November 30, 2008
A closer look at a mock Top 10 "eliminated" teams

Here is a detailed look at the eliminated football teams of local note from the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, with quick comments.

I lined them up in a fun, mock ranking order. After the playoffs, we will publish in The Bee and online the final Bee Top 20, with all teams. For now, dig into this. And again, we invite comments, observations.

1. Granite Bay (9-2)

The Grizzlies might have had a different run of success in the Division II playoffs had they not lost that heartbreaker in the Sierra Foothill League to Roseville 36-34, when coach Ernie Cooper went for two and lost (admire the guts, though.) Granite Bay instead drew Grant in an opener, a brutal chore that sure feels and looks like the D-II title game even now. The Grizzlies still won a share of the SFL and reached the playoffs yet again, thanks to leaders Teddy Bryant and Clark Partridge and a host of others.

2. Nevada Union (10-2)

The Miners had a terrific bounce-back season, from 3-7 to 10 wins, a share of the Delta Valley Conference title and an overall glimpse that NU is back for more in the coming seasons. The only losses were heartbreakers, 13-7 in the mud at Laguna Creek and 21-18 to Pleasant Grove in the D-I playoffs, despite trailing 21-0. Coach Dave Humphers blamed himself for the defeat, saying "it's my fault" for not calling different plays. He's wrong there. The comeback had Humphers fingerprints all over it. The coach also reminds that his freshman team and junior varsity teams went a combined 19-1. Miner Magic, as galling as it has been for foes to stomach over the years, is back. Get used to it.

3. Folsom (9-2)

It's a shame that we don't get to see David Graves any more. The senior quarterback had as dominant, as prolific and as exciting a one-man season as we've ever seen. He accounted for 51 total scores - 51! - in displaying incredible poise and skills. He's a real find as a recruit for Nevada. Coach Kris Richardson has a program in full upswing mode, with successful lower-level teams to help keep things rolling next fall. The only losses were tough defeats, by two to Pleasant Grove for the Delta River League title and by a hair at 9-1 Napa in a D-I opener.

4. Roseville (8-4)

The Tigers had a memorable season and one of the best in school history. The very well might be the best Roseville bunch since the Tedy Bruschi team of 1991. This season included the stirring win over Granite Bay to secure the No. 1 spot in the always brutal Sierra Foothill League. Mike Moreno was a fabulous talent at quarterback and punter, and Zack Davis was a burner worth watching. You just don't find coaches any more classy than Larry Cunha, either. Loss to Burbank in D-II semis will sting, however. Plenty of fuel for a title run next season.

5. Del Campo (9-3)

The Cougars were supposed to be in rebuilding mode. Uh, correction. Reloading a bit, yes. But quality programs don't really reload. They just gear up for another title push. Del Campo, when healthy, was a fine club, including downing Ponderosa and Pleasant Grove. Injuries hurt the Cougars, however. Last loss was to Inderkum 21-10, and there is no slouch losing to a team that was faster, better and favored. Coach Mike Dimino has a nice thing going, and that includes his talented son, Ryan, only a junior.

6. Woodcreek (6-6)

A year ago, the mere suggestion that the Timberwolves would be ranked was ludicrous. It's a real credit to the returning players and impressive young coach John Hilderbrand, whose club overcame a tough nonleague schedule and played Roseville to the wire for the Sierra Foothill League title. The loss to Grant in the D-II semis is nothing to hang their helmets over. Tradition and talent and depth overwhelmed a program just now getting used to all of that. Still, trailing 12-0 at the half in a game that wound up going to Grant 49-14 showed what kind of character and will Woodcreek has.

7. Christian Brothers (8-3)

The Falcons are on the cusp of a breakthrough, having shed years of sluggish play after so many up seasons in the 1960s, '79s and '80s and early '90s, a credit to the program coach Andre Johansen has built of late. Do-all super talent Josh Tucker had a banner season before going down to injury in the 20-10 D-II playoff loss to Burbank. Lineman Matt McCarthy is a big recruit as is linebacker Daniel Cox, two examples of a program doing just fine.

8. Rio Americano (8-3)

The Raiders basked in a nice bounce-back season after some lean times. Coach Mike Smith indicated last summer that his club had the makings of a playoff team despite residing in the brutally tough Capital Athletic League that included Casa Roble, Del Campo and Bella Vista. The veteran coach was right. With play-making quarterback Mardell Johnson leading the way, the Raiders were a tough assignment. Rio lost to Inderkum in the D-II playoffs but gained a lot in regional respect with another good team.

9. Bear River (8-3)

The Bruins made a run at the Pioneer Valley League and battled league champion and D-IV favorite Whitney for three quarters in an otherwise good season. Jason Varni and a host of others powered Bear River, but the suspensions at the end of the season that carried into the playoffs were the real downer. This program is too reputable and admired to have such nonsense happen. Live and learn.

10. Oak Ridge (5-6)

The overall record is a bit misleading for one of the storied programs in the section, with nonleague early losses to Casa Roble, Grant and Folsom, teams that are a combined 33-2, with Grant (12-0) and Casa Roble (12-0) preparing this week to play in the D-II and D-III section finals. Coach Eric Cavaliere still led his team to a Sierra Valley Conference championship before falling to upstart Woodcreek in a D-II opener. Standout do-all talent Brett Thompson is among the section's top recruits, headed for BYU on scholarship.

November 30, 2008
Breaking down the final football survivors

Two weeks into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and things are shaping up for a fast and furious finish.

Here's a look at the remaining teams - the survivors - and what looms. We'll do it in a fun rankings format, though we will unveil an official final Bee rankings after the playoffs (with all teams, including the eliminated ones such as Nevada Union, Folsom, Granite Bay, etc.)

In the meantime, feel free to comment, offer predictions, etc.

1. Grant (12-0)

The Pacers were not overly sharp at times on Friday against Woodcreek in a Division II semifinal, and that's the norm after coming off of an emotionally charged win over Granite Bay, but talent and the always impressive coaching of Mike Alberghini and his underrated staff and desire took over. Grant prevailed 49-14 behind the 197-yard, five touchdown effort by Devontae Booker (or shoot, Devontae Butler, if you must; Butler goes by both, as his mom's last name is Butler and his father's is Booker). By any name, the junior is a flat out stud. He reminds me a bit of Onterrio Smith when Smith was a hard-charging junior. Butler is a junior, and he is in that Onterrio size of 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds with that sheer will to compete. Grant now prepares for Burbank, its Metro Conference rival, in the D-II finals on Friday at Folsom. The Pacers can feel 13-0, taste it, and the chance to reach the state bowl in Carson. One final thought: Grant really didn't want to hear any nonsense about the officiating in the Granite Bay game. In the 20 years I have covered preps in this region, I have seen Grant get hosed plenty of times in games, on calls, late whistles, non whistles and excessive celebrations when its players celebrated no more than opponents. Best topic now? Title games.

2. Casa Roble (12-0)

The Rams are an amazing scoring machine. An amazing team, period, with coach Norm Ryan and offensive assistant Jeff Baer working wonders. Casa Roble doesn't just have a spread offense. It has a "Destroy You" offense. It can run with Matt Satchwell, throw with Sam Martinez, catch the deep ball with Tristan Baer. And the Rams can defend with one of the section's true elite stoppers in Jaycob Shoemaker. Casa Roble buried a ghost for good in eliminating Rodriguez 52-35 in a D-III semifinal, crushing the team that bounced it in an opener a year ago. Satchwell rushed for 289 yards and five scores, and he had a 99-yard kickoff return. That kickoff return, by the way, will stand forever as a national high school record (tied with many across the country) as prep players are not allowed to return kicks out of the end zone. Yet another highlight for a talented senior who has had a banner season. The Rams play Inderkum on Saturday for the D-III title. They seek their first crown.

3. Whitney (11-0)

The Wildcats were idle, not that they wanted to take the night off. They did not play in a D-IV game due to the forfeit situation regarding Placer. The extra time allowed coach Mike Gimenez to better prepare, to let his players rest up, and a rested, hungry team is a dangerous one. Make no mistake - with Oakdale going down to Placer, the absolute clear favorite now is Whitney. The Wildcats were the heavy pick anyway. Tailback Zack Graves has been terrific on offense, the section's leading rusher, and Nick Law has helped anchor a strong defense. Whitney plays Sierra of Manteca on Friday.

4. Pleasant Grove (10-2)

The Eagles have officially arrived. Three years in as a varsity program and here they are, in the City Championship, the D-I semifinal. Coach Joe Cattolico has devised some impressive schemes - on offense and on defense - and his gritty program has overcome major injuries, including to shifty quarterback Taylor Congdon (out for the season with a knee injury). Pleasant Grove held off Nevada Union 21-18 in an amazing game of two halves. The Eagles looked championship good in the first half, bolting to a 21-0 lead (and 21-3 at the half), then looked vulnerable and stoppable in the second half. Still, in the end, it came down to defense - a late pick by Michael Madkins - and an offensive line that got that late surge to secure a needed first down. Madkins and Russell Vonschoech are leaders, as is Peter Kelly, Kevin Harris and the linemen. Next is the coveted City Championship against a Laguna Creek team that the Eagles downed earlier this season. First thing Cattolico will remind his team? That was ancient history, so look ahead and not back.

5. Laguna Creek (9-3)

Have we mentioned at all this season that this group can play some incredible defense? Good. It bears a repeat. The Cardinals have at times been the most dominant defensive team around, with a line headed by Matt Hambrick and Sean Nill and a linebacking crew that includes D.J. Hill. Other play makers include Chris Jones, Chris Jackson, Eric Thomas, among others. The Cardinals crushed the defending D-I champion in Napa 33-13 - at Napa, even - with defense the key. Of course, it helped that burner Keenen Williams scored on a 90-yard touchdown sprint on the first play of the game. The Cardinals are fast, athletic and eager, and they are well coached by Mark Nill, whose program is still glowing from their first playoff win, and now the Napa triumph. The City Championship was a goal all season, and it proved to be a realistic one.

6. Burbank (9-3)

The Titans earned the rematch they so badly craved, against Grant in the D-II finals. Grant clubbed Burbank in Week 10 to claim the Metro Conference, but to a man, the Titans vowed to perform much better in a rematch. Now they get their chance. Burbank beat Roseville 36-27 in a semifinal. The Titans looked championship good in racing to a 36-13 lead and then held off the Tigers in the fourth quarter. Miles Freeman, one of the region's true stars and leaders, scored on runs of 67, 1 and 2 yards and he tossed a school-record 98-yard touchdown to Lucky Dozier. Freeman on the Grant rematch to our Quwan Spears, "I'm calling it the big payback." Freeman has to hope - and expect - that it's not a repeat of a year ago, when Granite Bay edged Del Oro in the regular season late to win the Sierra Foothill League and then absolutely belted Del Oro in a rematch, in the D-II finals.

7. Inderkum (11-1)

The Tigers are back in the D-III title game after downing Del Campo 21-10 in a semifinal. Inderkum is a talented, athletic, fast and fun team, and it is hungry to prove that it solidly belongs in the conversation as an elite section program. So far, so good under coach Terry Stark, who has the benefit of a great home field facility, athletes, and an administration that includes athletic director Matt Hinton. What he needs - what Inderkum desperately needs - is any semblance of community support. Not a trickle, but an avalanche of support. Inderkum had a championship 99-yard, 16-play drive against Del Campo, and it was led again by Demetrius Williams, Devin Hartley, Dawayne Lewis and Vincent Mayle. The only bummer for Stark was having to beat his life-long best friend Mike Dimino, the Del Campo coach, but Dimino is now pulling for his pal to down Casa Roble in the D-III finals.

8. Dixon (9-2)

The Rams haven't been this good in a long while, not since twin terrors Matt and Dave Ball played on the lines 11 years ago and then later excelled at UCLA (Dave, by the way, scored a touchdown for the Titans against the Lions on Thanksgiving). Dixon's success now is a credit to coach Scott Winslow and his staff, and the steady group of players they have mentored. There's a feeling of pride on campus, a new one that replaced the old archaic one. Dixon also has a spiffy new stadium, making this D-IV playoff journey one to remember. Dixon plays Placer on Friday in a semifinal.

9. Placer (7-4)

Somewhat lost in all the news and talk of the forfeit and overruling to allow Dalton Dyer to play is this: The Hillmen are pretty darn good. It was an amazing effort for coach Joey Montoya and his bunch to down Oakdale, given all the distractions and given the talent of the host Mustangs, the defending D-IV champion that came rolling into the postseason on an eight-game winning streak. Matt Ross tossed two touchdown passes to Asher Gotzmer, and Dyer served as a team captain. Dyer is still grinning. He has a memory of a lifetime now, and Montoya and company feel an overwhelming sense of vindication even more. What if Placer had been clobbered, as so many expected?

10. Marysville (9-2)

The Indians are in a section final for the third time since 1999, and they seek their first D-VI title against rival Lindhurst on Friday, meaning the greater region will pack into the stadium for a peek at true community bragging rights. Both programs have endured some hard times in the past, and some success, too, including Lindhurst the past two seasons. Marysville was 2-7-1 a year ago but has thrived this season under coach Cullen Meyer, including a 14-0 win over Le Grand on Friday in a semifinal. Matt Horsfall had a 38-yard interception return for a score and the defense held Le Grand to 60 yards. The team's top talent is Golden Empire League MVP James Chandless, a fullback-linebacker.

11. Lindhurst (10-2)

The Blazers seek their third consecutive D-VI title, and they get the extra bonus of playing rival Marysville for the honors. Lurrell Johnson is one of the area's terrific talents, a tailback and return ace who had three scores in a 28-6 win over Mariposa. He was held in check in the last Marysville meeting, rushing for 40 yards on 20 carries as Marysville prevailed 21-14. Ah, rematches. Isn't this what makes the playoffs sizzle a bit more?

November 29, 2008
CBS rolls into NorCal final for rematch with Ripon

The CIF state volleyball playoffs are nothing new for Jeff Deter.

Christian Brothers' first-year coach guided Golden Sierra to two NorCal championships and another appearance in the regional championship earlier in the decade.

Ditto for senior middle Kayla Neto, who has played in four state tournaments in her four years at the school.

So when he emphatically demanded his team pick up their play while leading in the third set of what turned out to be an easy sweep of Harbor-Santa Cruz (34-5), Neto wasn't surprised.

"He really is a nice guy," Neto said. "He doesn't just yell for no reason. He has a point."

Deter feared a let-up and against a team with Stanford-bound hitter/setter Karissa Cook might have disastrous consequences.

"We let our foot off the gas," Deter said. "I didn't want to let them back in it."

Neto had her second straight double-double of the state tournament in leading the Falcons with 17 kills, 17 digs and three blocks to lead Christian Brothers to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-8, 25-17) romp over the Pirates in a Division IV NorCal semifinal that took just 59 minutes.

The Falcons did not trail until the third set and did not allow a run of more than three points through the entirety of the match.

"That was monumental for us," Neto said. "It's so important in volleyball in general and we did a great job of limiting their chances."

Neto and fellow middle Katie Hoekman were able to stretch the Harbor block by running the "C" - or back set - to perfection, which opened up holes for all the Falcons hitters as the Pirates block had to camp on the middles.

That enabled junior setter Kelly Pelz to dish out 34 assists spread amongst five Falcons hitters. But the unbridled star was Neto, who hit nearly every shot imaginable and sometimes up and over a triple block.

"(Neto) makes things so easy," Pelz said. "I have every confidence when I set her that she'll get the point."

The second-seeded Falcons will host Ripon, which downed top-seeded Menlo-Atherton on Saturday night, in a rematch of the D-IV section championship match on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Christian Brothers won in a sweep two weeks ago and in five sets at Ripon last month.

Division I

Homestead-Cupertino avenged a loss to Nevada Union in last year's NorCal Championship by traveling to Grass Valley and downing the top-seeded Miners in a NorCal semifinal on Saturday night, 3-1 (25-20, 31-29, 23-25, 25-17).

Taylor Japhet and Mallory Castles led the Miners with 12 kills apiece, while Kendal Butterfield had 38 assists and Alexis Moser had 31 digs.

Division II

No. 3 seed Mountain View upset second-seeded Oak Ridge in a thriller, 3-2 (15-25, 25-19, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11).

November 29, 2008
Oak Grove loss opens state bowl gateway to Grant football

Don't look now but Grant is in a solid position to become the first area representative in the expanded California Interscholastic Federation state bowl games Dec. 19-20 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Grant should move up from No. 3 to No. 2 in this week's ESPN's Northern California Division I bowl rankings after Oak Grove of San Jose lost 23-20 to Valley Christian of San Jose on Friday in the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals.

Oak Grove was No. 2 behind De La Salle of Concord but is now out of the running with the playoff loss. Only section champions are given state bowl consideration.

If De La Salle (11-1) wins another North Coast Section championship, as expected, the Spartans likely will get the NorCal Open Division bid. That leaves 12-0 Grant in line for the D-I NorCal division bid, assuming the Pacers get past Burbank in the D-II section finals on Friday at Folsom High School.

While Grant controls its destiny, Casa Roble may need some help if it hopes to land the NorCal state bowl D-II spot.

The 12-0 Rams have been No. 1 for a four weeks in the D-II NorCal state bowl rankings but still could wind up on the sidelines even with a win on Saturday over Inderkum in the D-III section finals.

Valley Christian and St. Mary's of Stockton, each with two losses, are behind the Rams at No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the latest rankings. But both might leapfrog Casa Roble if they can win their respective section titles.

Valley Christian may even move ahead of Casa Roble this week after upsetting Oak Grove. But the Warriors still have to win the Central Coast Section D-II title this Friday against either Bellarmine or Serra, otherwise they are out of the running.

St. Mary's is still in the bowl picture because the Rams play in D-I in our section. If the Rams beat Merced Friday and win the section title the following week at UOP, they could get the nod over an unbeaten Casa Roble.

Casa Roble, though, hasn't hurt it's cause with 64-22 and 52-35 playoff wins over Bethel and Rodriguez, respectively. That shows the potent spread attack explosiveness that might be attractive to bowl game fans.

Also lurking in the picture is 11-0 Whitney at No. 4. If Casa Roble, Valley Christian and St. Mary's don't get it done in their respective section finals, and the Wildcats do at the D-IV section level, it could be Whitney landing the NorCal D-II bowl berth.

It should be pointed out that's rankings are unofficial.

The teams that will play in the five North vs. South bowl games ultimately will be selected by CIF section officials.

November 29, 2008
A look at tonight's NorCal volleyball semifinals

All matches at 7 p.m. Click to view the updated brackets

Division I

No. 3 seed Homestead-Cupertino (28-8) at No. 1 seed Nevada Union (30-9):
In a rematch of last year's NorCal final, Homestead comes in seeking revenge after the Miners took them down in four sets. The Mustangs start four seniors, all of whom remember what it was like to lose last year, and in the NorCal second round to Foothill in 2006. One of those seniors, outside hitter Katherine Fischer, is the state's leader in kills coming in with a season total of 627.

Division II

No. 3 seed Mountain View (30-11) at No. 2 seed Oak Ridge (41-3): Oak Ridge continued to roll on Tuesday, dispatching Campolindo-Moraga in three quick sets, running the match winning streak to 30 and consecutive sets streak to 61. Mountain View, despite its seeding, had to travel to Red Bluff on Tuesday because it lost to mega-power Archbishop Mitty in the Central Coast Section final. Thus the Spartans actually received the third seed but were fifth in host priority. Mountain View also comes in battle-tested, having played four other NorCal qualifiers - including Mitty four times - even beating D-I semifinalist Homestead.

Division IV

Unseeded Harbor-Santa Cruz (34-4) at No. 2 seed Christian Brothers (32-7):
The Pirates are unseeded, but don't construe that to mean they're not worthy opponents. Coming from the brutal Central Coast Section, Harbor posted two wins over perennial D-I power San Benito and beat defending D-IV NorCal champion Harker-San Jose - the team that knocked Christian Brothers out of the state playoffs last year - earlier in the season.

November 29, 2008
Grant overcomes Granite Bay 'hangover' to beat Woodcreek

Grant coach Mike Alberghini admitted there was a lingering hangover before Friday night's Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal game against Woodcreek in Del Paso Heights.

The Pacers won an emotional-draining 21-18 decision against Granite Bay in the highly anticipated Nov. 21 playoff opener, a game that ended with a profane exchange between Alberghini and Granite Bay's Ernie Cooper.

Cooper was angry with the officiating and Alberghini felt that the criticism took away from what had been a deserved win by his team.

"It was tough dealing with the B.S. all week long with Granite Bay," Alberghini said of various media reports. "I was very unhappy to listen to all the complaining.... Our kids were frustrated by that, too."

That frustration seemed to carry over to the Woodcreek game.

Although the Timberwolves found Grant's defense almost impossible to penetrate - they had a more yards gained on Pacers penalties than on runs and passes in the first two quarters - the Timberwolves trailed only 12-0 at halftime.

The Pacers, after scoring on a six-play, 53-yard drive on their first series, seemed to hit a lull trying to run the ball against a Woodcreek defense led by Sierra Foothill League Defensive MVP Darius Woods, a 6-foot-4, 234-pound senior lineman.

"This was a tough week," Alberghini said. "We were very flat in the beginning. I was very angry before we started because I didn't think we were where we should be coming into the game."

But Darvin McCauley gave his team a spark by returning the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards to the Woodcreek three-yard line.

Two plays later, Devontae Booker, who rushed for 197 yards and five touchdowns, went in from a yard out for the first six points of a 23-point third quarter and an eventual 49-14 blowout.

For the rest of game, the Pacers looked like the team that is 12-0 and favored to win the D-II title on Friday at Folsom High School.

Their opponent will be Metro rival Burbank, the team the Pacers beat 35-13 Nov. 14 for the league title.

"Hopefully, this is a good wake-up call if we want to win it all because next week will be a war," Alberghini said.

November 28, 2008
Prep hoops tipoff: No. 1 Sac High, No. 3 Sheldon open season

By Bill Paterson

Top-ranked Sacramento and No. 3 Sheldon will play in Saturday's NorCal Tip Off Classic at Newark Memorial High School in Newark.

The Dragons will face host Newark Memorial at 6:30 p.m. and Sheldon plays St. Mary's of Berkeley at 8.

Newark Memorial is coming off a 26-7 season that included a loss to eventual state D-I champion McClymonds of Oakland in the CIF Northern California regional semifinals. Sacramento (30-4) won the D-III NorCal title before losing to Santa Margarita of Southern California in the state championship game.

St. Mary's (34-2) lost in last year's D-IV state final to Campbell Hall of North Hollywood and have college recruits in guards Chris Brew (UC Santa Barbara) and Aalim Moor (San Jose State). Sheldon finished 19-11 last season and lost in overtime to Rodriguez of Fairfield in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II semifinals.

The event, which begins at 10:30 a.m., features 14 of Northern California's top boys teams and more than two-dozen Division I signees and prospects.

November 25, 2008
'Potter's Otters' swim to victory in NorCal first round

As well as Becky Potter has done coaching Oak Ridge to a Division II section championship and state playoff appearance, she'll be the first to tell you the secret to the Trojans' success is something she can't coach: chemistry.

The Trojans found the right mixture of hitting, blocking and - after a rough opening - passing to easily beat Campolindo-Moraga in the first round of the NorCal playoffs 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-11).

Potter said a key point of the season for the Trojans - who have now won 30 matches in a row and an astounding 61 straight sets - was the Carmichael Invitational on Oct.11. At that point Oak Ridge (41-3) was in its first week of holding The Bee's No. 1 ranking coming after its first victory over Christian Brothers nine days earlier. When the team arrived to the tournament site they found that two other teams had the Trojan as their mascot.

"We said, 'We can't be the Trojans too,' so that day we were the Otters," Potter said.

And just like that, Potters Otters were born. It became the Oak Ridge rallying cry and the Otters swam all the way to the championship final without dropping a set. There they met Campolindo, a long time Bay Area power, and took down the Cougars in two sets. Potters Otters is now a household name in El Dorado Hills as the team even warms up in sweats sporting the moniker.

"That was a real turning point for us," Potter said. "You can't create chemistry, it just comes.

"This team has become a family."

Fast-forward to Tuesday night and the Trojans - or Otters - found themselves down 7-3 to the same Campolindo team in the first set, the result of sloppy passing. Potter called a time out, told the team to breathe and in what turned out to be the move of the match, inserted Lena Buckendorf for sophomore Katie Vaughn. Buckendorf immediately delivered two kills and several points later found herself at the service line trailing 9-8.

Buckendorf served up three straight aces, part of a 10-point run in which she added two more aces and gave Oak Ridge a 17-10 lead.

"It wasn't just me," Buckendorf said. "We all picked up our play and just clicked. We took momentum and we're going to keep on running."

Other members of the "family" were quick to laud Potter's call and Buckendorf's super sub performance.

"Sometimes you have to mix it up - good call Potter," Kaleigh Durket said. "We owe the first game to Lena."

Sammi Bentovoja, a co-captain with Durket, the libero and anchor of the defense echoed: "That just goes to show that everyone adds to how well we play. It inspired us to go out there and do some work."

Oak Ridge will host third-seeded Mountain View (30-11), which defeated Red Bluff on Tuesday, Saturday at 7 p.m. in a NorCal semifinal.

• Unseeded St. Francis took No. 4 seed Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa to the limit, but fell in five sets (20-25, 25-23, 13-25, 25-13, 15-12).

Division I

Top-seeded Nevada Union (30-9) had no problem with unseeded Skyline (11-4) as the host Miners rolled to a sweep (25-7, 25-11, 25-13). Taylor Japhet paced the Miners with eight kills while Kendal Butterfield dished out 23 assists. Nevada Union will host No. 4 seed Homestead-Cupertino (28-8), which defeated Lowell-San Francisco on Tuesday, Saturday at 7 p.m. in a NorCal semifinal.

Division IV

No. 2-seeded Christian Brothers (32-7) took care of unseeded Piedmont (22-4) in straight sets (25-11, 25-20, 25-12) behind 13 kills from senior Kayla Neto and eight apiece from juniors Katie Hoekman and Erika Cuevas. Neto was also the team leader in digs with 14 while Kelly Pelz had 34 assists. The Falcons will host Harbor-Santa Cruz (34-4), which upset No. 3 seed Marin Catholic on Tuesday, Saturday at 7 p.m.

Click to view the updated brackets

November 25, 2008
A look at tonight's NorCal volleyball first round

The CIF State volleyball playoffs begin tonight with the first round of regional play and four Sacramento-area teams begin a quest for the region's second - and possibly third and fourth - state title.

A look at tonight's matches:

Division I

Unseeded Skyline-Oakland (11-3) at No. 1 seed Nevada Union (29-9): The Miners have historically had little problem in the first round of the State tournament - they have reached at least the NorCal semifinals each year since 2004 - expect the same this time around as Nevada Union is a heavy favorite. Skyline is the champion of the Oakland Section - comprised of just the Oakland Athletic League - and only played six matches out of its league, none of which were against a team the caliber of the Miners.

Division II

Unseeded Campolindo-Moraga (28-10) at No. 2 Oak Ridge (40-3): The Trojans beat Campolindo handily in the final of the Carmichael Invitational but what the Cougars lack in head-to-head competition they more than make up for in championship pedigree. Scott Bishop guided Campolindo to the 2006 D-III State Championship and was the NorCal runner-up in 2005 in D-III. Oak Ridge comes in as one of the hottest teams in the state, winners of 29 in a row and 58 straight sets without a loss.

Unseeded St. Francis (26-13) at No. 4 Maria Carrillo-Santa Rosa (30-5): Repeat winners of the North Coast Section, the Pumas are looking to avoid a second straight loss in the first round of NorCal as they fell to Rocklin in a sweep last year. St. Francis brings in a size advantage starting five 6-footers to Maria Carrillo's two.

Division IV

Unseeded Piedmont (22-3) at No. 2 Christian Brothers (31-7): Another NCS-SJS pairing has Piedmont coming to Christian Brothers. The Highlanders played a relatively soft schedule compared with the Falcons' brutal tournament and league slate. Just like Christian Brothers, though, the Highlanders are young, with just three seniors on the roster.

November 24, 2008
NU gets top D-I state volleyball playoff seed; Oak Ridge, CBS get second seeds

Sacramento-area volleyball got a little well-earned respect on Sunday morning at the seeding meeting for the CIF state volleyball playoffs.

Seven-time reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Nevada Union grabbed the top seed on the NorCal side of the bracket while Division II champion Oak Ridge and Division IV champion Christian Brothers both got the No. 2 seed in their respective brackets. D-II runner-up St. Francis, which qualified for the State tournament by virtue of making the Section final, was not awarded a seed but is sixth in seed priority, meaning if it should meet one of the two teams with a lower priority it would host a match.

Nevada Union is at home until the final and Oak Ridge and Christian Brothers would get at least two home matches should they all continue winning.

Just like the basketball state playoff format, after three rounds of regional play the NorCal and SoCal champions in each division meet on Dec. 6 at UC Irvine's Bren Center to determine a State champion.

Click to view the brackets

Division I
NorCal favorites: No. 1 seed Nevada Union, No. 2 seed San Ramon Valley-Danville.
SoCal favorites: No. 3 seed Mira Costa-Manhattan Beach, No. 4 seed Clovis West-Fresno.
The Skinny: The Miners claimed the No.1 seed in NorCal for the fourth time since 2004. In that span they have won two NorCal titles - in 2004 and last season, which ended with a sweep at the hands of Lakewood in the State title match. The last time Mira Costa was in D-I, they beat Nevada Union in the 2004 State title match. Back now after a string of three straight D-II state titles, the Mustangs are always a threat. Clovis West comes in battle-tested, champions of a tough Tri-Rivers League, which sent all but one team to the playoffs and rolled through the Central Section playoffs without dropping a set.

Division II
NorCal favorites: No. 1 seed Archbishop Mitty-San Jose, No. 2 seed Oak Ridge.
SoCal favorites: No. 1 seed Redlands East Valley-Redlands, No. 3 seed Scripps Ranch-San Diego.
The Skinny: D-II at the regional and state level is arguably the toughest in the country. Mira Costa's departure opens the door for a new champion, though, which has Mitty licking its chops after falling to the Mustangs in each of the last three State finals. Should Oak Ridge complete what has been a magical season with a state title, they will have to unseat the Monarchs - and they'll have to do it in San Jose in what would be a must-see NorCal final.

Division IV
NorCal favorites: No. 1 seed Menlo-Atherton, No. 2 seed Christian Brothers.
SoCal favorites: No. 1 seed The Bishop's School-La Jolla, Unseeded Santa Fe Christian-Solana Beach.
The Skinny: Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter is no stranger to the State playoffs, especially in D-IV - he led Golden Sierra to a pair of NorCal titles earlier in the decade. Now he's back with possibly the deepest team he or the Falcons have ever had - and they're hungry. Senior Kayla Neto and junior Erika Cuevas still remember what it was like to lose to Marymount in the 2006 state final.

November 22, 2008
Placer attorney says CIF 'arrogance' led to playoff game's postponement

While emotions fly over the unprecedented court-ordered postponement of last Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section football playoff game between Colfax and Oakdale, the attorney representing Placer High School says the Auburn school isn't to blame.

Sacramento attorney Art Woodward says the California Interscholastic Federation's Sac-Joaquin Section needs to take responsibility for creating its own mess and now faces a more formidable opponent than an lawyer with a son on the team who has been working pro bono.

"I think the CIF has been blinded by its own arrogance," Woodward said. "The CIF had the chance to fix the problem at the appeals level, and they chose not to."

Woodward has represented Placer in a protracted bid to overturn Commissioner Pete Saco's Oct. 24 decision that the Hillmen had to forfeit three victories, two in league, because they played an ineligible player.

That cost Placer the playoff berth that Pioneer Valley League rival Colfax currently holds.

Woodward claims that Saco violated state law when he ruled midway in the season that the football player in question, a 16-year-old foster child who moved from Vallejo to Auburn during the summer under a judge's order, needed to file hardship paperwork in order to be eligible to play for the Hillmen. By not doing so previously, the athlete in question was ineligible under CIF bylaws and Placer had to forfeit its three first-half wins.

Last Saturday in Lodi a three-person CIF appeals panel made up of former section officials and administrators upheld Saco's ruling.

On Monday, Placer Union High School District Superintendent Bart O'Brien said that even through he felt the CIF was wrong in denying Placer High's appeal, the district would not seek an injunction because of the potential financial risk and the belief that it might not be granted in time before the start of the playoffs.

But attorneys for the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law thought the issue was worth pursuing and received the 11th-hour injunction from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch on Friday.

The Colfax team, which was on a bus bound for Oakdale High School, was forced to turn around and head back home.

On Monday, the judge will conduct a hearing on the validity of the CIF's bylaws and whether they violate California laws, such as Assembly Bill 490, that provide protections for foster youths.

The NCYL attorneys are confident that they will prevail.

"These laws were designed to ensure that foster youth, who often experience frequent moves, are not faced with barriers to transitioning into a new school or to participating in extracurricular activities," said NCYL attorney Leecia Welch in a press release.

Added attorney Bryn Martyna, "We are discouraged that the CIF continues to stand by its policy requiring foster youth to face obstacles to participation in sports that aren't there for other youth.

"We are hopeful that the court will resolve these issues favorably on Monday so that the playoff game can move forward. We are confident that the CIF can figure out a way to accommodate this change in schedule."

Woodward said he learned last Tuesday that the NCYL was planning to take Saco and the CIF to court. Although the judge's decision can affect the Placer football team's chances of playing in the postseason, he said the school is no longer a participant in the legal battle.

Woodward said he wasn't in the Alameda County courtroom on Friday, and he won't be present on Monday. He says that unlike some media reports to the contrary, this is not Placer High School's lawsuit.

"This is their ballgame now," he said of the NCYL. "In the short term they hope to get the playoff situation resolved so their client doesn't go through the rest of his life thinking he let his team down.

"Their other goal is to effectuate a change to the CIF bylaws. They see the organization that controls sports in the most populated state in the country violating the state law they helped get passed."

November 22, 2008
I'm still buzzing over the Grant-Granite Bay game.

After a hardy nights sleep, I'm still buzzing over the Grant-Granite Bay game. Sometimes, sports writers over use superlatives to describe a game. In this case, all are valid in relation to this epic. The game truly had everything, with Grant winning 22-19.

A jammed packed stadium full of enthusiastic fans that cheered on every play. It drew media of all kinds, from print, to TV, to the Internet.

Then the athletes played the game and didn't disappoint. The action was back and forth, side to side, and up and down. What a rollercoaster ride.

It was a contest of contrasting styles. I thought Grant was going to blow out the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion Grizzles after it took its first possession and scored on a three-play, 68-yard drive. It took just a 1:13 and highlighted by Devaonte Butler's 39-yard run and his 11-yard-scoring scamper.

Granite Bay, however, responded with an 18-play, 77-yard drive, chewing up 8:36. The drive showed that although small, Granite Bay was powerful, battling Grant's massive defensive line.

Granite Bay was also tremendous on third down, converting on 12 straight opportunities during one stretch of the game.

In the end, Grant's defense managed to pull it out. The Pacers also benefited from the Grizzlies inability to convert on a pair of two-point conversion tries.

Grant, on the other hand, converted on a two-point conversion of its own. After Granite Bay blocked the Pacers Kipeli Koniseti's point-after-try, his teammate, Darvin McCauley, picked up the ball and ran it in, giving Grant a 15-7 advantage.

Speaking of advantages. Granite Bay coach Ernie Cooper thought Grant gained some due to questionable officiating. In some cases, he did have a reason to complain. Some of the calls made were outrageous. However, some went his way, too.

Still, the officiating sparked a profane postgame debate between Cooper and Grant coach Mike Alberghini. Clearly it was disappointing to see two of the region's most respected coaches engaged in such actions.

But the two are competitors and both wanted to win the game. The game was classic, despite some bad calls by the officials.

It would have been extraordinary if the officiating were better.

November 22, 2008
Woodcreek wins first playoff football game in dramatic fashion

Woodcreek High School made its first football playoff appearance in history a rewarding one Friday night in El Dorado Hills.

Tevin Tyus' 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game enabled the Timberwolves (6-5) to beat Oak Ridge (5-6) 31-24 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II opener.

The win will move Woodcreek into a semifinal game Friday at Grant, a 22-19 winner over Granite Bay.

Woodcreek trailed 21-3 early in the third quarter, then went to work.

Tommy Murphy threw a 35-yard scoring strike to Mike Greiner, then Darius Woods returned a fumble 60 yards to close with 21-17.

After an Oak Ridge field goal, the Timberwolves drove 75 yards in 16 plays as Murphy threw and eight-yard pass to Thomas Sandoval to tie the contest and set up Tyus' heroics.

Le Grand 21, Capital Christian 15 (overtime) in Le Grand - Tony Ortegon scored the winning touchdown in overtime to lead the Bulldogs (7-4) past the Cougars (5-6) the Division VI playoff opener. Capital Christian missed a chance to win it in regulation when Le Grand quarterback Martin Alverez' pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Capital Christian's Drew Reid. A facemask penalty gave Capital Christian a first-and-goal from the Le Grand 1-yard line with 1:36 to play. But the Cougars' James Lee lost his grip on the football while searching for a hole on the quarterback sneak and Le Grand's Ignacio Guerra picked up the loose ball.

Lindhurst 67, Waterford 7 in Olivehurst - Rick Davis completed 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and ran for a touchdown to lead the Blazers (9-2) past the Wildcats (5-6) in the D-VI game.

Nevada Union 49, Vacaville 21 in Grass Valley - Cameron Ryan rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns and the defense intercepted six passes - two each by John Wivholm and Cole Stanford - to lead the Miners (10-1) past the Bulldogs (7-4) in the D-I playoff opener. It was Nevada Union's first playoff win since 2005.

November 20, 2008
Sac High's Tapley credits father with huge assist in landing scholarship

Tommy Tapley wasn't one of those parents who put a basketball into his son's hands at age 3 and commanded, "Start dribbling."

Tapley, who played basketball at Arkansas State in the mid to late 1970s, had witnessed fathers pushing their sons to the point that he knew of one boy who almost committed suicide because of the pressure to succeed.

"That's something I didn't want my kids to have to go through," Tommy said.

So it was Tommy's wife Alice who started their youngest son Chase in athletics.

There was soccer, baseball and football, all sports in which their precocious child excelled. There also was basketball.

That's the sport that Chase Tapley has taken to another level.


The 6-foot-3 senior guard averaged 22.2 points and 4.6 steals in leading Sacramento High School to a CIF Northern California Division III championship last season.

In doing so, he earned Bee Player of the Year honors and now has a full-ride scholarship to play next season at San Diego State.

Tapley signed his NCAA letter of intent during a Thursday morning ceremony in front of classmates, teammates, friends and family at the Oak Park charter school.

It was a proud moment for Mom and Dad, who have provided a guiding hand to their athletically gifted son since he first started kicking a soccer ball or tossing a baseball.

Chase acknowledged his parents' "overwhelming support" in a short speech and says that his father has been a great role model and a tremendous mentor.

"He never pushed me toward basketball," Chase said. "It just came easy for me and all the scoring and passing was fun. It wasn't until later that I learned my dad had played."

Tommy Tapley realized that his son might have special potential while watching Chase during an elementary school basketball tournament game at age 9.

"The place was packed, and it was noisy," Tommy said. "I think it was for a championship, the score was tied and Chase was taking the foul shot."

Chase sank the game winner.

"I asked Chase after, 'How'd you do that with all those people screaming?' He says, 'I like pressure.' Now, it always seems like he wants the ball in pressure situations."

That ability to succeed on the big stage is the primary reason Chase Tapley has developed into one of Northern California's top prep players.

"I don't know where that comes from," Chase said. "It's just natural. I love playing in front of big crowds. I like the screaming and yelling."

As Chase started to quickly develop, Tommy sought an unbiased source to evaluate his son's potential in good friend and former NBA star Sidney Moncrief. They grew up together, played together at Little Rock Hall High School and have been the best man at each other's weddings.

"When Sidney first saw Chase," he said, 'He's going to be a player.' When someone who has been successful at that level and knows the game tells you that, you know there is something to it."

Sac High coach Derek Swafford realized he had something special when Chase Tapley showed up from nearby Sutter Middle School.

He watched as Tapley contributed immediately as a freshman, rallied from a broken left leg as a sophomore, then led the Dragons to the state finals at Arco Arena last March. Though Sac High lost 72-55 to Santa Margarita, Tapley put on another show in scoring 35 points.

"To see a kid's dream come through and for him to overcome a huge setback is what it's all about as a coach," Swafford said. "I've watched him grow up. I'm just pleased that his family has given me the opportunity to coach him."

Sac High co-principal P.K. Diffenbaugh was quick to note that in addition to his basketball talent, Tapley was an "exceptional student" with perfect citizenship.

"I've watched him not only develop as a leader on the court but off the court, too," Diffenbaugh said.

Although San Diego State isn't as prestigious a college as UCLA, Cal or Stanford - the Cardinal was interested but not ready to make a scholarship offer - Tapley is happy with his choice.

Aztecs coach Steve Fisher stayed interested when others backed off after Tapley was injured.

Tommy Tapley said Fisher watched his son play "15 to 20 times" in high school and Amateur Athletic Union games. Tommy said Fisher visited the family "two or three" times and Tommy told his son about how the "Fab V" Fisher once coached at Michigan is one of college basketball's most historic teams.

"When Chase broke his leg, Steve was still there," Tommy said. "I told Chase you've got to consider that when making your choice, that you know he cares about you as a person, not just a basketball player."

Chase Tapley thinks he has made the right choice.

"I like their system, how they play, their high intensity man-on-man defense," Tapley said. "I feel if I work hard, I can contribute right away."

And as far as the pressure of being a freshman playing major college basketball, Tommy Tapley has no doubts these days about how his son will handle it.

"He's a special player," Tommy said. "He's been fun to watch. I even find myself sometimes saying, 'Wow. He's pretty good.'"

November 20, 2008
Everyone's excited for Section championships in Davis

St. Francis super sophomore Zoe Nightingale could barely contain her excitement on Tuesday night after beating Rocklin in a thrilling Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal.

Nightingale isn't just excited that her Troubadours will play for a second consecutive D-II championship, but because she will also be playing against her best friend, Oak Ridge sophomore outside hitter Katie Vaughn.

"We don't play against each other often," Nightingale said. "I can't wait for Thursday."

The two have forged a bond through the game of volleyball as both met while playing for Force Volleyball Club's 10-under team several years ago. And though club ball is roughly four months of the year and even then practices are three times per week plus weekend tournaments, Nightingale says the two remain in contact and hang out all the time.

Now the two meet with a championship on the line and their head-to-head match-up figuring prominent. Nightingale and Kiki Kosler had considerable success in slowing Rocklin's Janelle Currey in the semifinal match with Rocklin, and will have to do the same with Vaughn and fellow outside hitter Kayla Berringer. Also a focal point will be how St. Francis' outsides are able to block Trojans' right side hitter Kaleigh Durket.

Oak Ridge seeks its third Section championship and first under first-year head coach Becky Potter.

No. 1 Oak Ridge vs. No. 3 St. Francis, 8 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis.

Division I: No. 1 Nevada Union vs. No. 2 Napa, 8 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis.

Nevada Union seeks an unprecedented seventh straight Division I title against Napa.

Division III: No. 1 St. Mary's vs. No. 3 Oakdale, 6 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis.

St. Mary's seeks its third straight D-III title and 11th overall.

Division IV: No. 1. Ripon vs. No. 3 Christian Brothers, 6 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis.

Ripon looks to break through after losing the last two section championship matches to Christian Brothers. CBS also beat Ripon in a regular season match in Ripon, coming back from a two sets to none deficit.

Division V: No. 1 Woodland Christian vs. No. 7 Ripon Christian, 4 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis.

Ripon Christian, the most decorated school in the section in terms of championships, with 11 banners, seeks a repeat. Put another way, there have only been six seasons in which RC has not worn the D-V crown.

Stay tuned tonight for instant results following the championship matches, plus analysis here on the Prep Blog and in tomorrow's Bee.

November 20, 2008
Volleyball Section championship results

10 teams, six hours and five matches provided for one exciting night of Volleyball. Ripon Christian kicked off the festivities with a sweep of top-seeded Woodland Christian to win its record 12th Division V title. Christian Brothers (Division IV) and St. Mary's (Division III) both defended their titles with ease while Nevada Union needed five sets to win its seventh straight Division I title. Oak Ridge bucked the title defense trend by unseating reigning champion St. Francis in the Division II final.

Three first-year coaches won championships as Chrys Dudek of Nevada Union, Becky Potter of Oak Ridge and Jeff Deter of Christian Brothers all won in their first seasons as head coach of their respective schools.

"This is the biggest accomplishment I've had in volleyball," said Potter, who was an All-American at Santa Clara.

Division I

No. 1 Nevada Union def. No. 2 Napa 24-26, 25-23, 25-21-25, 15-12

Nevada Union won its record seventh straight D-I title but unlike the past, the Miners had to sweat for it. Nevada Union hadn't dropped a set in its previous six title matches, but Napa came in and snapped that streak, eventually pushing the Miners to five sets.

Abbie Miraldi was the hero for the Miners, getting a block on match point to seal the win.

"I knew we only get one opportunity at this and I wasn't going to let that ball get by me," she said.

Division II

No. 1 Oak Ridge def. No. 3 St. Francis 25-18, 25-9, 25-20

No. 3 seed St. Francis came into the D-II title match thinking they could win; top-seeded Oak Ridge entered knowing they would.

Oak Ridge (40-3), in the midst of a 30-match win streak, dominated the defending champions and claimed the third section championship in school history behind a double-double from Kaleigh Durket (10 kills and 10 digs).

"We walked in confident," Durket said. "We had absolutely no doubt that this was ours."

Kayla Berringer had a match-high 14 kills and Brittney Larsen led all players with 30 assists.

Division III

No. 1 St. Mary's def. No. 3 Oakdale 25-21, 25-22, 25-24

The Rams won their third consecutive D-III title and 11th overall.

Division IV

No. 3 Christian Brothers def. No. 1 Ripon 25-18, 25-16, 26-16.

Christian Brothers' lone senior Kayla Neto won her fourth Division IV title and the rest of the young Falcons showed they have staying power as they upended top-seeded Ripon on Thursday night.

"The girls really wanted this," said first-year coach Jeff Deter, who led Golden Sierra to three D-IV titles earlier in the decade. "They played excellent."

Neto had a match-high 15 digs, eight kills and three blocks to lead the Falcons to a third straight victory over the Indians in the title match.

The Falcons had considerable success running their middles - Neto and junior Katie Hoekman - from an array of angles. And with Ripon's middles constantly worried about Neto and Hoekman, outside hitter Erika Cuevas was able to find seams in the block to hit through en route to a match-high 11 kills.

"It's a luxury to be able to run our middles like that," Deter said.

Division V

No. 7 Ripon Christian def. No. 1 Woodland Christian 27-25, 25-15, 25-10

Seventh-seeded Ripon Christian claimed its second straight championship - and record 12th overall - by downing top-seeded Woodland Christian on Thursday evening at the Pavilion in Davis.

"I'm so proud of what we've been able to accomplish," Knights coach Tiger Shelton said. "We set out to do this five years ago when we picked these girls out in eighth grade."

Pacific-bound senior middle blocker Andrea Terpstra, who stands an imposing 6-foot-1, led all players with 18 kills, four blocks and three aces.

"My height intimidates a lot of teams," Terpstra said. "And it's much easier to hit being up above everyone."

Since the D-V championship has been contested, beginning in 1991, only six times have the Knights not won it. Two of those times it was Woodland Christian's turn to wear the crown, in 2003 and 2005.

"It's all god-given," Shelton said. "We're always blessed with having tall kids."

November 19, 2008
Rio Americano; St. Francis capture girls section water polo titles

Here is a recap and highlights from Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section water polo finals, courtesy of Rio Americano girls coach Rafael Ruano, who also writes on the sport.

Rio Americano beat Sierra Foothill League No. 1 Granite Bay 12-4 and Sierra Valley Conference No. 1 Ponderosa 15-5 in the section semis and finals, respectively, to capture its seventh consecutive section D-II title.

Ranked No. 2 in Northern California, the Raiders completed one of the toughest schedules in school history with a school best of 28-3.

The Raiders were led by All-Americans and co-Capital Athletic League and co-section D-II MVPs Blair Moody and Rachele Gyorffy, one of the best tandems in section water polo history.

Fellow seniors Claudia Ruiz and Pauline Stewart, as well as junior Cailin Jope all received all-section recognition for their excellent seasons.

Granite Bay had the best season in its program's history.

The Grizzlies were led by All-Americans Michelle Slagle (goalie) and Jillian Garton. Also impressive were sophomore twins Jessica and Alison Hamby.

Ponderosa also had its best season in compiling a 19-3 record behind junior standout Ali Livingston, an All-American.

Ponderosa pulled off the upset and beat Granite Bay in the section finals 11-7 behind the strong goalie play of Alex Shaner and the outstanding scoring output of center Brogan Miller.

Ponderosa coach Alan Miller (Brogan's father) pulled off a rare double of coaching both the boys and girls teams.

St. Francis beat Davis for the fourth time this season in the section championship game, winning in overtime 11-10 on a goal by senior Adrianne Bisharat.

Senior All-American Shelby Schaefer and junior All-American Emily McNamara paced the Troubadours all season. Davis was led by sophomore Keelie Houston who scored five goals in the final.

D-I Boys
The Davis boys capped off their season of dominating section competition with a tight 8-6 victory over Jesuit.

Jesuit played a solid game but the Davis counterattack and three missed penalty shots by the Marauders were too much to overcome.

November 19, 2008
Losing records in the playoffs? Time for a change

So how, exactly, does a 2-8 team and a 3-7 squad qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs?

Blame the brackets. And plead for change.

High school football brackets are created before each season. Some leagues advance three playoff teams, and others send two. That's the problem, and the solution.

Foothill went 2-8 yet is in the Division IV playoffs because its two wins were in Capital Valley Conference League play. Monterey Trail is 3-7 and is in the D-I field, but the wins came in Delta River League play. Those teams should not get into the postseason, and that's no rip on the coaches or players who feel very deserving because of the guidelines set before the season: Place in the top three of your league and advance.

There should be a change in formula, and it's simple.

Each league in the region should send the top two finishers in each league to the playoffs. That's an automatic. Then at the end of the regular season, a committee of coaches, athletic directors, administrators and reporters could meet to decide who the other teams should be, to fill out the brackets. Teams that go 7-3 or 6-4 or sometimes 8-2 that get aced out due to the current structure would have a more worthy chance of advancing. More happy faces, more competitive playoff games.

And even the 3-7 and 2-8 teams would have to agree this makes more sense.

So, what's your opinion? Go to the High School Sports forum and share your thoughts.

November 19, 2008
How many yards did Scarr actually have?

How many yards did standout running back Lyndell Scarr rush for in the Ponderosa's 61-35 victory over Oak Ridge last week?

Apparently there is a discrepancy in the total. The Bee reported 392 on 26 carries after consulting with Ponderosa coach Jason Tenner and another reporter following the game. That's Scarr racking up yardage in the photo.

RB Pondo v OR 1.JPG

This total came after Tenner said in a post-game interview that his staff did not keep stats of the game and would leave the tally up to the reporters on hand.

Tenner called The Bee on Saturday and reported Scarr rushed for 471 on 32 carries. He arrived at this total after watching film of the game the next day.

Whether Scarr rushed for 392 or 471, neither total is a Sac-Joaquin Section record. The Section record is 555 yards by Dallas Bernstine of Bethel (Vallejo) in 2001 against Vintage.

What is certain is that Scarr had a stellar performance, producing eight touchdowns. It's too bad he and his team will not play in the playoffs, despite the Bruins' 7-3 record.

November 18, 2008
Volleyball semifinals: St. Francis stuns Rocklin with epic comeback

Zoe Nightingale has a quote pinned to her bulletin board at home for motivation that reads: "Under pressure you can play 15 percent better or 15 percent worse." On Tuesday night in a pressure-packed Division II semifinal at Rocklin she and her teammates played that 15 percent better.

The third-seeded Troubadours came back from a 15-6 deficit in the fourth game, which would have eliminated them, and eventually stunned No. 2 seed Rocklin 3-2 (28-30, 25-23, 11-25, 27-25, 15-10).

"I'm very proud of the maturity I saw out there," St. Francis coach Alynn Wright said. "At times you could see our youth, but they grew up during this match."

Added Nightingale, a sophomore: "I learned how to play under pressure tonight."

The Troubadours were down 15-6 in the fourth game after getting pummeled in the third and appeared on the brink of elimination. But coming out of a timeout senior outside hitter Erin Stoddard picked up back-to-back kills to spark a 12-3 run which junior outside hitter Kasey Clark chipped in two kills and junior rightside hitter Kiki Kosler also had kills on back-to-back points.

Rocklin later had match point at 24-22 but couldn't get the ball over the net at the end of a rally to give St. Francis a point.

"In several critical situations we had some mental breakdowns," Rocklin coach Dave Muscarella said. "We fell out of system toward the end of game four."

Three points later Nightingale scored on back-to-back kills to end the epic comeback. St. Francis carried the momentum into the fifth set, going up 8-4 and holding on for a 15-10 win.

Rocklin point machine Janelle Currey led all players with 17 kills but it was St. Francis's ability to camp on her and put up a big block to hit through that was the difference in the match.

"We got into her head and made her have to adjust what she likes to do," Wright said. "That was our game plan coming in, that was the only way we could win."

And though Currey had a big night, countless attacks were either obstructed or slowed by the presence of the block, allowing the Troubadours' back row to pick up digs.

"I knew I had to set a solid block," Kosler said. "Zoe had to seal it off when she could, but I knew I had to deny (Currey)."

Said Currey: "They put up a big block and they knew where it was going a lot of the time."

Top-seeded Oak Ridge continues to steamroll through the other side of the D-II bracket, as the Trojans downed No. 4 seed Bella Vista 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-16).

Oak Ridge will play St. Francis for the D-II title at 8 p.m. on Thursday at The Pavilion in Davis.

Click to view the updated D-II bracket

Division I
Click to view the updated bracket

Nevada Union continued to roll as the top-seeded Miners defeated Modesto 3-0 (25-15, 25-10, 25-22. Abbie Miraldi led the Miners with 14 kills and Kendal Butterfield dished out 36 assists.

Second-seeded Napa defeated Golden Valley 3-0 (25-17, 25-19, 25-10).

Nevada Union will go after its unprecedented seventh-straight D-I title against Napa on Thursday at 8 p.m. at The Pavilion in Davis

Division III
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 7 seed Del Oro's bid for a shot at the D-III championship - and second in school history - fell just short as the Golden Eagles lost at No. 3 seed Oakdale 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-20, 25-17).

Fifth-seeded Placer fell to top-seeded St. Mary's in the other semifinal 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-14).

St. Mary's will play Oakdale at 6 p.m. at The Pavilion on Thursday for the title.

Division IV
Click to view the updated bracket

Third-seeded Christian Brothers had to get a win on the road in order to play for its fourth straight D-IV title. The Falcons did it in style, sweeping No. 2 seed Vacaville Christian (25-10, 25-12, 25-15).

Erika Cuevas led all players in kills with 12 and aces with four, while Kayla Neto chipped in 11 kills.

Top-seeded Ripon beat visiting fifth-seeded Hilmar 3-1 (25-16, 16-25, 25-15, 25-16).

Ripon will play Christian Brothers for the third straight year for the D-IV title, having lost the last two. CBS also beat the Indians in Ripon in a five-set thriller on Sept. 17.

Division V
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 7 seed and defending champion Ripon Christian swept third-seeded Big Valley Christian and will play for its 12th D-V championship. The Knights will play top-seeded Woodland Christian, which beat No. 5 seed Bradshaw Christian in four sets in the other semifinal

Currently Ripon Christian is tied with Linden for the most overall section championships with 11.

November 18, 2008
You've seen the movie, now see the list

Well, not quite. But The Bee has compiled a nice looking database of high school student-athletes who have signed national letters of intent to attend and play for colleges around the nation.

Take a look to see who is going where by clicking here

November 15, 2008
Breaking down The Bee's Top 20, and what looms

The regular season is over, in the books for history to judge now.

Now it's playoff time. Here's a look at how the Top 20 fared, what it means and why lies ahead. And by all means, offer your thoughts and views on playoff matchups, who looks dangerous, who is over-rated, who might be a surprise team to fear.

1. Grant (10-0)

The Pacers rebounded from last season's atypical 7-4 season with purpose and flair, storming through the regular season without hardly breaking a sweat. In other words, it's another fabulous Grant team under coach Mike Alberghini. The season includes victories over two state-ranked No. 1 teams - from Idaho and Utah - and Friday's 35-13 triumph of Burbank. The line was superb, the defense frightening with Jeremiah Toma and the special teams dangerous with burners such as Howard Warren. Kipeli Koniseti is a game breaker, and no one is harder on himself than the senior quarterback when he throws a pick. And tailback Devontae Butler just might be the area's next top recruit, and he's only a junior. He had 217 yards and four touchdowns against Burbank. Pacers open Division II playoffs at home against Granite Bay in an instant classic.

2. Casa Roble (10-0)

Coach Norm Ryan has a fantastic team, headed by the spread offense that features quarterback Sam Martinez, tailback Matt Satchwell and receiver Tristan Baer. The defense has also been strong, anchored by Jaycob Shoemaker. In downing Rio Americano 33-12, the Rams clinched the Capital Athletic League and the program's second straight perfect regular season. That's all fine and dandy, but now the real assignment: Win the D-III section title. Casa Roble opens against Bethel.

3. Laguna Creek (7-3)

The Cardinals were rolling right along, and no one was flinching when anyone mentioned City Championship march. Might be a good time to flinch now, however. Laguna Creek lost its regular-season finale to Franklin-Elk Grove 21-20, a credit to Franklin but also a major disappointment for a team that expected to roar into the D-I playoffs. The Cardinals are still the No. 1 seed as co-Delta Valley Conference champions and a serious threat to make a playoff run with a running game that features Keenen Williams and a defense that can be dominant with Sean Nill and friends. Laguna opens against Monterey Trail, and you can bet coach Mark Nill will threaten to snap chin straps if anyone dare overlook the Mustangs and their 3-7 record.

4. Whitney (10-0)

The Wildcats are heavy favorites to claim the D-IV title, a credit to masterful coach Mike Gimenez, The Bee's Coach of the Year in 2007 who has done an even better job this fall. Zack Graves is a terrific talent at tailback, the offensive line under assistant coach Tom Price has been superb and the defense, headed by Nick Law, has shut foes down. It's 13-0 or bust now. Wildcats open with Foothill.

5. Roseville (7-3)

The Tigers had visions of making a serious run in the D-II playoffs on the opposite bracket of Grant and Granite Bay. But funny thing happened. Roseville sputtered, falling to Rocklin on Friday. Yes, the Tigers still have the No. 1 seed as co-champions of the Sierra Foothill League by virtue of beating Granite Bay earlier this season. But the momentum is suddenly gone. Mike Moreno vows to make it a special season, still, as does coach Larry Cunha. Tigers open the playoffs against Rosemont.

6. Granite Bay (9-1)

Don't forget that the Grizzlies were The Bee's top-ranked team for seven weeks before the one-point loss to Roseville when coach Ernie Cooper elected to go for two - and the win - late. What we're saying is this: This team is perfectly capable of repeating as D-II champs, though opening at Grant is a whopper of a chore. By beating Woodcreek 34-7 - and with Roseville's stunning loss to Rocklin - Granite Bay clinched a share of the SFL title.

7. Inderkum (9-1)

In a word: Dangerous. That's exactly what coach Terry Stark's Tigers are after they mowed through the Tri-County schedule. The only loss was to Elk Grove, when the Thundering Herd was rolling. Up next is Rio Americano in the D-III playoffs, the same team that beat Rio earlier this season.

8. Nevada Union (9-1)

It's been a remarkable bounce back season for the Miners, who went 3-7 on the field last season (later changed to 4-6 after a loss to Franklin-Stockton was turned to a win via forfeit). Coach Dave Humphers has NU running well with leader Broughan Jantz and runner Cameron Ryan and linebacking ace Zach Vallejo. Only loss was 13-7 to Laguna Creek in the mud, though NU does wind up as co-champs in Delta Valley. Miners open D-I playoffs against Vacaville.

9. Burbank (7-3)

The Titans have lost only to quality foes this season, two Bay Area teams and Grant on Friday. Coach John Heffernan's team is fast and physical, if not a bit short on overall team numbers due to injury. There can't be too many athletes more inspired and competitive than Miles Freeman, the senior who refused to let his club get completely blown off the field against the Pacers. Titans open D-II playoffs against Christian Brothers in a rematch of last year's opener, won by Burbank.

10. Pleasant Grove (8-2)

What a great two-year run out of the gates for the Eagles, who graduated their first senior class last spring. Back-to-back Delta River League titles has coach Joe Cattolico's program among the region's best. Michael Madkins has been superb at tailback all season, and he was up to old tricks in rushing for three scores to down Jesuit 20-7. Pleasant Grove opens the D-I field against Fairfield.

11. Folsom (9-1)

The Bulldogs are two points away from being 10-0 and Delta River League champs if not for that agonizingly tough loss to Pleasant Grove in Week 9. Still, coach Kris Richardson has the most prolific team in the D-I field, thanks to the marvelous skills of David Graves, who has accounted for a staggering 46 touchdowns this season. But stopping teams - particularly the run - in recent weeks has become a major red flag. Next up is defending D-I champion Napa.

12. Rio Americano (8-2)

Never mind the loss to Casa Roble, the favorite to win D-III, it's been a nice recovery season for the Raiders and coach Mike Smith, whose club has endured a rash of serious injuries. Mardell Johnson is a dangerous weapon at quarterback. Rio opens D-III play against Inderkum, which beat the Raiders 20-10 earlier this season.

13. Christian Brothers (8-2)

It's been a long time since the Falcons won eight games, but here the are, looking a bit scary in the D-II postseason with terrific do-all talent Josh Tucker. Opener against Burbank is a big one, like the Metro League days of old.

14. Bear River (8-2)

The Bruins are looking like the Bruins of old: Good running game, stout line play, hard to score on. Those ingredients make this a team to fear in the D-IV playoffs, especially if Jason Varni keeps running like he has and Cole White continues to tackle with purpose (he had 22 in a 35-14 win over El Dorado to lock up second place in the Pioneer Valley League). Opens at Dixon in the playoffs.

15. Oak Ridge (5-5)

From 0-4 to a five-game winning streak to stake claim to the Sierra Valley Conference to getting absolutely mugged 61-35 to rival Ponderosa. What teams shows up for the playoffs. It'd better be the one that plays better defense, particularly against the run. Trojans open D-II playoffs against Woodcreek.

16. Ponderosa (7-3)

The Bruins have close losses to Nevada Union and Del Campo and just butchered Oak Ridge, but it still wasn't enough to secure a playoff berth. A shame considering tailback Lyndell Scarr is on a roll, particularly after he ripped Oak Ridge for 392 yards and eight touchdowns, both school records. No playoffs but one thing is certain: coach Jason Tenner has the program back on track.

17. Del Campo (8-2)

Injuries slowed the Cougars late, though most were on hand in pounding Bella Vista 27-3 to secure the third playoff spot in the Capital Athletic League. The healthy now include Ryan Dimino, who has had a strong season at fullback and linebacker. He'll have to keep it up for his dad - and coach Mike - in the D-III playoffs. Del Campo opens against 9-1 Vanden.

18. Woodcreek (5-5)

From 0-10 to this and the playoffs? A memorable season that includes the program's first playoff berth. The only downer is leading player - tailback James Nunley - was sidelined during the Granite Bay game with a concussion. Team opens D-II playoffs at Oak Ridge.

19. Dixon (8-2)

The Rams haven't been this good in many years, perhaps the early 1990s, and it's a credit to coach Scott Winslow, whose team captured their first Capital Valley Conference title. Open against Bear River in the playoffs.

20. Bella Vista (7-3)

This is how tough and deep the CAL is: that's a pretty decent Broncos team sitting home for the playoffs, despite a 7-3 mark. Tailback Troy Samas did his pops proud, former prep legend Dave Samas of 1970s Mira Loma fame, in setting school rushing records.

November 15, 2008
Rocklin stuns Roseville in SFL football finale

It wasn't the way Roseville coach Larry Cunha wanted to go into the playoffs.

Although they still hold the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, the Tigers have to settle for a Sierra Foothill League co-championship after falling 26-19 in Rocklin Friday night.

The fifth-ranked Tigers (7-3, 4-1), who will host Rosemont in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff opener Friday, struggled just enough on offense and defense to fail to finish unbeaten in league. They share a co-championship with Granite Bay.

Rocklin (4-6, 2-3) picked off three passes - two by Steven Hurley and one by Ben Holland - and Jimmy Laughrea overcame three interceptions of his own in completing 14 of 30 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Laughrea also caught a TD pass.

In other games:

No. 6 Granite Bay 34, No. 18 Woodcreek 7 in Roseville - Justin Sutter ran for two touchdowns and Brad Crisanty and Clark Partridge one each for the Grizzlies (9-1, 4-1) in the SFL game. The Timberwolves (5-5, 3-2) suffered a big blow in the second quarter when running back James Nunley was knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion.

No. 7 Inderkum 55, Natomas 6 at Natomas - D'Wayne Lewis rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and Vince Mayle 73 yards and a touchdown on six carried and had two sacks and two pass deflections in the Tigers' (9-1, 5-0) Tri-County-Conference win over the Nighthawks (1-9, 0-5).

No. 14 Bear River 35, El Dorado 14 in Lake of the Pines - Garrett Barbic caught six passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns; Jason Varni rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and Cole White had 22 tackles in leading the Bruins (8-2, 5-1) past the Cougars (4-6, 2-4) in the Pioneer Valley League game.

Del Oro 37, Oakmont 9 in Loomis - Mason Magleby completed 20 of 29 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns and also booted a 19-yard field goal to lead the Eagles (4-6, 2-3) past the Vikings (2-8, 0-5) in a Sierra Foothill League game.

Galt 34, Cordova 14 in Rancho Cordova - Trevor Alcoriza rushed for 164 yards and five touchdowns and Abram Piggee rushed for 127 yards and had an interception in leading the Warriors (5-5, 3-3) past the Lancers (1-9, 0-5) in a Sierra Valley Conference game.

November 15, 2008
Placer's season remains in limbo after loss to Whitney

Joey Montoya doesn't expect to get much sleep this morning - but not because Placer High School's football season remains in limbo.

"I never sleep well after a loss," Montoya said. "If I lose any sleep, it won't be over that."

Montoya was referring to an California Interscholastic Federation appeal panel that has yet to make a decision on Placer's appeal of Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco's decision to have the Hillmen forfeit three wins, including two in league, because of a paper-work error involving a transfer student.

"We still haven't heard," Montoya said at about 11:30 p.m. Friday after the Hillmen had lost 34-12 to Whitney in Auburn. "Our lawyer called at halftime and we were told they were still deliberating over it."

After falling to Whitney, Placer needs a reversal of Saco's decision to extend its season.

"We're trying to stay positive," Montoya said. "We're hopeful. It's a really weird position to be in but I expect they'll make their decision soon, perhaps as early as this morning."

Under CIF bylaws, the panel can take up to 15 business days to render a decision, but Montoya said it was a good sign that they were still pondering the matter Friday night.

Placer (3-7, 2-4) made its case to the three-member panel Thursday morning in Lodi.
If the appeal panel rules in Placer's favor, forfeit losses to Mesa Verde and El Dorado in league and Rosemont in nonleague would revert back to wins and Placer would have a record of 6-4 and 4-2.

The Hillmen then would go into the playoffs as the Pioneer Valley League's No. 3 seed ahead of Colfax (6-4, 3-3).

"I'm just pleased with the kids," Montoya said. "They've shown a lot of character through this. They continued to battle and win games."

After the forfeit ruling, Placer lost to No. 2 PVL seed Bear River before beating Lincoln and Colfax. Whitney was a tough challenge, though, as the Wildcats completed a 10-0 regular season.

"We made six turnovers and Whitney played well," Montoya said. "Give Whitney the credit. They made the plays when they had to."

Zack Graves rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries to lead the Wildcats to their second league title and first outright in three seasons as a varsity program.

November 15, 2008
No. 11 Folsom pulls out 35-32 win over upset-minded Sheldon

It may have been a tough game to coach but the fans had to love Folsom's dramatic 35-32 come-from-behind win over visiting Sheldon on Friday.

"It was a pretty exciting game," Folsom coach Kris Richardson admitted. "I was an emotional wreck. My wife was in the parking lot. She couldn't stand to watch."

Sheldon (3-7, 2-3) looked like it was headed for an upset and the No. 3 playoff berth in the Delta River League as they held a four-point lead and were inside the Bulldogs' 25-yard with a little more than two minutes to play.

But Folsom held on fourth down and three - "I think they got 2 1/2 yards," Richardson said - and Folsom took over on its own 19 with about two minutes to play.

It didn't take Folsom long to score as Zach MacArthur grabbed a screen pass from David Graves and turned it into a 33-yard touchdown with 1:11 remaining.

MacArthur, who had an earlier touchdown catch from Graves, then intercepted a Sheldon pass to end the Huskies' season.

MacArthur, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior, had replaced sophomore star Tyler Trosin, who suffered a mild concussion just before halftime.

"He came in and was clutch," Richardson said of MacArthur.

Nevada-bound Graves had another amazing performance as he completed 22 of 30 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for two touchdowns, giving him a combined 45 touchdowns for the season. Andrew Benavides caught six passes for 126 yards to go over 1,000 yards for the season.

Folsom needed every big play because coach Ed Lombardi's Huskies made several of their own, including 80- and 47-yard touchdown runs by Burnis Chambers and Mike Corcoran's fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Huskies up 32-28 midway in the final period.

Corcoran's score was the result of a Jesse Prunty interception that he fumbled when Graves ran him down and jarred the ball loose at about the 10.

Although his Bulldogs have allowed 67 points the last two weeks, Richardson still thinks they have a shot at defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Napa (9-1, 5-0) on Friday in the opening round of the playoffs. The Indians won the Monticello Empire League for the second straight season.

"We like our chances," Richardson said of the Bulldogs, who finished second to Pleasant Grove in league play. "The thing about our defense is that we got the stops when we needed them. We put our foot down when we had to.
"I think with our offense, we can beat anyone."

November 14, 2008
Sac, Rocklin among ESPN's top 20 West Region boys basketball teams

Sacramento (30-4 last season) is No. 14 and Rocklin (30-3) No. 20 in the West Region Top 20 preseason boys basketball rankings.

The Dragons won the CIF NorCal Division III title last season, and Rocklin is the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion.

Defending D-II state champion Mater Dei (35-1) of Santa Anta is the top-ranked West Region team and Findlay Prep (32-1) of Henderson, Nev., is No. 2.

Other Northern California teams ranked are No. 4 De La Salle (28-4) of Concord; No. 10 McClymonds (32-0) of Oakland; and No. 19 Modesto Christian (29-5).

Teams from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming are eligible for the West Region rankings.

November 14, 2008
Injuries take toll on El Dorado football playoff prospects

What started as a promising season is ending among crutches, gauze and bandages for the El Dorado High School football team.

The Cougars (4-5, 2-3) are at No. 14 Bear River (7-2, 4-1) tonight and still have a chance to make the postseason. But it would take too many scenarios for Cougars coach Rick Redding to believe it can realistically happen.

Last Friday's 42-21 loss to Mesa Verde was a back breaker.

"We've just had a lot of season-ending injuries in crucial positions," El Dorado coach Rick Redding said. "We've been moving guys around."

Quarterback Joe Earnshaw was lost to a separated throwing shoulder; running back-linebacker Jordan Williams broke his right leg, which included a severed tendon - "it's one of the worst football-related injuries I've seen," Redding said; and sophomore running back A.J. Darr injured his shoulder.

Several other players were banged up and another key running back is unlikely to play tonight for disciplinary reasons.

"Whatever could go wrong, seemed to go wrong this season," Redding said.

November 13, 2008
Grant-Burbank showdown could be next great rivalry

It has all the makings of the region's next really good rivalry, and here's hoping it becomes just that.

Grant-Burbank can be really good for area high school football. The teams highlight the Week 10 action to decide the Metro Conference championship for the second year in a row. Both outfits are entertaining, athletic, never boring. Worth the price of admission.

The Pacers we all know about. It's a tradition-laden program, particularly in the Mike Alberghini era that started in 1991.

Grant has produced some of the most entertaining and dominant teams in regional history, including the 1992 team that went 12-2 and was led by tailback Robert Dotson and won the program's first Sac-Joaquin Section championship. The 1996 team with Chad Elliott, Donte Stallworth and Onterrio Smith was a fabulous bunch to watch, and they won a section title. The 1999 team, the 2006 team. So many good ones.

Boys grow up in Del Paso Heights yearning to be a Pacer. They play youth football games at Grant Stadium. Alberghini winds up coaching players whose dad played before them, or their uncles, or cousins, or brothers.

Football is a real source of community pride. A win over Burbank is three-fold. It awards the Pacers another league banner to go with the stacks of achievements from previous seasons. It caps a 10-0 regular season after an injury-riddled 7-4 season in 2007. And it solidifies that the Pacers are indeed the No. 1 ranked team in town - again.

Meanwhile, Burbank has had major ups and downs over the years. Last year's triumph of Grant in a Week 10 showdown crowned the Titans Metro champs for the first time in 40 seasons. With Miles Freeman leading the 27-21 victory over the then No. 2 Pacers, memories were made. Players dropped to their knees in tears.

"It was a memory of a lifetime,'' Burbank coach John Heffernan said.

There will be more of the same tonight. But for who? Grant or Burbank. The best thing about the good rivalries is you never know going in.

November 13, 2008
Volleyball second round: St. Francis wins ugly, top seeds all rolling

It wasn't pretty, but St. Francis was able to pull off a sweep of Yuba City in a second round Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II playoff match on Tuesday night, 3-0 (27-25, 25-18, 25-23).

"We played out of sorts and made a lot of careless mistakes tonight," Troubadours coach Alynn Wright said. "But part of being a good team is being able to win even when you're not playing particularly well."

In all, St. Francis committed 34 unforced errors to the Honkers' 19. Yuba City played the cleaner match, but couldn't put down kills consistently and had no answer for Kasey Clark, who led all players with 13 kills.

"They hit what we gave them and we couldn't dig them out," Honkers coach Brandon Walters said.

Clark had repeated success hitting where the Honkers weren't, which was frustrating for Yuba City's back row defenders.

"It was challenging," Honkers outside hitter Danielle Holmes said. "Every time my coach would tell me to pinch more toward the line, she'd hit angle, if I scooted in, she'd hit line."

Said Clark: "We work on that in practice a lot. We have different names for where we want to hit the ball, I listen for my teammates to call it out, and I try to hit there."

The Troubadours trailed 15-9 in the first set but Clark got them their first lead with a five-point service run to push the score to 19-17. After the Honkers forced a set point Clark delivered three straight kills to give St. Francis the upper hand. Two points later Zoe Nightengale ended the set with kill up the middle.

The Troubadours again had to claw back in the third set, facing a 12-5 deficit. This time it was Nightengale who spurred the comeback with four of her nine kills coming between that score and the final.

After the match Wright asked Nightengale if she noticed a difference in her play once she "turned the switch." Nightengale nodded in approval and walked off. As her young apprentice walked out of the gym Wright said: "It's scary that she doesn't even know how good she is sometimes."

- In other D-II action Rocklin faced a similar problem to St. Francis: Lower seed comes into favored team's gym and threatens to steal a win. The Thunder trailed Benicia 24-20 in the first set at which point coach Dave Muscarella called a timeout.

"I just wanted to stress the importance of tough serving," he said.

Lori Yokomizo listened. The senior setter served out six-straight points to win the first set for Rocklin. The Thunder went on to sweep Benicia.

"We've done a nice job of not getting rattled all year," Muscarella said. "It was good to see that kind of composure in a playoff match now too."

The third-seeded Thunder will host St. Francis in a semifinal this Tuesday.

- Top-seeded Oak Ridge continued to roll, sweeping No. 9 seed Pleasant Grove 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 25-16).

"We haven't peaked yet," Trojans coach Becky Potter said. "We keep getting better every match."

Click to view the updated D-II bracket

Division I
Click to view the updated bracket

Top-seeded Nevada Union is looking every bit like the six-time defending section champion it is, as the Miners toppled Rodriguez, 3-0 (25-7, 25-13, 25-16).

Mallory Castles paced the Miners with 10 kills while Kendal Butterfield dished out 33 assists. Alexis Moser led Nevada Union with 25 digs.

"Alex wasn't letting anything hit the floor tonight," Miners coach Chrys Dudek said.

- Fifth-seeded Modesto rolled into Davis and handed the No. 4-seeded Blue Devils a tough loss 3-2, (25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-9).

Division III
Click to view the updated bracket

Seventh-seeded Del Oro swept No. 2 seed Pioneer behind strong play from middle blocker Jamie Russell, who led all players with 10 kills.

"Once we established the middle Jamie took over and made a huge difference for us," Golden Eagles coach Stuart Kageta said.

Del Oro did trailed 22-17 in the first game before mounting a huge run and ultimately take the first set 29-27. Emily Mattevi, who had nine kills, ended the set with one of her six aces of the night. Jess Lehner had 39 assists for the Golden Eagles.

"I thought we took care of business," Kageta said. "Even if we didn't play our best match."

Del Oro will play third-seeded Oakdale in a D-III semifinal on Tuesday.

- Fifth-seeded Placer downed host and No. 4 seed Sonora, 3-1 (26-24, 25-12, 21-25, 25-21).

Placer will travel to Stockton on Tuesday to play Top-seeded St. Mary's which defeated Union Mine.

Division IV
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 3 seed Christian Brothers downed No. 6 Linden 3-1, (20-25, 25-9, 25-12, 25-14). The Falcons had outside hitter Erika Cuevas back for her second match after missing three weeks with a right shoulder injury.

"The team is starting to jell," Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter said. "We have all our pieces back now and we're ready to go."

Division V
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 5 seed Bradshaw Christian hosted No. 4 seed Wilton Christian despite being the lower seed and reaped the benefits, winning 3-1 (25-18, 24-26, 25-18, 25-21).

November 13, 2008
I stand by the statement: Casa has to get it done; OR gets props

Some disagreed with a previous blog that said Casa Roble's regular-season success was meaningless if it didn't get out of first round of the D-III Section playoffs. I stand behind that statement.

In fact, the statement has more validity now that the Rams are ranked No. 1 in the State Championship Bowl Games Division II North rankings. It would be a huge disappointment if the Rams didn't win the D-III Section title especially after being so dominant in the regular season and featured in Cal-Hi as one of the state's best stories of the season. It would be downright terrible if they got ousted in the first round.

I think Folsom losing a game in the regular season is more beneficial than in the playoffs for obvious reasons. The Bulldogs have a chance to regroup and make adjustments.

Losing to Pleasant Grove in a close game could serve as a good lesson for the Bulldogs going into the playoffs. Maybe winning games by large margins made the Bulldogs lose some of their competitive edge. The loss to PG not only makes them humble but also hungry to prove their regular-season success was not a fluke.

Speaking of Pleasant Grove: More teams will look to the Eagles as examples on how to beat Folsom. Their ball-control offense, led by running back Michael Matkins' 209-yard rushing performance, chewed up time on the clock and kept talented Bulldogs quarterback David Graves and his offense off the field more than they liked. In other words, PG's style of play resembled kryptonite to Folsom.

Lots of credit must go to Oak Ridge for not folding up after dropping its first four games. The Trojans have won five straight and have a shot of locking up the Sierra Valley Conference title with a victory over Ponderosa on Friday. Trojans coach Eric Cavaliere probably won't win Coach of the Year honors, but he is worthy of consideration for the award.

November 13, 2008
1964 Mira Loma-El Camino rivalry game among Dimino's favorites

Ask Jim Dimino what his favorite game was in the fierce Mira Loma-El Camino rivalry and his enclyopedic mind quickly recycles back to 1964.

The game was played in front of a huge crowd, Dimino estimates somewhere between 6,000 to 8,000, at El Camino High School.

"Portable bleachers were brought in and there were long lines to the ticket office at 3 o'clock," Dimino recalls.

The former El Camino coach, working then as an assistant to Hal Athon, said the Eagles trailed 6-0 with one minute, 10 seconds to play.

Then just like that it was 7-6 as the Eagles would prevail over Matadors and their crafty coach Don Brown.

El Camino's winning play: A pass from halfback Eric French to quarterback Jimmy Olson to wide receiver Terry Kline. Terry Schick made the deciding PAT kick.

"It was a very, very intense rivalry because we often were playing for the league title," Dimino said. "But the great thing about it was, through all the rallies and all the student bodies, there were no ugly incidents."

FAMILY TIES - Although Jim Dimino loved to beat Brown and the Matadors, Jim's son Mike, now the coach at Del Campo, played in the mid-1970s for Brown.

"He grew up with a great group of guys and they went to Mira Loma," Jim Dimino said. "I felt he was in good hands with Don Brown."

CHANGES - Mira Loma has had only two winning seasons since the mid-1980s but Mike Dimino remembers the better times.

"Don Brown has to have one of the top winning percentages in the area," he said. "It was a great program."

One of Mike Dimino's teammates, Terry Stark, briefly revived the Matadors in the early 1990s.

Thanks to an influx of Natomas-area players at the time - there was a delay at the time in getting Natomas High School built - the Matadors went 7-3 in 1995 and 9-2 in 1996.

But Stark left to work as an assistant for a season at El Camino before taking the football job at Natomas High. He then moved over to Inderkum, where his Tigers are one of the section's top D-III programs.

The season after Stark left, Mira Loma went 1-8 in 1997. The Matadors haven't had better than a three-win season since.

"When you look at it from a coaching standpoint it may be that the administration has different goals and priorities," Mike Dimino said. "Academics should come first, but of your other top priorities, sports needs to be one of them."

November 13, 2008
Casa's 'Thor' has a soft spot

Teammates call him 'Thor' - a Norse warrior name meaning thunder - for good reason.

Opposing running backs that cross the path Casa Roble defensive end/linebacker Dillon Markau can attest to the validity of that moniker. Markau - who goes 6-foot, 210 pounds - flies all over the field making plays for a stout Rams defense that is allowing just 11 points per game this season and pitched a shutout over bitter rival Del Campo last Friday.

But for all the ferocity Markau shows on the football field, he does have a soft spot: his great grandmother Frankie Richardson, who is 92. Richardson is at every game her great grandson plays in but because of deteriorating eye sight, it's hard to make out Markau's No. 45. However, neither can anyone else.

That's because, in addition to personal style, Markau elects to wear his blonde hair about two feet long, well down his back obscuring his jersey number to make himself more distinguished for Richardson to see. (See photo below)

bp casa hair.JPG

"I do like having long hair," Markau said. "But mainly its so she can see me."

And the way the Rams are playing, Markau, Richardson, and all Casa backers have a league title and D-III title run in their sights.

November 12, 2008
Rocklin's Lane offers slam dunk speech at UCLA signing

Rocklin High's Brendan Lane is one of the top prep basketball players in the country.

The 6-foot-10 senior forward has proven that through his play for the Thunder, at the highest levels of AAU competition and internationally, a big reason that he received a scholarship offer from collegiate powerhouse UCLA.

Lane also has earned a reputation as one of the most grounded, humble athletes one will meet.

He showed that this afternoon before practice when he delivered a speech at his letter-of-intent signing ceremony in the Rocklin gym.

He thanked and named the numerous youth, club and high school coaches who helped mentor him. He thanked his teammates. He thanked his teachers and administrators at Rocklin "who have prepared me to be a successful student at UCLA."

He thanked his mother, Leila, for "being my No. 1 fan"; father, Steve, for his support and encouragement; and his four siblings - Chelsea, Dylan, Olivia and Cody - for having to put up with "all of my basketball commitments."

In thanking older brother Dylan, a football player at Sacramento State who also played basketball for the Thunder, Brendan noted that Dylan "never let me forget that he made me the basketball player I am."

November 12, 2008
Volleyball first round: Del Oro solid in D-III; Colfax stuns in D-IV

One of the more intriguing match-ups, at least on paper, in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Volleyball playoffs was the 7-10 between host Del Oro and El Dorado.

In reality, it wasn't much of a contest. Del Oro rode the arms of Emily Mattevi, Rachel Vetterlein and Jamie Russell and beautifully set match by the crafty Jess Lehner to a sweep of the Cougars, 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-21). Mattevi, Vetterlein and Russell had five kills apiece while Lehner dished out 23 assists. In addition, Russell served for 15 points including five aces.

The Golden Eagles found themselves down 7-5 early in the first set after a series of errors, but were able to right the ship behind Russell who had four of her five kills in the set. Del Oro won despite missing five serves and allowing two El Dorado aces.

"We played tight in the first game, I was happy were able to take it," Del Oro coach Stu Kageta said. "Once we relaxed and started to pass the ball, they couldn't stop our offense."

Del Oro did not trail the rest of the match after gaining a 10-9 lead in the first set. Improved passing allowed Lehner to open up the offense as the crafty senior made a wide array of sets that kept El Dorado off balance.

"Passing was really key tonight," Lehner said. "That makes our offense run so much better. We were able to run our middles all over the court."

Improved serving in the second and third sets also took the Cougars out of their offense and did not allow them to use their most explosive weapon, dynamic senior Cora Harms. Harms did lead all players with seven kills but Del Oro's middle blockers were able to keep her and the rest of the El Dorado hitters in check when the scores got close.

"Del Oro is very, very strong in the middle and we don't see that a lot in the PVL," El Dorado coach Lisa Boyle said. "We just weren't able to consistently put it together."

Added Russell: "We like to come out strong and establish a force in the middle. It throws teams off and makes them struggle. That's our goal."

Click to view the updated D-III bracket

Division I
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 10 seed Folsom pulled off a moderate upset at No. 7 seed Chavez, winning in five sets.

"We've been in this situation - on the road in the playoffs before," Bulldogs coach Cinnamon Da Silva said. "When things got tough we were able to stay composed."

Top-seeded and six-time reigning champion Nevada Union had no problem with Franklin, sweeping the 16th-seeded Wildcats.

No. 4 seed Davis needed five sets to down Tokay.

Division II
Click to view the updated bracket

No. 12-seeded Rio Americano nearly pulled off a huge upset in forcing No. 5 seed Buhach Colony to five sets before falling to the Thunder 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 13-25, 25-17, 15-12. Junior right side hitter Rachel Vartanian had 25 kills for the Raiders.

"I'm really proud of my team and I look forward to what we can do next year," Raiders coach John Grix said.

Top-seeded Oak Ridge used a dose of Special-K to sweep Will C. Wood behind nine kills apiece from Kayla Berringer, Kaleigh Durket and Katie Vaughn.

No. 2 seed Rocklin, No. 3 seed St. Francis and No. 4 seed Bella Vista all also won in sweeps.

Division IV
Click to view the updated bracket

Colfax pulled the biggest stunner of the night as the No. 13-seeded Falcons went into Garden Valley and handed Golden Sierra a three-set loss 25-23, 25-23, 25-19. Golden Sierra has reached the semifinals in D-IV each year since 1999. The Falcons avenged a second-round loss to the Grizzlies from last year's playoffs when once again they won a first round match as a lower seed as they were seeded 12th in 2007.

Two-time defending champion and third-seeded Christian Brothers swept Calaveras.

Division V
Click to view the updated bracket

November 11, 2008
Prep volleyball playoff primer

The preseason tournaments are in the books, the thrilling nonleague matches are done and league play has concluded. The playoffs are finally upon us. Here's a look at the brackets and a forecast for the next two weeks.

Division I
Click here to view the bracket
Who should win: No. 1 seed Nevada Union (28-7). The Miners, who didn't win their league for the first time this decade, seek an unprecedented seventh consecutive Div. I title, which would top St. Mary's-Stockton's run of six straight in the early 1990s. In its current run Nevada Union has not dropped a set in championship matches.
Who could win: No. 4 seed Davis (22-10). If Leigh Whitmire's bunch is going to make its third straight trip to the championship match it will have to go through Nevada Union in the semifinals. The Blue Devils lost two matches to the Miners at the Super 8 last month but that was with Molly Pon just recently inserted to the setting role which she has transitioned into more smoothly as of late.
Dark horse: No. 2 seed Napa.

Division II
Click here to view the bracket
Who should win: No. 1 seed Oak Ridge (35-3). The Trojans carry The Bee's No. 1 ranking, the Sierra Valley Conference championship and incredible momentum into section playoffs. Led by senior right side Kaleigh Durket, Oak Ridge has not dropped a set since an Oct. 2 win over then-No. 1 Christian Brothers, looks to claim its third Section championship.
Who could win: No. 2 seed Rocklin (29-3-1). This is more of a toss-up. The Thunder has beaten Oak Ridge in El Dorado Hills this season and carry similar momentum into the section tournament, with their only loss in a non-tournament match to Nevada Union in the SFL finale last Wednesday.
Dark horses: No. 3 seed St. Francis, No. 11 seed Granite Bay.

Division III
Click here to view the bracket
Who should win: No. 1 seed St. Mary's-Stockton (25-5). The Rams can tie Linden and Ripon Christian for the most overall Section titles with a third straight D-III title.
Who could win: No. 8 seed Union Mine (12-11). Don't let the seeding fool you, the Diamondbacks are for real. Due to the fact that they play in a league with Oak Ridge, Christian Brothers and Ponderosa, their league winning percentage was low and with a mathematical formula deriving the seeds, they end up with the eight. Should UM prevail in a second-round bout with St. Mary's they would become the presumptive favorite. The Diamondbacks lost a three-set match to St. Mary's at the Super 8 but were without four players and coach Mike Yates was not able to speak at all that day due to laryngitis.
Dark horses: No. 7 seed Del Oro, No. 5 seed Placer.

Division IV
Click here to view the bracket
Who should win: No. 3 seed Christian Brothers (23-6). The Falcons have been snake-bit with injuries to setter Kelly Pelz, who missed the middle part of the season with an elbow injury, and outside hitter Erica Cuevas, who has missed the last three weeks with injury to her right (swinging) shoulder. CBS will have get through at least the first two rounds without Cuevas but she could return for the semifinals and finals.
Who could win: No. 1 seed Ripon (39-4). The Indians and the Falcons appear to be on a collision course for the third straight season. CBS has the upper hand with victories in the past two D-IV title matches and a thrilling come-from-behind five set victory in Ripon earlier this season, but seniors Kirsten Duren and Jenna Dunkel will be motivated to cap their stellar careers with a Section crown.
Dark horses: No. 4 seed Golden Sierra, No. 9 seed Loretto.

Division V

Click here to view the bracket
Who should win: No. 1 seed Woodland Christian (20-8). The Cardinals last won the championship in 2005, which came at the end of three-year run of making the title match.
Who could win: No. 7 seed Ripon Christian (15-14). Though enduring a lean year by their standards, the Knights are still certainly capable. Ripon Christian and Linden are the most decorated volleyball programs in terms of Section titles, as each hold 11.
Dark horses: No. 4 seed Wilton Christian, No. 14 seed Sacramento Country Day.

November 9, 2008
Prep Stars: Whitney's Graves scores five touchdowns

Here are more Week 9 prep stars:

• Zach Graves rushed for 148 yards and five touchdowns in Whitney's 49-9 win over Golden Sierra.

• Cameron Mikell returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and also rushed for two touchdowns; Josh Guy had two interceptions and Josh Fields had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery in Rio Linda's 29-6 win over Foothill.

• Keenen Williams rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns in Laguna Creek's 49-0 win over Valley.

• Troy Samas scored four touchdowns in Bella Vista's 37-20 win over Mira Loma.

• Cameron Ryan rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and Conor Maloney booted field goals of 31, 29 and 24 yards in Nevada Union's 16-10 win over Elk Grove.

• Durrel Buchanan caught 7 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Noall had three catches for 50 yards, an interception and a 25-yard field goal in Yuba City's 22-20 win over Pioneer.

• Michael Hendrix rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown and Jeff Anderson completed 8 of 12 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in Dixon's 41-7 win over West Campus.

• Mardell Johnson completed 6 of 10 passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and Dominic Amey rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in Rio Americano's 45-14 win over El Camino.

• Marcus McDaniel returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Michael Lahey and also ran for a 30-yard touchdown to lead Christian Brothers past Cordova 44-3.

• Miles Freeman rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries and also threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Terence Mitchell, who also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and an interception 45 yards for a score; Antoine Stocker scored on a 48-yard run and returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown; and David Gray rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in Burbank's 59-7 win over Hiram Johnson.

November 8, 2008
How The Bee's top 20 football teams fared and what it means

Unlike Week 8 when upsets were the theme of the day for the Top 20, particularly the Top 5, pretty much all went as planned in Week 9. There was just one significant upset - No. 15 Pleasant Grove outlasting No. 3 Folsom 35-33.

Here's a closer look at the top 20 and what it means to this point. The Bee's new poll will be released Tuesday. Feel free to offer your own Top 10, Top 15 or Top 20, or matchups you'd love to see, regardless of division.

1. Grant (9-0)
The Pacers blasted McClatchy 89-0 in revving up for the Metro League showdown Friday against Burbank, the very team that toppled them last season for the Metro title. Revenge is paramount, and the Pacers always perform well under such situations. Devantae Booker rushed for 216 yards and five touchdowns in 12 carries against the Lions and the defense is fast, furious and physical.

2. Casa Roble (9-0)
The Rams are closing in on a back-to-back 10-0 regular season and another Capital Athletic League championship after belting rival and No. 12 Del Campo 35-0. The spread offense continues to mow through all comers, and coach Norm Ryan was so confident that his bunch could move the ball that he went for it on fourth down on his own 10-yard line in the first quarter. How can you not admire that? The Rams, it turns out, are making statements at every stop. Linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker has had a remarkable season.

3. Folsom (8-1)
Pleasant Grove showed the only real effective way to keep up with the fast-track Bulldogs: Ball control, superb offensive-line play and turnover-free football. Folsom wasn't able to secure its first league title since 1990 as the Delta River League crown will remain with the Eagles, but the Bulldogs are a frightening team to have to deal with in the playoffs. David Graves is a spectacular quarterback, but Folsom has to find a way to stop the run from here on out or the playoffs will be a brief outing.

4. Laguna Creek (7-2)
By beating Valley 49-0, the Cardinals inched closer to an unbeaten run through the Delta Valley League, and they showed no let up after toppling Nevada Union 13-7 in Week 8 in the mud. Keenen Williams is as shifty and fast as any back in the region, and the defensive front seven is without peer. It's no wonder coach Mark Nill is beaming these days.

5. Whitney (9-0)
The Wildcats throttled Golden Sierra 49-9 and now prepare for dangerous Placer with a chance to secure a perfect regular season and an outright Pioneer Valley League banner. Superb offensive line play under assistant coach Tom Price has keyed the charge, and Zack Graves has had a great season running the ball.

6. Roseville (7-2)
The Tigers held off dangerous upstart rival Woodcreek 14-6 to all but clinch the Sierra Foothill League title outright. Was this a letdown after the stirring victory over then No. 1 Granite Bay, or was the final score more indicative of how good Woodcreek has become. It's a credit to the Timberwolves, and how strong the SFL still is. Mike Moreno continues to wow all comers at quarterback for the Tigers, and he even played some strong defense.

7. Granite Bay (8-1)
The Grizzlies sat nine players for disciplinary reasons, and aren't we seeing quite a bit of this from teams across the region this season? The benched players watched as reserves led the way in a 45-6 rout of Oakmont. Should be a solid lesson here. If you want to violate team rules, there are a host of others on the team who'd be glad to take your spot. Next up: Woodcreek.

8. Inderkum (8-1)
The Tigers beat Woodland 30-14 to all but lock up the Tri-County Conference with more of the same: Offensive fireworks with quarterback Demetrius Williams and Rashad Adams and a stout defense for coach Terry Stark, whose team also seeks a Division III championship, meaning a possible showdown with Casa Roble.

9. Nevada Union (8-1)
The Miners rallied from a 10-3 halftime deficit at home to down No. 19 Elk Grove 16-10, as an NU loss would have made Week 10 all the more interesting in the Delta Valley Conference's second playoff spot. Yes, the Miners have slowed a bit offensively in recent weeks, a credit to the recent opponents, but the defense is still superb, and that's what wins in the playoffs.

10. Burbank (7-2)
Played Johnson today. Titans and standout leader Miles Freeman are eager for another shot at Grant as both teams have been scouting each other.

11. Rio Americano (8-1)
Played El Camino today. It's been a remarkable bounce-back season for veteran coach Mike Smith, who has rejoiced in 10-win seasons and 10-loss campaigns. The Raiders have overcome a rash of injuries but have showed tremendous will. They are a lock for the playoffs, but a win over Casa Roble on Friday also means a share of the CAL title, officially making for a banner season. Only loss was a close one to Inderkum.

12. Del Campo (7-2)
The Cougars are about to fall to their knees after a promising start to the season, including wins over Ponderosa and Pleasant Grove, has been stalled due to a number of injuries. The wounded include top player Ryan Dimino. Six starters missed the Casa game due to injuries, and now it comes down to Friday against rival Bella Vista where the winner grabs the CAL's third playoff spot and the loser bids farewell to football season.

13. Christian Brothers (7-2)
Played Cordova today. Remember when Cordova-CBS meant something? In the late 1970s, the entire '80s and early in the '90s, this was often the showdown of the season. No more, though CBS has had a good season behind a strong running game headed by Josh Tucker, who also plays superb defense and makes plays of special teams. The Falcons are eying the second playoff spot in the Sierra Valley Conference, having lost to front-runner Oak Ridge earlier.

14. Woodcreek (5-4)
Never mind the overall record. The Timberwolves were 0-10 last season, and the playoff march this season is a credit to the players who vowed to make it a season to remember and coach John Hilderbrand. And Woodcreek as a whole is frustrated today, feeling the game against Roseville was theirs for the taking. Playoffs are still there, however.

15. Pleasant Grove (7-2)
The Eagles were masterful in ball control and time of possession in beating Folsom. The offensive line was fabulous, as were backfield mates Michael Madkins, Greg Williams and Jalen Saunders. And all three had good moments in the secondary, which isn't always the case going against David Graves. An up-and-down season for Pleasant Grove is decidedly up again with another Delta River League banner to hang on the gym wall.

16. Ponderosa (6-3)
The Bruins had a bye and now covet a playoff spot in the SVC. Tailback Lyndell Scarr and company have lost to quality teams this season, including Del Campo, Nevada Union and CBS.

17. Bear River (7-2)
In beating Lincoln 44-13, the Bruins continue to pile on the points and play sound defense. Only glitch recently was to Whitney, and there is no shame in that. A rematch in the playoffs would please Bear River greatly.

18. Oak Ridge (5-4)
Remember when the Trojans were spinning after an 0-4 start? Ancient history, and the surge is a credit to coach Eric Cavaliere, whose bunch is closing in on an unbeaten march in the SVC after downing Galt 28-7.

19. Elk Grove (5-4)
The loss to NU officially doused any long-shot chance for the Thundering Herd to return to the postseason, though it was a gritty effort in Grass Valley against a team that has steamed everyone at Hooper Stadium this season. Brooke Brooks has produced a fine season for the Herd in the backfield.

20. Dixon (7-2)
The Rams are relevant again in Solano County after some down seasons, a credit to coach Scott Winslow, whose team clinched its first Capital Valley Conference title. Another game ball goes to the offensive line and running back Michael Hendrix. Dixon beat an athletic West Campus team 41-7.

November 8, 2008
Sac High girls volleyball playoff bound

When you think of girls sports at Sacramento High School, many consider the stellar girls basketball team that is traditionally one of the top teams in the state.

But there is a good reason to give attention to the girls volleyball program. The 13th-seeded Dragons will play fourth-seeded Sonora in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first-round match Monday.

For those just tuning into the Dragons world, this is big.

The Dragons qualified for the playoffs for the first time in I-don't-know when. Neither does anybody at the school. Dragon's coach Justin Gatlin called everybody he knows and no one was able to give him an answer.

The only thing certain is that the team has improved since Gatlin took over the program in 2004.

The Dragons finished 4-18 in 2004, 7-14 in 2005, 4-10 in 2006, 5-15 in 2007 and 10-9 overall and 7-3 in the Metro League this season.

The Dragons are not big team. But they play solid team defense and play together.

So if you're looking for a team to cheer for in the upcoming volleyball playoffs, root for the Lady Dragons. Underdogs should be celebrated and the Dragons are the epitome.

November 8, 2008
Fast start, disappointing finish for Elk Grove in Grass Valley

For a brief moment, Elk Grove first-year coach and 1984 Nevada Union graduate Chris Nixon had to be feeling pretty good about his return to Grass Valley Friday night.

On the game's third play, the Thundering Herd's Brooke Brooks went 66 yards for a touchdown in helping stake Elk Grove to a 10-3 halftime lead.

But it was all NU in the second half as the No. 9 Miners prevailed 16-10.

It's been a tough inaugural for Nixon, especially after the Thundering Herd's impressive 4-0 start. Elk Grove now has dropped four of its last five and will be a rare postseason observer.

• Capital Christian kicker Brandon Greenly, who had life-saving surgery after his spleen was ruptured in an Oct. 31 game at Marysville, didn't leave Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville as planned Friday.

Cougars coach Karl Zierhut said Greenly was still having some stomach discomfort but might be released as early as today.

Zierhut also held out star wide receiver Spencer Hagan during Friday's 20-12 loss to Lindhurst. Hagan suffered a concussion in the Marysville game.

Barring a change in condition, Zierhut expects Hagan to play in the regular-season finale against Golden Sierra.

• You have to hand it to the Placer football team.

After having to forfeit two critical Pioneer Valley League contests and a nonleague game because of what amounted to a paperwork snafu involving a transfer student, a lot of teams might have mailed in the rest of the season.

Instead, the Hillmen have won two straight, including a huge victory on the road against rival Colfax 34-28 last night.

Up next for Placer: Unbeaten Whitney.

• Can Monterey Trail reach the postseason with a 3-7 record?

It's possible after the Mustangs topped Jesuit 20-7.

If Monterey Trail can beat Florin; Jesuit loses to Pleasant Grove; and Folsom beats Sheldon on Friday, the Mustangs would wind up in a three-way tie with Marauders and Huskies for the Delta River League's No. 3 seed with a 2-3 record. They would advance to the postseason using the section's 13-point tiebreaker system.

Monterey Trail was 1-7 coming into the Jesuit game.

November 7, 2008
Emotional night for Woodcreek football

Woodcreek has emerged as one of the feel-good football stories of the year.

Winless in 2007, the Timberwolves are bound for the playoffs after a spirited season of revival, a credit to coach John Hilderbrand and a band of players who were motivated by last year's frustrations. Tonight, Woodcreek plays rival Roseville for city bragging rights and a shot at the Sierra Foothill League championship.

But the emotions will be there before the first tackle. Before the game, there will be a moment of silence as the Timberwolves and their community remember one of their own. Chris Helmer, a junior varsity player in 2007, died Sunday evening from injuries he suffered in a July auto accident. He was broadsided near the Galleria Mall.

Helmer was in the back seat. Neither driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and everyone was wearing seatbelts, making it all the more tragic.

His service will be Saturday with a reception to follow at the school cafeteria.

November 7, 2008
Coaches dilemma every year, every sport: suspensions

Coaches are confronted with this dilemma every season, in every sport: Policing the action of their own student athletes.

Teenagers are every bit full of ambition, and sometimes mischief, too. Coaches want to run good programs, need to run quality outfits. But every coach expects players to adhere to rules.

If they don't? The good coaches - the quality ones who understand the value of accountability - make the player sit. Nothing stings an athlete more than having to miss a game.

It can be difficult to come to such a decision, because sometimes the mistake of a few costs the rest of the team. It can be emotional. But rules are rules.

On Friday, Granite Bay football coach Ernie Cooper confirmed that he would sit nine varsity players for tonight's Sierra Foothill League game against Oakmont for violating team rules. None of the students was suspended from school or jailed, but Cooper said he and his coaching staff decided punishment was indeed in order.

And another thing about suspensions. Rumors fly. The word suspension comes out and we get flooded with e-mails that the players must have been involved with theft, assault, drunken driving, etc.

"They're all great kids and good students but they broke a team rule,'' Cooper said.

It happens all over the region, from city schools, to those in the hills. Sometimes we only hear about it when suspensions include ranked teams, like Granite Bay, which owned The Bee's No. 1 ranking for eight weeks before losing to rival Roseville on Friday.

And it's not just a boys issue, either, where common sense goes to the gutter and rules are broken.

The Bear River girls basketball team - the most storied girls program in the section - had to terminate the 2007-08 season after 10 of the team's 11 players violated the school's student-athlete code. It broke the heart of Bear River athletic director Duwaine Ganskie, the former coach who steered the program to greatness. But rules are rules.

Ganskie said last season, "It's a tough decision. But we're required as administrators to follow the code like the players. We're not here to punish the kids. We're here to educate the student-athletes to be good citizens, and adhering to our policies is part of the process."

He speaks truth. So does Cooper.

November 7, 2008
Junior quarterback is a quick study for Capital Christian

One of the bigger surprises this season is how well James Lee has adapted as Capital Christian's new quarterback.

He had huge shoes to fill in replacing Bee All-Metro first teamer Kramer Hagan, now at Portland State.

But Cougars coach Karl Zierhut has been impressed with the maturation of the 6-foot-2, 170-pound junior.

Entering tonight's critical Golden Empire League game against visiting Lindhurst, Lee has passed for 2,107 yards and 25 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He has an impressive 113 quarterback rating.

"He has been a pleasant surprise," Zierhut said. "He was our JV quarterback the year before but we weren't sure how he'd handle the speed of the defenders and the increased mental load at the varsity level.

"But he has shown he has ice in his veins."

Lee will be put to the test tonight.

Lindhurst is the two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champion, having edged the Cougars 26-25 in last year's title game.

November 6, 2008
Casa Roble moves to top of NorCal state bowl rankings

On the eve of its Capital Athletic League showdown game at Del Campo Friday, Casa Roble has moved to the top of's Northern California Division II state bowl rankings.

The Rams, who have been in the No. 2 spot in the unofficial rankings, moved to No. 1 after Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco defeated Valley Christian of San Jose 28-24 last week in a West Catholic Athletic League game.

The loss, the second of the season for Valley Christian, dropped it to third behind the 8-0 Rams and No. 2 St. Mary's of Stockton, which is 6-2.

But as Cal-Hi's Mark Tennis is quick to point out, even should the Rams go unbeaten this season, they may not get the nod when the California Interscholastic Federation section commissioners vote for the teams in December.

"The Rams also still have a potential strength of schedule problem at the end of the playoffs even if they win the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III title," Tennis wrote. "St. Mary's of Stockton, should it win the SJS Div. I title, or Valley Christian, if it were to bounce back and win a Central Coast Section title, could have the edge in that criteria even with two losses."

Sacramento is well represented in this week's D-II rankings.

Whitney (8-0) is at No. 4 and Inderkum (7-1) is at No. 7 (behind Novato and Campolindo of Moraga).

In Cal-Hi's D-I NorCal rankings, Grant (8-0) is now No. 3 behind De La Salle (7-1) of Concord and Oak Grove (8-0) of San Jose.

Folsom (8-0) moved into the top-10 at No. 10 while Granite Bay (7-1) dropped out.

November 6, 2008
How Rio Linda football star went from weakling to 'Super Man'

Rio Linda High School defensive lineman Josh Fields became only the sixth athlete in school history and the first since 2004 to make Rio Linda's "Super Man Club."

Only those athletes who can lift a combined 1,500 pounds of weight in four lifts - the bench, squat, power clean and dead lift - get the special recognition, which includes a sweat shirt.

When he first enrolled in Mike Morris' weight-lifting class in the spring of 2006, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Fields said he couldn't even lift the bar.

"I think he might be exaggerating a bit," said Morris, also the Knights' football coach. "He may have had poor technique when he first started, but he got better right away."

Fields credits his good buddy, football and basketball teammate Joe Anderson, for turning him from a then 215-pound weakling into probably the strongest student in the school.

"It seemed like everybody on the team could lift more than me," Fields said. "I never thought I'd be able to do what a lot of the guys were lifting."

That included the 6-1, 185-pound Anderson. But Anderson could could tell his days of out-lifting his buddy would be short-lived.

"We just started pushing each other in the weight room every day," Anderson said. "Once he got his form down, you could see how strong he was."

Said Fields: "Joe would push me, encourage me and teach me about things I was doing wrong. Even when I was tired and didn't think I could do it, he'd be there giving me a boost."

Fields, now with the physique of pro athlete, remembers that "I was all skin and bones" as a freshman who didn't play sports and was in and out of trouble.

"Now I've probably gone from being one of the weakest dudes to the strongest dude on the team, if not the school," Fields said. "To me it was a huge sign of success - that something I did right paid off for me in the long run."

November 6, 2008
Concussions are RS--Real Serious

This message is RS--Real Serious. I say this because the health and safety of student-athletes is a real serious issue. Concussions are no joke. As reported in today's Bee, an estimated 300,000 high school football athletes sustain a concussion each year or four per every high school football team in the United States.

Sadly, some have died as a result of Second-Impact Syndrome, two relatively minor head injuries that occur in a short time period. Ask the parents of Jaquan Waller of J.H. High School in North Carolina and Ryne Dougherty of Montclair High School in New Jersey.

Both players died of Second-Impact Syndrome after being cleared by a doctor following an initial concussion.

Obviously, football is a contact sport. So it's impossible to completely stop concussions. Still, it's our responsibility to curtail them. My job as a reporter is to get the information out to the public.

School administrators' responsibility is to make sure student-athletes get immediate access to health care. That's means each school should have a certified athletic trainer available at all times and not just at games on Friday nights.

Coaches need to remember football is just a game and they must make distinctions between a player getting a little shook up from a hard hit and a player sustaining a concussion. Sometimes coaches lose sight of that and put players back on the field too quickly.

Payers are responsible, too. If you experience a serious head injury and ongoing headaches, then let your coach, trainer, parents and doctor know.

Playing at all cost is not smart. Your life is too valuable. We don't want you to risk more serious injury or even death.

Remember, this message is rated RS--Real Serious. I hope we all embrace this message.

November 6, 2008
Rio Americano girls; Davis boys among section water polo favorites

Rio Americano will attempt to capture a seventh consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section girls water polo championship as the Division II playoffs get under way Friday at Woodcreek High School.

The Raiders have beaten both D-I favorites St. Francis and Davis, but veteran coach Rafael Ruano expects a challenge from Granite Bay, a recent sudden-death loser to Davis.

The Raiders have a first-round bye and will play the winner of Friday's Rodriguez vs. Whitney match 1 p.m. Saturday.

Barring an upset, Ruano, a close follower of area water polo, expects the Raiders and Grizzlies to meet in the semifinals on Wednesday at Woodcreek. He expects Loretto and Ponderosa to be the other semifinalists.

In boys D-II, Granite Bay is the two-time defending champion and the favorite - but could be challenged by Ponderosa, led by All-American center Brogan Miller, and Rio Americano.

"This should be the most interesting, and competitive, of the four brackets," Ruano said.

Ruano said Ponderosa lost by one goal and Rio Americano by two to the Grizzlies in nonleague matches.

He expects St. Francis and Davis to meet in the D-I girls section final for the fifth straight year. He said St. Francis has beaten Davis three times this season. Davis edged St. Francis 8-7 in last year's section final.

Ruano says Davis looks like a strong candidate to end Jesuit's two-year reign as boys D-I champions after the Blue Devils twice beat the Marauders during the regular season.

See the complete brackets:

Division 1 Boys Water Polo

Division 2 Boys Water Polo

Division 1 Girls Water Polo

Division 2 Girls Water Polo:

November 6, 2008
Cunha, Roseville Tigers in upswing

For years, the Roseville Tigers were a pretty simple offensive lot.

Nothing fancy. Nothing spectacular.

A quarterback's job was to hand off and observe some smash-mouth running between the tackles, and the ploy annually kept the Tigers among the region's top teams.

These days? A wide-open offensive attack, led by a quarterback who has emerged as a viable Sacramento Bee Player of the Year candidate in Mike Moreno. The senior is every bit Tigers tough as a passer, a runner and a leader. And blame the man on top for the new look: Larry Cunha.

Cunha runs a class program and is admired by his peers as one of the true gentlemen in prep coaching. We tend to agree. His teams play hard. They play with purpose. And that offensive wizardry, coach?

"We've evolving,'' Cunha cracked. "It's an evolution for us...Right now, everything is pretty good."

Really good, in fact.

Winners of six consecutive games, Roseville bounds into Friday's game against upstart Woodcreek as the sudden favorite to claim the Sierra Foothill League championship. The past 10 seasons have been dominated by Granite Bay and Del Oro. It's Roseville's upswing time now, with rumblings that this is the program's best team since the 1990 outfit headed by Tedy Bruschi, listed as the top prep football player in regional history by yours truly in a 2000 story.

November 5, 2008
Casa Roble and Folsom fans: Control your emotion and enthusiasm

Dear Casa Roble and Folsom fans:

Congratulations to Casa Roble and Folsom for a great regular season. Right now, the Rams and Bulldogs are two of the most dominate teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section because of improved defenses and explosive offenses.

Each owns an 8-0 record and has a good chance of finishing the regular season undefeated at 10-0.

But please control your emotion and enthusiasm. Both teams have not done much in the playoffs in prior years. Until you get it done in the postseason, regular-season accomplishments don't matter. Just ask the Chicago Cubs.

If the Division III Rams and Division I Bulldogs are going to truly call this season a success, then a strong showing in the playoffs is a must. They don't have to win a Section title, although that's the ultimate goal, but they must get out of the first round at least.

I think Casa Roble coach Norm Ryan and Folsom coach Kris Richardson would agree. Do you?

November 4, 2008
Gut-check time for NU and GB; Roseville ruins GB-Grant D-II final

I wonder what Nevada Union could have done in its game against Laguna Creek had it been played in better weather and field conditions.

Nevertheless, I predicted NU would not win the Delta Valley League and the loss to LC may have sealed its fate.

NU came up with the big plays in close victories over Ponderosa and Rocklin. However, the Miners couldn't do it in a more meaningful game against LC.

NU will get a chance at redemption in the playoffs. But I wonder if the Miners have what it takes to get the job done. After all, they will likely have to win big-time games on the road. Will they learn from the LC loss or will they fold?

How big was Roseville's upset victory over Granite Bay? Roseville not only ended Granite Bay's 14-game win streak dating to last season, but also put a huge dent in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.

Why? Because the first-place team from the Metro Conference plays host to the second- place team from the Sierra Foothill League.

Most likely, that would pit Granite Bay against Grant. Many were expecting these teams to meet for the D-II championship, including the boys in the Sac-Joaquin Section office.

In fact, had a Grant-Granite Bay title match materialized, the Section planned to move the game from Folsom High School, the D-II title host site since 2004, to UC Davis to accommodate a huge crowds.

The lesson in all of this: Don't anticipate anything in high school football because a team like Roseville will always ruin your feng shui.

Speaking of Roseville. Calling the Tigers' Mike Moreno a quarterback is an understatement. Dude is more than a quarterback. He epitomized the name of our weekly television show "High School Sports Xtra" because all he did was make play after play in the win over Granite Bay.

Not only did he run for a touchdown, he picked Granite Bay's weak secondary a part. He threw for three touchdowns, including the game-winning 57-yard scoring strike to Zack Davis. He also recovered Granite Bay's onside kick to seal the deal with less than 1:30 left.

At 6-foot and 208 pounds, Moreno resembles Florida's quarterback Tim Tebow's style of play. He plays physical, makes good decisions and is the heart and soul of Roseville's team.
Folsom quarterback David Graves may be the favorite to win The Bee's Player of the Year honors, but Moreno is right there.

Will Granite Bay bounce back from the Roseville loss? Last season, they recovered from an embarrassing 33-0 loss to Rocklin and went on to capture the D-II section title. Can they do it again?

The Grizzlies can if they sure up their secondary. Moreno proved it's very, very, weak against the pass. Lets just say it's Gut-check time for the Grizzlies, the Grizzlies secondary and Grizzly Nation.

November 2, 2008
Valley Christian's Parker has big day against Woodland Christian

Here are some more Week 8 Prep Stars:

• Chris Parker rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in Valley Christian's 32-0 win over Woodland Christian.

• Jake Henry had 16 tackles and rushed for two touchdowns in Foresthill's come-from-behind 26-24 win over Delta.

• Tyler Langenberg had 14 tackles in Elk Grove's 19-7 win over Davis.

• Jonathan Wax completed six of seven passes for 119 yards and a touchdown in Woodland's 28-0 win over Natomas.

• Diondre Batson hit K.J. Daniels for a 62-yard touchdown on an option pass and Chris Jackson found Keenen Williams for a 95-yard scoring strike in Laguna Creek's 13-7 win over Nevada Union.

• Alex Silva intercepted two passes, including one he returned 82 yards to set up a touchdown, and Edgar Hernandez made two field goals and six extra point tries in Pioneer's 48-27 win over River Valley.

• James Lee completed 16 of 33 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns and Cody Barsam rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in Capital Christian's 34-21 loss to Marysville. James Chandless rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries for Marysville.

• Jordan Matanane rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Kyle Sundby had two interceptions in Oak Ridge's 28-0 win over Vista del Lago.

• Miles Freeman rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and Anthony Laui had three sacks in Burbank's 32-0 win over McClatchy.

• Travis Snider rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in Jesuit's 14-0 win over Sheldon.

• Clinton Johnson rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries without a fumble and KeiVaugh Barrett had 15 tackles, including six for losses; in Sacramento's 12-0 win over Kennedy.

November 1, 2008
Time for new fields in EGUSD

There's talk of the Elk Grove Unified School District finally putting down some synthetic turf, and to that, we say bravo.

It's about time.

And is it ever needed for a district that is among the state's best in terms of academics, athletics, teachers, administrators, coaches and athletes. It just hasn't been as easy as saying, "go" to obtain new fields, unlike so many other programs in the region. If cash-strapped districts can provide fields at Cordova, Foothill, Grant and Inderkum, then it's just a matter of time before the EGUSD gets on board.

We're told it may happen as soon as next fall.

No one wants to watch a game, or really even participate in one, in which the field is torn to shreds by cleats and piles of players and the conditions are reduced to muck. Laguna Creek slugged its way past Nevada Union on Friday, prevailing 13-7 because the Cardinals were able to keep their footing long enough on two plays that very well might crown them Delta Valley Conference champions.

Diondre Batson hit K.J. Daniels for a 62-yard touchdown on an option pass and Chris Jackson found Keenen Williams for a 95-yard scoring strike and the defense was positively brilliant again in stalling the Miners.

A weathered, beaten field at Hughes Stadium forced the Sac-Joaquin Section to yank the City Championship from the historic Sacramento City College venue several years ago. Elk Grove played host to each of the past two City Championship games but the fields were hardly pristine.

What happens if the rain continues and Laguna Creek reached the City Championship (it shares the same field as Elk Grove)? Would the section be tempted to move that game elsewhere?

November 1, 2008
Rankings take a beating

Ok, take your best shot ranking the Top 10 now (new rankings are released on Tuesday).

It's an upside down mess now, with three top 5 teams losing.

A closer look, and what it means:

1. Granite Bay (7-1)
Lost to No. 13 Roseville 35-34. The upstart Tigers, winners of six straight under coach Larry Cunha and outstanding quarterback Mike Moreno, have the inside track to the Sierra Foothill League title now, and the Grizzlies are left to rub out the welts after a dominating start to the season. Grizzlies and coach Ernie Cooper still have playoff hopes in hand.

2. Grant (8-0)
Pacers had a bye, and that's about the only thing that has slowed them down all season. Grant and coach Mike Alberghini have the makings of another 13-0 season, which would have to include a romp through a strong Division II playoff field.

3. Casa Roble (8-0)
Rams routed Mira Loma 49-7 as Sam Martinez tossed four touchdowns and emerged as the clear front-runner for the Capital Athletic League title. Coach Norm Ryan and company also seek to inflict major damage in the Division III playoffs.

4. Nevada Union (7-1)
Miners fell to No. 9 Laguna Creek 13-7 in the muck at Elk Grove despite a gutty performance by junior quarterback Broughan Jantz and junior linebacker Zach Vallejo. The Delta Valley Conference title is a long shot now, but securing the league's second playoff spot is not for coach Dave Humphers.

5. Del Campo (7-1)
Lost to No. 15 Rio Americano 24-20 despite 191 yards and two scores from Erik Lowe and 138 and one from C.J. Castro in a CAL showdown. What especially hurt was not having standout Ryan Dimino in the lineup. The fullback/linebacker dislocated his shoulder Thursday in practice. All will be good again for coach Mike Dimino - and a healthy Ryan - should the Cougars down Casa Roble on Friday.

No. 6 Whitney (8-0)
A year after stumbling to El Dorado in a shocker that denied the Wildcats a 10-0 regular season, Whitney throttled the Cougars 49-0 as Zack Graves produced another monster effort with 255 yards rushing, three scores and a touchdown pass. He also blocked a punt. The Wildcats and coach Mike Gimenez are a virtual lock to secure the Pioneer Valley League with the goal to secure two home playoff games as the clear Division IV section favorite.

No. 7 Folsom (8-0)
Rain or dry, the Bulldogs and coach Kris Richardson continue to roll all comers. David Graves tossed three touchdowns - he now has 34 total scores on the season - in a 34-12 win over Florin to all but lock up the Delta River League championship. It's ok to start hinting at a 10-0 regular season and a march to the City Championship.

No. 8. Inderkum (7-1)
Beat Yuba City 37-32 as Rashad Adams rushed for three touchdowns. The Tigers and coach Terry Stark are closing in on another Tri-Valley championship with visions of a major run through the Division III playoffs, a field that also includes Casa Roble and Del Campo, coached by Stark's longtime pal Mike Dimino.

No. 9 Laguna Creek (6-2)
There may not be a better defense around than what the Cardinals offer, and it's not likely that there's a better defensive front seven anywhere in the section, a unit headed by Sean Nill, Matt Hambrick and D.J. Hill. That group kept NU in wraps, and might have done so even in pristine, dry conditions. Cardinals and coach Mark Nill have all the trappings of a City Championship group.

No. 10 Burbank (5-2)
Play at McClatchy today, where a win adds more momentum for a Titans group headed by quarterback Miles Freeman and coach John Heffernan. The big game is Week 10 at Grant for the Metro League championship, just like last season (when Burbank won to secure the program's first such title in 40 seasons).

November 1, 2008
Three football unbeatens get more than a scare on Halloween

Seven teams entered Week 8 Friday night with undefeated records.

Only four are still standing.

No. 1 Granite Bay, No. 4 Nevada Union and No. 5 Del Campo all suffered their first losses.

No. 13 Roseville outlasted host Granite Bay 35-34, ending the Grizzlies' 14-game win streak; No. 15 Rio Americano recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to toppled Del Campo 24-20 in Fair Oaks while Nevada Union's Wing-T couldn't get anything going on a muddy Elk Grove High School field in falling 13-7 to No. 9 Laguna Creek. It was the Cardinals' first win in nine tries against the Miners.

But that wasn't the end to Friday's surprises.

For those still harboring some doubts about No. 16 Woodcreek, a team that didn't win a game last year, the Timberwolves answered in a big way by stopping No. 20 Del Oro 24-21 in Loomis, handing the Golden Eagles a hard-to-believe sixth loss this season and keeping them winless in the Sierra Foothill League.

Dixon, a team that hasn't competed for a league title in quite awhile, is now alone atop the Capital Valley Conference standings and has secured its first playoff berth since joining the league after beating Rio Linda 14-6 on the road.

Which leads to this not particularly insightful point: That's why they play the games.

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 or

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