrators should tell their fans and community what their athletes did wrong and why suspensions were warranted.

Granite Bay is a great example. Eight members of Granite Bay's powerhouse boys' soccer team were suspended from the program for six weeks last season after admitting to smoking marijuana on a trip to Illinois. Granite Bay Principal Mike McGuire gave the reason for the discipline. He didn't provide generalizations. He gave specifics.

Grant and Rio Linda administrators should have followed in McGuire's footsteps when they suspended football players for breaking team and school rules.

The point I'm making is this: Coaches, players, parents, administrators and fans can't have it both ways. If you want coverage for good things, then expect coverage for the negative, too.

October 1, 2008
A peek at the statistical standouts

I am not normally much of a stats guy, because it takes much more than numbers to lead a team. And numbers can be overrated. It's the heart of the guy that makes a team go, not statistics.

Still, the early results reveal some interesting data. Here's a look at some leaders who have gotten off to sizzling starts:

1. James Lee, Capital Christian - Having taken over for Sac-Joaquin Section record-holder Kramer Hagan, Lee has tossed 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions for a 2-1 team.
2. Sam Martinez, Casa Roble - Another fine Rams passer, Sam the Man has 10 touchdown strikes and two picks for a 3-0 bunch.
3. David Graves, Folsom - He's stepped in nicely for graduated record-setting thrower Cary Grossart, with a 9 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio for a 3-0 team.

Running backs
1. Lyndell Scarr, Ponderosa - Just a junior, he leads the section in rushing with 706 yards for a team that has suffered close setbacks to ranked foes Nevada Union and Del Campo; also hits as a defender.
2. James Nunley, Woodcreek - Also a junior, he's fast and shifty and averages 196.7 yards with six scores for a 3-0 club hungry to put some down years in the past.
3. Zach Graves, Whitney - An all-purpose threat and dynamic in the open field, he has 11 total touchdowns for everyone's D-IV section favorite.
4. Kortez Lee, Cordova - Another prolific Lancers runner who has to carry the load for a struggling team, Lee has five touchdowns.
5. Jackson Cummings, Rocklin - Yet another dynamic junior, Action Jackson is a blur in the open field; has 10 total scores.
6. James Kilson, Florin - Averaging 209 yards a game, with four touchdowns, Kilson has Florin off to a 2-1 start.
7. Jason Varni, Bear River - He's a touchdown maker for the 2-1 Bruins, with 10 scores.


1. Jeff Divine, Colfax - The section receiving leader averages 180.7 yards a game and has six scores for a 2-1 team.
2. Spencer Hagan, Capital Christian - The next great Hagan, he also seeks playoff success and section records; has six touchdowns for 2-1 team.
3. Mike Henderson, Sacramento - Pulled in a school-record 18 receptions in one game; has six touchdowns for a team off to a slow start but still dangerous.
4. Tristan Baer, Casa Roble - Ideal target for Sam Martinez, Baer averages 122.7 yards and has reached the end zone eight times.

October 1, 2008
Franklin-Folsom, upset of the week?

Beware the winless.

Franklin of Elk Grove is slow out of the gates at 0-3, but it's a misleading sputter. The Wildcats are dangerous. They have size, speed, good line play and a coaching staff headed by first-year man Brian Prahl, and they bounded into the season talking playoffs.

These days, they're talking a win, and it may happen Friday at Folsom. Yes, the Bulldogs are off to a rousing 3-0 start under coach Kris Richardson and impressive play-making quarterback David Graves (nine touchdowns, one interception, a lot of poise).

But don't think for a minute that Richardson isn't leery. Franklin lost 18-14 to Pleasant Grove in an opener, tiring down the stretch. It lost in the final minute to Roseville.

Beware the hungry.

October 1, 2008
Observations: Granite Bay deserves criticism; watch out for Florin; Christian Brothers not ready for prime time

Criticizing a top-ranked and undefeated Granite Bay (3-0) team, especially after it pounded Vacaville 68-10 last week, may seem unfair. But criticism is warranted. The Grizzlies committed a lot of penalties in the game.

The infractions stymied drives, nullified a couple of scores and put the Grizzlies' offense in a lot of second-and-long and third-and-long situations. If the Grizzlies continue this habit, they could lose a crucial playoff game in the future.

Florin's 47-3 victory over Cordova was eye-popping and mind-boggling for two reasons. It showed how low Cordova, once a perennial power, has fallen. It also could be a sign of a Florin program on the rise. The Panthers (2-1) have won more games than last season (1-9). Can they end the season by winning more than four for the first time in five years?

Back to Cordova and its problems. It's hard to believe Cordova (1-2) and Oak Ridge (0-3) are a combined 1-5. I thought the two would be decent. I never thought they would be this bad.

The Capital Athletic League is arguably the top conference in the area. The CAL features four teams (Casa Roble, Bella Vista, Del Campo and Rio Americano) that have 3-0 records.

The Sierra Valley Conference is arguably the most disappointing with four teams (Ponderosa, Union Mine, Galt and Cordova) with two losses and two teams (Vista del Lago and Oak Ridge) with three losses.

As much as Christian Brothers (2-1) yearns to be one of the best teams in the Sacramento Area, it can't do it blowing big leads late. The Falcons squandered a 12-point advantage with 4:14 to play in their 20-19 loss to Jesuit. That defeat caused the Falcons to fall from No. 14 to No. 18 in this week's Top 20 Bee poll. Another lackluster performance will result in the Falcons getting bounced out of the top 20 completely.

Back to eye-popping and mind-boggling things: CB has dropped seven straight games to Jesuit. Additionally, Jesuit is 23-14-2 against CB in the Holy Bowl, according to Maxpreps.com.

Finally, Franklin is still a dangerous team, despite a 0-3 record. The Wildcats have size, speed and talent. More importantly, the Wildcats have played teams tough, losing 18-14 to Pleasant Grove and 28-27 to Roseville. Watch out Folsom: You could be Franklin's first victim.

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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