With Grant barreling into the Open Division Game against Long Peach Poly - ranked No. 2 in the country by ESPN - I offer up my view of the top 15 all-time prep teams from the Sacramento region.
And by all means, dig in, offer comments, list your own rankings. And if you whine and fuss that a team deserves to be in there (Burbank10-0 team of 1966, Jesuit's 13-0-1 team of 1995, Valley's 12-1 team of 1995, Ponderosa's state-ranked No. 1 team of 1975 or '77, Oak Ridge, 1999 or 2002?), then suggest what team comes off the list.
A side note: Grant's current team isn't eligible for this list just yet. Its season is still in play.
1. Elk Grove, 1998 (14-0)
The most prolific, explosive and unstoppable team the area has ever known, a bunch that set some all-time national scoring marks. And yes, this team would have fared quite well with De La Salle's '98 team that went 13-0 and won the USA Today national championship. I saw both teams and the matchup was very favorable. Herd Co-coaches Ed Lombardi and Dave Hoskins steamed to the Sac-Joaquin Section title easier than any team in history, blasting a 12-0 loaded Jesuit team in the City Championship before a record crowd of more than 18,000 and then dropping 77 on a fine Atwater team in the finals without running up the score. Key players were Lance Briggs and Ryan Dinwiddie. The offensive line was superb, the defense stingy and the offense so versatile and fun to watch in the wing-T. Elk Grove went 13-1 with the core of this '98 group, uncluding edging a 12-0 Grant team in the City Championship. In '98, the Herd belted Onterrio Smith and a 10-0-1 Grant team 38-8 in the mud in the playoffs and then waxed a 12-0 Jesuit team - maybe that school's best team - 41-7.
The one common opponent for Elk Grove and De La Salle in '98 was Nevada Union. Elk Grove beat the Miners 48-19 and De La Salle downed NU 48-13. The NU coaches said then that Elk Grove and De La Salle were awfully close to call. Food for thought, folks.
2. Cordova, 1975 (11-0)
Lancers were state-ranked No. 1 and were named co-national champions by the National Sports News Service prep poll with Loyola of Los Angeles. Cordova's greatest team among a cast of many legendary Lancer outfits that rate among the region's best. Coach Dewey Guerra and defensive coordinator Ron Lancaster (the man who would lead the Lancers from 1976 to 1980 and went 70-3) had a wishbone attack that featured Max Venable, Scott Jenner and super sophomore Reggie Young. The defense was headed by Jeff Allen and Kenny Bowles. Would this defense contain the Herd crew of '98?
3. Grant, 2006 (13-0)
Maybe Grant's best team? Awfully hard to beat the '96 team, but this could be a better bunch, and coach Mike Alberghini has had a lot of monstrous teams. It was ferocious and fast in every regard, a Division II juggernaut with D-I talent and recruits galore, including Bee Player of the Year Tim Lange and Defensive Player of the Year Christian Tupou and supurb lineman Devan Cunningham. Grant was every bit worthy of the D-I bowl game invite but it went to De La Salle, and the Pacers are still fuming.
4. Cordova , 1985 (14-0)
The best team Max Miller coached, and he coached a lot of talented clubs in becoming the winningest coach in section history. The Lancers finished No. 2 in the state and No. 7 nationally. Troy Taylor was brilliant as a passer, runner and leader. The defense under coordinator Jeff Caton was nasty with John Tregallas snarling and smashing foes. Lancers became the first team in the section to go 14-0.
5. Cordova, 1979 (13-0)
Ron Lancaster, who went on to more coaching excellence in Oklahoma, called this his best Lancers team and he said it could compete with any prep team he's ever seen. Cordova was state-ranked No. 2 at the end of the season and ranked 5th nationally. Blair Abernathy quarterbacked the wishbone and had backs Darryl Curry and Russ Cox to work with. The defense was headed by All-Metro linebackers Kevin Appino and Greg Krajewski as the starters allowed only three touchdowns all season. This group became the section's first team to go 13-0.
6. Nevada Union, 1993 (13-1)
The Miners' best team, with some of the best balance of power, speed and versatility in regional history in the wing-T. Coach Dave Humphers, then and now a close friend with his coaching mentor Gerry Kundert from his Mira Loma playing days, patrolled the sideline with an old Kundert fishing hat. Miners averaged 40 points and piled up so many routs that the leading tackler was a backup in Mike Fouyer. Ace back A.J. Kunkle went down in Week 1 with a broken thumb and missed eight games, though David Harrold and Isaac Ostrom kept the machine rolling, and quarterback Thor Larsen was a master wing-T leader.
7. Placer, 1980 (12-0)
The best Hillmen club of them all, in an era when the shaved-headed lads from Auburn ruled the region. Placer finished No. 1 in the state for medium schools (before the divisions were the norm) yet could hang with anyone, including opening with a win over state power Mission Viejo, ranked No. 4 in the country at that time. Co-coaches Bill Miller and Tom Johnson unleashed players such as Terry Spivey, Carl Hanley and Robert Holsher.
8. Grant, 1996 (12-2)
Never mind the two losses, this was a terrific team the second half of the year with one of the most explosive offenses in area history. Chad Elliott needed time to get acclimated with his new teammates after the controversial transfer from bitter rival Nevada Union, but once he was warmed up, he was magnificent. He tossed 47 touchdowns against just three interceptions - three! - and was flawless in the playoffs with 14 touchdowns and no picks. He threw to Donte Stallworth and handed off to Onterrio Smith.
9. Mira Loma, 1972 (12-0)
They were the Mighty Mats, a dynamic club that flustered foes with the wing-T under coaches Don Brown and Gerry Kundert with a lineup of undersized overachievers. Dave Schultz ran the ball, tight end Steve Scott was a superb blocker and Mira Loma set team scoring records that still stand. Allowed a season-high 11 points to a strong Jesuit team then coasted through the Capital City Playoffs (before the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs were born in 1976), including crushing a tremendous Cordova team that included Jerry Manuel 22-6.
10. GRANT 1992 (12-2)
Yes, another Grant team, and another with two losses. But look into this a bit deeper and it makes sense. The Pacers in '92 lost heartbreakers to loaded Johnson and extra loaded Nevada Union in back-to-back weeks. Then coach Mike Alberghini started to tinker. Marcette Lawson, in his first year of football, was inserted at quarterback and that steady influence kick-started a season-ending 8-game winning streak that included a 35-6 bludgeoning of 12-0 NU in the City Championship. Linebacker Lawrence Brown keyed the defense and 2,000-yard rusher Robert Dotson the offense. Then Elk Grove coach Ed Lombardi called it one of the all-time great teams he has seen.
11. Christian Brothers, 1983 (13-1)
Perhaps the best CBS team of them all, and there were quite a few, including the Dick Sperbeck teams of the 1960s and '70s and the 13-1 team from 1981 under coach Craig Rundle. Jeff Tisdel coached this CBS club that was headed by section rushing record holder Vince Delgado and linebacker Keilan Matthews. The Falcons lost a regular-season game to Cordova for the Metro League title then crushed the Lancers in the City Championship rematch.
12. Granite Bay, 2000 (12-1)
The Grizzlies best team under coach Ernie Cooper. The Fly offense with Adam Jennings was at warp speed and the defense was feisty and ferocious with Doug Rush, The Bee's Defensive Player of the Year. Granite Bay finished as the state's top-ranked Division II team. That group would compete with any of the great D-I clubs over the years.
13. Del Oro, 2005 (13-0)
Perhaps Del Oro's greatest team? Coach Casey Taylor had a defense that included stalwarts Daniel Hart and Nick Huppe. The Golden Eagles finished as the state's No. 1 ranked Division II team. Had the bowl thing been in flux then, Del Oro would have gone. And Eagles throttled D-I teams that year, too.
14. Elk GROVE, 1991 (13-1)
The Herd's second D-I section title team (the first was the 1984 team under coach Steve DaPrato) was a dynamite bunch that rebounded strong from a 12-6 season-opening loss to Grant in Mike Alberghini's first game as Grant's head coach and then roared from there. James Kidd was one of the area's all-time terrific talents as a tailback in the wing-T scheme, or taking a screen pass and going the distance. He set section single season and career rushing records. The defense was nails behind safety Paul Blanford and lineman Mark Jackson under coach Ed Lombardi.
15. MIRA LOMA 1968 (10-0)
The Matadors had a 28-game winning streak, still one of the longest in area history, and the streak roared through this season, with the only close game coming in Week III against formidable Bella Vista. Tight end Jack Lassner won it with a 40-yard touchdown pass and run from Gary Weske to win it 14-13 with no time left. Lassner went on to play at UCLA and years later said the play was an "out of body experience." Jim Crum and Chuck Walter made for a dynamic backfield in the wing-T, and the Mats routed all comers after Bella Vista, including a loaded El Camino team 21-7 to cap a perfect season in front of 10,000 fans that lined the place. The Mats celebrated by gleefully that night by tossing coaches Don Brown and Gerry Kundert and themselves - pads and all - into the pool.