December 20, 2008
Grant wins, scoring one for Sacramento football in general

Grant did it. Sacramento did it.

It just might be the biggest prep achievement for an area team....ever.

For starters, consider the magnitude of Grant's stunning and stirring 25-20 triumph of Long Beach Poly in the Open Division showcase game tonight in Carson.

The Pacers certainly expected to win, as did the coaching staff, headed by the incomparable Mike Alberghini, and so did every living soul in Del Paso Heights. But that's about it.

Poly came in with more wins lifetime - 684 - than any prep program in state history. It was 14-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country - in the country! - by ESPN. Grant, of course, was rated so low on the national scale, one would have to thumb through pages to find exactly where. The Pacers were ranked low because Sacramento teams are generally always ranked low.

That trend could very well change now.

In the fifth and final title game on the bowl weekend, the Pacers earned the only Northern California victory after the Southern California schools cleaned up in the earlier games.

The Pacers played with championship resolve in going 14-0 for the first time. Grant didn't just play toe-to-toe with Poly, it delivered a knockout to the Jackrabbits and to any stereotype that Sacramento doesn't play the quality of football at the level of the Southern California and national giants.

Grant ran the ball with Devontae Booker, threw with Kipeli Koniseti, caught deep strikes with Marvin Lamb and defended with a host of ferocious stoppers that included Jeremiah Toma, Tony Matavale and Darvin McCauley.

Grant overcame special teams woes - the Pacers get nervous when it comes to field goals - and the trip Carson to stand alone.

Poly came in state-ranked No. 1, and those from ESPN and Cal-Hi Sports had the audacity to say that even if Grant were to defeat Poly, Centennial and De La Salle could both still wind up ranked higher. Might want to reconsider that logic, folks.

And finally, the talk of Grant not rightly earning the Open bid over De La Salle or Bellarmine Prep? Muted. For good.

The roaring you hear now? Pacer pride.

December 20, 2008
Was that Coach Al or Coach GQ just now?


Was that Mike Alberghini, a man who would go to church with his signature Grant polo shirt, a Grant cap and shorts, actually decked out in a spiffy shirt and tie for a taped interview that was dropped into the game a moment ago?

Believe it. The veteran coach didn't pull any stops in what he called the pinnacle of his career, reaching this game. But do understand one thing. It was his wife Mary who picked the pin-striped suit and tie. Otherwise the old coach might've gone with all plaid.

December 20, 2008
Grant vs. Poly, early 4th quarter and it's a classic

Early in the fourth quarter and Grant is showing some of that championship grit that has come to define the program over the years.

Grant hasn't made a field goal all season, and it went for it on 4th down to take a 19-14 lead on a touchdown run by Devontae Booker in the fourth.

In the head-to-head matchup of heralded tailbacks, Booker has 55 yards on 19 carries and to this point and Melvin Richardson has managed just 19 on 10 for Poly before breaking one for 55 yards to put the Jackrabbits ahead 20-19 with 9:39 left.

Back and forth. Stay tuned.

December 20, 2008
Early returns on Grant: Outstanding

On the biggest stage, the Grant Pacers haven't flinched a bit.

Yes, it's early in the second quarter in the Open Division showdown against Long Beach Poly, but so much for Grant being bugged out with nerves and jitters.

Steady senior quarterback leader Kipeli Koniseti has impressed early, tossing a 54-yard touchdown to Darvin McCauley in the first quarter and then hitting Howard Warren for a long strike early in the second quarter to the Poly 2 to set up another touchdown for a 13-0 lead.

With just over 10 minutes to play before the half, Grant has set the tone, not by running as we all suspected, but by unleashing Koniseti. Stay tuned. More updates to come.

December 19, 2008
De La Salle goes down in D-I State Championship Bowl Game

CARSON---Consider Centennial High School of Corona's account with De La Salle of Concord officially balanced. There are no more deficits or overdrafts. Things are now even between these two teams.

The Huskies administered the big pay back, knocking off the Spartans 21-16 in the California Interscholastic Federation Division I State Football Championship Bowl Game before a live statewide television audience and 7,581 at the Home Depot Center Friday.

The Huskies (15-0), ranked No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 8 nationally by ESPN Rise, withstood the Spartans' fourth-quarter rally and avenged a 37-31 loss to De La Salle last season.

"I thought our players played their hearts out," Huskies coach Matt Logan said. "We were really resilient on a night when we didn't play our best game. But we did what we had to do win the game."

The Spartans (12-2), ranked No. 3 in the state (Cal-Hi) and No. 16 nationally (ESPN Rise) got a chance to tie it late in the fourth quarter. Free safety Noah Perio blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt by the Huskies Trevor Romaine and gained possession on their own 30 with 3:18 remaining.

But the Spartans couldn't push the ball down the field. Their dreams of a second straight title D-I state title vanished when Perio couldn't get his hands on a pass from quarterback Blake Wayne on fourth-and-5 from the Huskies 43 with 1:13 to go.

As a result, the Huskies (15-0) finished the season undefeated, while Spartans coach Bob Ladouceur didn't make history.

The orchestrater of De La Salle's stellar dynasty the last 30 seasons, Ladouceur, 54, needed one victory to become the all-time winningest coach in state history, according to Cal-Hi record book.

He remains at 344 career victories (22 losses, 3 ties) in his illustrious career, one that includes a national record 151-game winning streak from 1992 to 2003, 24 North Coast Section titles and sixth mythical national championships (5 USA Today, 1 ESPN).

"I thought our defense did a great job," Ladouceur said. "But we couldn't generate any offense. I thought their defense was too strong for us."

The Spartans managed just 182 yards of total offense to the Huskies 299.
Centennial, which produced former Sacramento State offensive lineman and New England Patriots heralded long snapper Lonnie Paxton, led 14-7 at halftime.

It was a huge feat considering the Huskies lost two fumbles and Martinez threw an interception. The Spartans, however, could not take advantage. They committed six penalties for 40 yards and produced just 81 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes.

In just his second varsity season, senior quarterback Taylor Martinez displayed a nice throwing touch and smarts to prove why he was one of the top quarterbacks in the state. He completed 58 percent of his passes, for 2,751 yards and 28 touchdowns entering the game and led the Huskies to a victory over Mater Dei of Santa Anna to the Southern Section Inland Division championship.

The Nebraska-bound signal-caller on Friday completed 15 of 21 passes for 243 yards. Ricky Marvray had six catches for 121 yards and Geshun Harris grabbed nine balls for 122 more. But Arthur Burns did the most damage. He had 85 yards in 25 carries and scored twice, including the game-winner from two-yards out with 4:30 to play. Huskies senior linebacker Vontaze Burfict had nine tackles, one interception, and one sack. He's verbally committed to USC.

St. Margaret's 59, Hamilton Union 7

In the CIF Smalls Schools Division game, the Tartans caused the Braves to make six first-half turnovers and parlayed them in to a 52-0 halftime lead.

Running back John Murayama rushed for 97 yards in 21 carries and scored four touchdowns. Quarterback David Mothander completed 12 of 19 passes for 231 yards. Receiver Travis Anderson caught three passes for 110 yards, including a 43-yard scoring reception from Mothander.

The Tartans racked up 406 yards of total offense and held the Braves to 177. The Tartans finished the season at 15-0, while the Braves 10-3.

December 19, 2008
Casa Roble star: CIF needs to go to state football playoff format

Jaycob Shoemaker is trying to keep Casa Roble's denial of a state bowl berth in perspective.

But it's hard.

The senior linebacker and Capital Athletic League Defensive Player of the Year still believes it should be the unbeaten Rams, not two-loss St. Mary's of Stockton, playing in Saturday's Division II bowl game against Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in Carson.

But he's also learning that it's OK to let go.

"For awhile we all had a bitter taste in our mouths," Shoemaker said of he and his teammates. "I especially was frustrated. But Coach (Norm) Ryan asked how I could be bitter considering we were section champions, and I made the interception in overtime that helped us win it all."

Shoemaker is lining up among those who say that the state needs to go to a true playoff system.

"It's something that needs to seriously considered," Shoemaker said. "We know the BCS is a joke, and all the state bowl is a BCS-type system. It's not the best of the best. It's who people (the 10 section commissioners) think is the best.

"Other states have a playoff system, so I don't see why California can't have one."

Shoemaker thinks a St. Mary's vs. Casa Roble matchup for the Northern California D-II title would have been a huge draw.

"We would have given them a run for their money," Shoemaker said.

Despite the historic 13-0 season and the school's first section football title, Shoemaker said he and his teammates still feel as if there is some unfinished business.

"Last year we knew the season was over (a first-round playoff loss to Rodriguez)," he said. "But it still feels like this season should be going."

December 19, 2008
A look at the area's all-time greatest prep football teams

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.

December 17, 2008
Grant's bowl bid could have major long-term impact

Grant is about to venture into the opportunity of a lifetime.

Beyond the players, coaches and community of Del Paso Heights that will follow every first down with keen interest, the long-term impact of the Pacers playing the No. 2 ranked team in the country in Long Beach Poly on Saturday is tremendous.

Grant expects to win, of course. It will surely compete, as any Mike Alberghini team does. The Pacers are in awe of no one. Nothing bothers them.

Poly likes to run plays to open games that its foe regularly uses. Perhaps it's an intimidation thing. Doesn't matter. These Pacers won't flinch, won't blink.

But beyond that, a good showing in the Open Division game - the absolute showcase game of the season, as it turns out now - will benefit Grant for years. Instead of Alberghini scrambling to find opponents out of area and out of state, expect teams to contact the Pacers for a contest.

No doubt an army of coaches from around the country will watch this game (it is televised on Comcast Sports California, and copies of that game will surely circulate in a hurry). Grant is entertaining. It is ferocious and fast. It has Division I recruits on the roster. It has tradition. And the Pacers fear no one.

Expect invitations from teams across the land willing to take on Grant. Maybe from Texas, or Oklahoma, or Southern California. This would surely elevate Grant's profile. Grant has become the local standard for prep football. In time, it could join De La Salle as the Northern California - and state - model.

Speaking of De La Salle, maybe someday the Pacers and Spartans of Concord can finally come to some sort of agreement to play some nonleague games. It's time for that showdown to happen. Enough speculation that De La Salle is trying to pick when and where to play the game. Get it on, already.

If Alberghini's cell was blowing up this week, it might start to melt come next week. And that's a grand thing for Grant.

December 15, 2008
Will Grant beat Long Beach Poly? Let us know what you think

Lots of chatter about the upcoming Grant - Long Beach Poly state bowl championship.

Two ways for you to say who you think will win:

1) Vote at our online poll by going to the High School Sports page and scrolling down to the poll.

2) Go to the High School Sports Forum and leave your comments there.

December 14, 2008
Grant's selection means what?

Admit it. Many of you are surprised and so am I that Grant was selected to participate in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship Open Division Bowl game, the premiere contest of the 10-team, five-division event, against Long Beach Poly Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

It's not a shock Grant was chosen to play in the event, but stunning it was picked over six-time mythical national champion De La Salle of Concord, which many thought had the better resume and played a more competitive schedule.

De La Salle is ranked No. 4 in the nation by Max Preps and Grant No. 48 That is why it took close to three hours for the committee to decide, according to CIF official Ken Gunn. "It took multiple votes to reach a decision," he said. "We had to wait for the all the white smoke to clear."

As a result, Grant, the winner of six Sac-Joaquin Section titles, will face, Long Beach Poly, another national and state force, on the state's biggest high school football stage.

So what does Grant's selection really mean?

Grant's 13-0 record, coupled with wins over two state champions from Idaho and Utah, were huge in the selection committee's eyes. "The impressive thing about Grant is that it was the only undefeated team (from the north) on the board," Gunn said.

Added CIF executive director Marie Ishida: "Grant understood that it needed to play outside its section, and even outside of its state, to help improve its chances of getting selected."

As a result, Grant's selection is proof the CIF has respect for Sacramento Area football and does not have a bias against public schools, a thought many had before Sunday.

But more importantly, Grant's selection put a dent in De La Salle's mystique, one that many, including myself, felt would never endure a hit from a Sacramento Area school until one beat the state power on the football field.

Grant's selection also means something else.


Grant must represent Sacramento area football well. The reputation of Sacramento area football rest on its shoulders.

It can't play poorly and get blown out. Grant has to beat Long Beach Poly. And if Grant doesn't win, it has to at least play a competitive game to legitimize its selection.

A poor showing will mean the media and some fans will question Grant's selection like many doubted De Salle's selection 2006.

That year De La Salle was picked over Grant to represent the north in the inaugural D-I State Bowl game and lost to Canyon of Canyon Country 27-13

The Spartans, however, recovered last season, beating Centennial of Corona 37-31. Grant may not get another chance at redemption.

Like I said, Grant's selection to the State Bowl Games means a lot. How it performs in the game will impact more than itself. It could affect how an entire state views Sacramento area football. Get the meaning?

December 14, 2008
Prep fan Doug Kelly offers his argument against Grant in bowl

This entry was submitted from a fan with decades of sports work experience, with football his athletic passion.

My name is Doug Kelly and yes, I went to Bellarmine Prep from 1964 to '68 (and yes, I'm old fart).

The best team when I was there was the '66 team that scored 366 points and allowed six - on a pass interception return for touchdown. The defense was not scored upon.

Bellarmine in those days was so good that a lad named Dan Pastorini, later a first round NFL draft pick, did not start until Terry Shea, a longtime NFL assistant coach, had graduated.

Since my prep days, I've worked in football on numerous levels: with the Kansas City Chiefs, the United States Football League, the Sacramento Surge. I've worked in broadcast sports with NBC. For the past 13 years, I have been the UC Davis football color analyst. And since 2002, I've been associated in many capacities with the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

I still follow high school sports, and I think the CIF state bowl selection is ridiculous.
Grant this season is a fine team, no question. My complaint, not with Grant necessarily, but with the state-bowl system, is that strength of schedule is not included in the equation. Grant beat people like McClatchy, Kennedy and Valley and the rest of the stiffs in their league.

Not Grant's fault for the awful opponents, but you must factor this into the deciding process.

Joe Louis had his "Bum Of The Month" club.

In many respects, Grant had a "bum of the week" schedule.

Bellarmine this season beat St. Mary's of Stockton 35-6 in a nonleague game. I don't think Grant played anyone near that caliber. Bellarmine also beat Serra of San Mateo [in a rematch], Valley Christian of San Jose [twice] and the rest of the West Catholic Athletic League schedule. Bellarmine should have gotten into a bowl game.

Absolutely, as I assume it came down to Grant and Bellarmine.

December 14, 2008
Grant earned the Bowl entry, and so does Sacramento in general

The Pacers have arrived. Officially.

And to a large degree, so has Sacramento high school football in general. And score one for the public schools, too. Yes, public school teams with homegrown talent can play. They can compete. And they can win the biggest games on the biggest stage.

Let's face facts here, folks.

This region has been overlooked for years when it comes to football reputation. The greater Bay Area region has drawn more statewide ranking consideration and a higher reputation of quality ball than Sacramento for years. And sometimes it's absolutely absurd.

But today marked a victory for Sacramento when Grant was picked for the Open Division game in the CIF State Bowl Championship Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson against Long Beach Poly, the long-time national super power that has sent more players to the NFL than any prep program in national history (59 and counting).

The Pacers were hoping to just land the Division I bowl. There wasn't much talk about the Open game as it appeared De La Salle of Concord had that nod, thanks in large part to a fabulous pedigree of outrageous success. Grant was really hoping to secure the Division I game.

To land the Open game? Major achievement.

Del Paso Heights was dancing in the streets and in the rain at this news. It's a milestone for that community, as fervent and passionate and loyal to their beloved Pacers as any community in the valley. And rest assured, fans will travel to Carson. No one wants to miss this show.

Yes, there are those in San Jose and Concord not at all agreeing with the Pacers getting the Open bowl bid. My good friend Doug Kelly is as passionate and in-tune a sports fan as I've ever met, be it preps or colleges. He knows his stuff. He is aghast with the idea that Bellarmine Prep of San Jose was not picked for a bowl, and he told me straight up that Bellarmine would kick the Pacers fannies up and down any field.

You would be incorrect, good sir. The Pacers are beyond legit. Kelly explains his argument in a separate blog (isn't the Internet fun?)

The Pacers and coach Mike Alberghini deserved this game. They did absolutely everything they needed to do. They ramped up their schedule, beating state-ranked No. 1 large school teams from Idaho and Utah (teams that went on to defend state titles this month). They beat the only other area team that was ranked by The Bee this season in Granite Bay in a Sac-Joaquin Section D-II playoff game.

And since reputation and resume counts in this selection process, and don't let anyone tell you with a straight face otherwise, Grant has that, too. Under Alberghini, the Pacers have fielded 18 playoff teams in his 18 years as coach. He has directed 15 league title teams, a 191-32-1 record, four City Championships, six section titles and two 13-0 teams in the last three years.

The Valley Christian of San Jose coaches were so impressed with the Pacers after Grant throttled that team in 2005 and 2006 they told Alberghini and media that Grant was the best prep team they had ever encountered. They dropped Grant from the schedule because the Pacers were too big, too fast, too skilled, too well coached. And this is the same Valley program that is state ranked and always in the argument for a bowl game.

Grant's time is now. And someone please send my friend Doug Kelly a Pacer for Life T-shirt. He wears a large, which will be ideal since he'll wear it with slumped shoulders.

December 11, 2008
Why the CIF needs to select Grant and Casa Roble for bowl games

We'd love to be the fly on the wall when the 10 California Interscholastic Federation commissioners meet on Sunday to chose the 10 teams that will play in the state bowl games Dec. 19-20 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Any way you look at it, their monumental decisions about which schools get the honor of playing in the third annual event are going to create a firestorm. In expanding this season from three to five games, they've opened themselves to even more criticism and scrutiny.

It doesn't help that there is little transparency in the selection process since the debate and vote is conducted behind closed doors.

Hopefully, the commissioners will show wisdom and foresight in their choices and not just pick the teams that are the most popular or have the most influential alumni.

We'd hate to see this scenario in the north should De La Salle of Concord, St. Mary's of Stockton and Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa win their respective section championships on Friday or Saturday: Open Division - De La Salle; D-I - Bellarmine; D-II - St. Mary's; D-III - Cardinal Newman.

While all are highly successful programs and certainly deserve consideration for bowl berths as section champions, they are all private schools.

And as we know in California, private schools have a huge advantage over public schools in terms of financial support and draw. While many public schools are constrained by enrollment boundaries, private schools draw athletes from huge geographic areas.

The private vs. public school debate in football isn't as hot a one in our area because Jesuit and Christian Brothers, while both having good programs, have not dominated the way the De La Salles, Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventures have in the Bay Area and in Southern California.

There are a number of public school administrators and coaches who would like to see the CIF segregate the two and have separate playoffs. So if the CIF tilts too heavily toward the private schools in their selections on Sunday, it's only going to re-ignite that controversy.

That fundamental issue, more than strength of schedule, rankings, best draw etc., is the reason I think Grant and Casa Roble deserve to be the D-I and D-II Northern California representatives this year.

The Pacers have been 13-0 two of the last three years and have the athletic prowess to compete as well as any of the private schools in a big-stage game. They've beaten two state champions and a formidable Granite Bay team locally.

To deny the school from an economically depressed neighborhood a state bowl berth would not only fuel the public vs. private debate, it also could leave CIF officials open to accusations of racial insensitivity.

As for a program like Casa Roble, which just won the school's first section football title and went 13-0, this might be the first and last opportunity for the Rams to play in a game of this magnitude.

Casa Roble is a program that is built around kids from the neighborhood. Only two of the 61 players on the varsity roster did not play as freshmen at the school.

Meanwhile, the De La Salles, Bellarmines, St. Mary's and Cardinal Newmans are in the bowl mix now and will likely be for years to come.

Either way, we think the CIF should move as quickly as possible to take the next step in the process by holding Northern California and Southern California regional football playoffs.

Any debates about Grant being better than De La Salle or Bellarmine or St. Mary's being better than Casa Roble could be settled on the field.

December 11, 2008
Inderkum football coach enjoyed having son along for playoff ride

It was a poignant scene last Saturday at Oakmont High School.

Among the Inderkum football players, as they huddled together after their heart-wrenching 27-21 overtime loss to Casa Roble in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship, there was hardly a dry eye.

The Tigers had come within one play of possibly winning the school's first section title in only their fourth year of varsity play.

Among the teary-eyed were coach Terry Stark and his son Christopher, the team's back-up quarterback.

Despite the heartache, Terry Stark acknowledged it was a special season for a program that has known nothing but winning since he became the head varsity coach.

He felt it was even more unique because he got to share it with his son.

The younger Stark, a senior, played behind Demetrius Williams and wasn't above kidding Pops that he should have gone to Del Campo, the school where Terry Stark's good friend, Mike Dimino, is the head coach and a campus closer to the Starks' Carmichael home.

At 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds, Chris Stark is the classic drop-back passer.

But his father has built his considerable coaching reputation running the wing-T, an offense built for a quarterback with good wheels.

"That's been tough because he wants to play just like everybody else," Terry Stark said of Chris, who completed three of nine passes for 38 yards and a touchdown this season. "I know he could have started for three or four teams in our league.

"Chris is a very good quarterback. He's got a real good arm and touch. But he doesn't have great foot speed. As a coach, you have to play the guys who fit your system."

Terry Stark thinks his son, as he continues to get stronger and fill out, could play college football for the right program.

But he believes Chris may leaning towards baseball.

"He's a side-arm pitcher who throws right-handed and bats left," Terry says. "He can play the outfield, first or third. I think he would tell you that baseball is his first love."

December 11, 2008
Role players among the stars helped Casa Roble win section title

With quarterback Sam Martinez, running back Matt Satchwell, wide receiver Tristan Baer and all-over-the-place linebacker Jaycob Shoemaker producing big headlines with their exploits, many members of Casa Roble's 13-0 football team flew under the radar this season.

But while Rams' coach Norm Ryan could point to a number of key contributors - he has no full-time two-way players - in the Rams' historic season, the guys most unsung might be the offensive line.

Center Tyler Kenobbie, tackles Jimmy Flint and Cameron Best and guards Vinnie Say and Dylan Hutchins helped the Rams' spread offense excel by protecting Martinez and opening holes for Satchwell.

Martinez passed for 2,000-plus yards and Satchwell ran for 2,000-plus yards.

The 6-foot, 290-pound Kenobbie and 6-3, 250-pound Flint, both seniors, were the leaders.

Kenobbie is a three-year starter who was Capital Athletic League Co-Lineman of the Year.

"Tyler has been outstanding, and not just for physical abilities," Ryan said. "He has to make the line calls. He has to tell the others on the line who to block and what scheme to use."

Flint made all-league at left tackle and as the edge blocker, often was responsible for helping to free up Satchwell and Martinez for long outside gains.

Ryan credited line coaches James Gudel and Doug Grush, the former Bella Vista head coach, for making the Rams a formidable unit.

"James is our schemer as far as blocking assignments," Ryan said. "Doug played at Kansas State. So he's great with the fundamentals: Placement of hands, which way to step. Things that many high school coaches might not know."

Ryan said the offensive linemen were the epitome of the Rams' success: They were selfless role players.

"There was a lot of unselfishness on this team," Ryan said. "Our kids knew that with guys like Matt and Jaycob, they weren't going to get a lot of glory. But they knew their jobs and they did them well."

Ryan hopes that his players get one more game to play.

The Rams are still in the running for a CIF state bowl berth and will have an excellent shot of going to Carson Dec. 20 if Pleasant Grove can beat St. Mary's of Stockton in Saturday's D-I section final at UOP.

December 11, 2008
Breaking down the area's all-time 2,000-yard rushers

Reaching 2,000 rushing yards in a single season is a significant milestone for a high school runner.

In the Sacramento region, only 16 runners have achieved this feat. Zack Graves of Whitney and Matt Satchwell of Casa Roble this fall are the latest to do so.

Here is a closer look at the group. And by all means, offer comments on the best back you have seen from this list, or others that did not reach 2,000 yards but were just as outrageously skilled and fun to watch. Anyone remember Reggie Young of Corodva, James Owens of Norte Del Rio or Rae Carruth of Valley (hold the jokes, please)?.

1982 Tracy Johnson Cordova 2,092 yards, 24 TDs, 13-1 record
First area back to reach the 2,000-yard milestone; replaced Kevin Willhite and became a Lancer legend himself.

1983 Vince Delgado CBS 2,357 yards, 22 1TDs, 13-1 record
Set section records and powered Falcons to D-1 section title, the program's last; scholarshipped to Cal.

1989 Mark Hatzenbuhler Galt 2,162 yards, 28 TDs, 10-2 record
Bruiser back played for dad Erv and ravaged defenses in classic single-wing set; scholarshipped to Stanford.

1990 Damon Boddie Cordova 2,435 yards, 26 TDs, 10-1 record
Most prolific Lancer of them all, which is saying something; keyed last great D-1 Cordova team.

1991 James Kidd Elk Grove 2,358 yards, 33 TDs, 13-1 record
Swift and smooth on traps and sweeps, the Kidd could fly; set section career records, won D-I section and scholarshipped to Colorado.

1992 Robert Dotson Grant 2,203 yards, 25 TDs, 12-2 record
Classic grinder back keyed first Pacers section title team; he got better when the field got worse.

1995 Damen Wheeler Valley 2,237 yards, 35 TDs, 12-1 record
A blur in the open field and tough between the tackles; keyed Valley's best team and then excelled at DB at Colorado.

1997 John Bordenkircher Dixon 3,458 yards, 40 TDs, 11-1 record
Section's all-time single-season rusher wasn't just a small-town wonder. He was a big-time talent.

1998 Kevin Tennerson Mesa Verde 2,690 yards, 35 touchdowns 12-1
Fast and versatile and tough inside, Tennerson was a super back who led the Mavericks to two section D-III titles.

1998 Onterrio Smith Grant 3,125 yards, 53 TDs, 10-1-1 record
Area's most relentless runner was also NorCal's all-time career rushing leader; Knew he was great, too; reached NFL.

1999 Albert Hollis CBS 2,031 yards, 31 TDs, 9-2 record
Terrific speed back who was a section sprint champion; Prep All-American went to Georgia where injuries stalled football career.

2000 Rudy Jones Cordova 2,497 yards, 36 TDs, 10-2 record
Lancers single-season rushing leader burst onto the scene as a senior after gaining no yards as a junior.

2006 Lamon Muldrow Cordova 2,303 yards, 30 TDs, 6-5 record
He went by "MoJo" and he had plenty of Momentum as he barrelled into defenses; scored 44 touchdowns in two years at Sierra College; will play on scholarship at San Jose State.

2007 C.J. Woodbury Foothill 2,171 yards, 27 TDs, 6-5 record
School rushing record holder was a one-man gang for a Mustangs team that reached the playoffs; nice compliment piece to Lamon Muldrow at nationally ranked Sierra College who will be featured back next season with Division I recruiters all over him.

2007 Deonte Williams Pleasant Grove 2,447 yards, 29 TDs, 10-2 record
From a handful of yards and no glory at Valley as a junior to instant stardom with the Eagles as a senior; as talented as he was personable with the golden grill; led Northern Arizona with a 1,000-yard season this fall.

2008 Matt Satchwell Casa Roble 2,178 yards, 30 TDs, 13-0 record
A virtual first down every time he touched the ball; fast and elusive in the open field but tough, too; key cog on special teams and MVP for school's greatest team.

2008 Zack Graves Whitney 2,481 yards, 36 TDs, 12-0 record
Prolific and fun as a junior, Graves was even better this season in setting school records that could last the test of time; small in stature and huge in spirit and drive.

December 10, 2008
Grant holds, Casa Roble drops in today's state bowl rankings

Grant remained at No. 2 but Casa Roble dropped to No. 3 in their respective divisions in today's new state football Northern California bowl rankings.

Grant (13-0), which became bowl eligible with a 55-6 win over Burbank Friday in the D-II section finals, remains behind De La Salle (11-1) of Concord in the Northern California D-I bowl rankings.

The Spartans play Pittsburg (11-1) Friday night in the North Coast Section title game and need to win to become bowl eligible. Only section champions are considered for the five bowl games.

Still at No. 3 is Bellarmine (12-1) of San Jose, which became bowl eligible by beating Valley Christian of San Jose for the Central Coast Section Open Division championship on Friday. The Bells are considered the only likely roadblock to the Pacers landing either an Open Division or D-I bowl berth.

Although Casa Roble (13-0) defeated Inderkum 27-21 in overtime for the D-III section title on Saturday, the Rams slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 in today's D-II bowl rankings.

CalHi's Mark Tennis kept Valley Christian (10-3), which is no longer bowl eligible, at No. 1 despite its loss to Bellarmine.

St. Mary's of Stockton (11-2), which lost during the regular season to Bellarmine and Central Catholic of Modesto, moved from No. 3 to No. 2 after beating Merced 35-24 in the D-I section semifinals on Friday.

It marked the second week in a row that Casa Roble dropped despite winning a game. The Rams were ranked No. 1 for four weeks before Valley Christian displaced them last Wednesday.

St. Mary's must beat Pleasant Grove in Saturday's D-I final to be bowl eligible. Whitney (12-0), which plays Placer Friday in the D-IV final at Folsom, remains at No. 4 in the D-II bowl rankings.

California Interscholastic Federation officials will pick the five Northern California and five Southern California teams on Sunday for the games Dec. 19-20 at the Home Deport Center in Carson.

December 6, 2008
It's Grant's time; Not selecting the Pacers would be a crime

It's hard to say which victory was more dominating: Grant's 50-0 pounding of Union Mine in the 2006 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship or its 55-6 thumping of Burbank Friday.

What is certain is the latter gives the Pacers a shot at a CIF State Championship Bowl Game berth.

Sorry, Pacers fans. In 2006, you had no chance. There was no way in the world the CIF was going to leave De La Salle, California's most successful high school football program, out of the mix for California's first state championship tournament. De La Salle simply had a better resume, played a tougher schedule, and had a national reputation.

This time, there is hope. There are three teams---De La Salle, Bellarmine and Grant-- in contention for two spots in the large school category.

De La Salle needs a victory over Pittsburg in the North Coast Section Division I final next week to become bowl eligible. The chance of the Spartans losing is remote, considering they have not dropped a NCS final in 18 seasons.

Hence, the Spartans will probably get the North Open Division berth, leaving the section commissioners to pick between Grant and Bellarmine for the D-I spot on Dec. 14.

Here are the pros for selecting Grant. The Pacers are the only team among the contenders with an undefeated record at 13-0. Moreover, the Pacers knocked off two state champions from Utah and Idaho. Then came Friday.

Led by junior running back Devontae Booker's 207-yard rushing performance, the Pacers made a strong case by dominating Burbank before 5,000 at Folsom High School and a live regional television audience.

"We put it out there," Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. "If we don't get to go, then I give up on faith and working hard and getting something you deserve. If we don't get selected as one of the teams to go, then it's a crime."

Grant also has 2006 on its side. Some felt sorry for the Pacers getting past over by De La Salle two years ago. In fact, some of the reasons why the CIF expanded the State Championship Bowl Games to five divisions were to give more teams a chance.

The only knock against Grant is its strength of schedule. It's inferior to Bellarmine (12-1) despite the Bells having one loss.

Other than that, I like Grant's chances. It's the Pacers time. They've done what is needed to qualify. Lets hope the system rewards them. If the Pacers don't get selected, then Alberghini said it best. It would be truly a crime.

December 6, 2008
Falcons fall, but they'll be back

Despite a convincing loss in the D-IV title match to Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach, Christian Brothers players -- in particular the junior class -- providede one of those put-a-smile-on-your-face moments in the post-match media conference.

When asked if they felt like they'd be back, the team's eight juniors and five underclassmen responded in unison: "YES!"

And that's not just empty enthusiasm, it's entirely possible.

Six of the eight Falcons juniors started the state championship match on Saturday and with a club season looming and another Jeff Deter training camp next summer, they're only going to be better. Couple that with the fact that the Falcons' chief competition in the section -- Ripon -- graduated its three studs, and the bulk of teams in D-IV at the state level this year were senior-laden, it's not a leap of faith to think that Christian Brothers has legitimate back-to-back potential.

Strategically the Falcons are second-to-none with one of the best teachers of the game in coach Jeff Deter. The only weakness the Falcons had on Saturday and will continue to have after graduating 6-foot-1 middle Kayla Neto is size. Katie Hoekman will be the only returning 6-footer for Christian Brothers, but at least from an attack standpoint it shouldn't matter as Deter is a practitioner of the "slide" -- running the middle behind the setter's back -- thus forcing the opposing block to cover from antenna to antenna.

Hoekman was named to the all-tournament team along with Neto and junior setter Kelly Pelz got the CIF's sportsmanship award. Pelz is a talented, smart setter who was largely unheralded coming into the season, but established herself with a terrific season for the Falcons.

The only question mark for Christian Brothers next year is who will fill the void left by Neto's graduation. The only other middle on the roster is sophomore Caitlyn Richard, who saw time when Erika Cuevas was inactive for about a month toward the end of league play. Whitney Swain anchors a solid defense coming back and Cuevas will continue to bring the heat from the other outside spot.

As for Neto, she'll be playing next year too -- on scholarship at Cal State Fullerton.

"I can't wait," she said as she prepared to catch a flight back to Sacramento on Saturday.

December 4, 2008
Team concept is a huge part of Dixon football resurgence

Scott Winslow knows which of his players have made the All-Capital Valley Conference football team.

But the Dixon High School coach hasn't told them yet, and he wouldn't tell this reporter, either.

"I actually like that we are a fly-under-the-radar team," Winslow said. "If we start talking about individual awards, then the whole team concept breaks down."

This has been a breakthrough season for the Rams - they play host to Placer in Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal - and Winslow says its largely because his players have bought into the "system."

"We have no stars, but we're blessed with a lot of good athletes," Winslow said.
Dixon hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999 and hasn't been in a section final since 1974, so these are big doings around the campus.

Winslow remembers different times.

In three previous seasons, the Rams had losing records and weren't a factor in the Capital Valley Conference.

"We had some real low points," Winslow said. "Players were literally teased by their classmates. They'd hear on the radio that they were in the bottom 10 in the Sacramento Valley."

But Winslow sensed a change was coming last season when a dedicated group of then juniors and sophomores maintained their resolve through a 3-7 campaign.

This year he has 44 players, two years after a highly publicized hazing incident left him with 19.

It didn't hurt that Dixon students are now in the second year on a new campus, thanks to a bond measure approved by the community. The new football stadium was utilized for the first time this season.

"I think everyone feels like we've got a fresh start," Winslow said. "The whole community is getting involved. There is a lot of excitement and a lot of energy."

December 4, 2008
Small-school football title game expected to bring big-time crowd

There is nothing small-school about Friday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI football championship game between Marysville (9-2) and Lindhurst (9-3) at War Memorial Stadium.

Marysville coach Cullen Meyer said that when the two teams met Nov. 14 in the Golden Empire League finale, the contest drew nearly 5,000 spectators.

"The crowd was shoulder to shoulder," Meyer said. "There was a little bit of room but not much."

At the time, that 35th meeting between the two neighboring schools was billed as the biggest in history of the rivalry because it was a first for a league championship.

Marysville's 21-14 win over the Blazers gave the Indians a co-championship and assured them of hosting the eventual section championship game.

Yet Meyer isn't certain whether Friday's 7:30 p.m. titanic will outdraw the Nov. 14 contest. The potential drawback: The section's $9 ticket charge for adults and $5 fee for students in a county where unemployment is 12.5 percent.

"With those ticket prices, you never know," Meyer said.

One thing he does know is that the game will be intense.

Lindhurst has won the last two D-VI championships and many of the players on the two teams once played together at the youth level.

Add a simmering community debate about Lindhurst not being allowed to fly its huge red and white school flags - only home teams are allowed to display their team colors on the field - and it promises to be smashmouth football at its best.

"There are not a lot of secrets between these two programs," Meyer said.

Marysville has played outstanding defense for most of the season, something that will have to continue if it hopes to bring home the school's first section football title.

A big key: Keeping Lindhurst's prolific running back Lurrell Johnson in check once again. The senior, who has rushed for 1,942 yards and 23 touchdowns, was limited to 40 yards and no scores on 20 carries in their Week 10 meeting.

December 4, 2008
Grant-Burbank, beyond the numbers

Grant versus Burbank, Friday for the Division II championship.

Not bad. Nice ring to it.

For starters, we're looking at a brewing rivalry here with these two programs. They're similar in style, in demographics and desire.

Grant is home for the Pacers, in Del Paso Heights. The scores of alumni and community folks that flood to the games are proof of a region swelling with pride at the product. Those who don't live in Del Paso Heights might suggest Grant is in the worst part of town.

Not the Pacers. Home is where the heart is, right there in the hard-boiled neighborhood that has produced countless athletes over the years. Generations of Pacers have come through. Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, Cousins and brothers.

Burbank is on Florin Road, near the railroad tracks.

Some might hint the wrong side of the railroad tracks, but not the Titans. To them, they're on the right side of the tracks, on a campus with diversity and pride. And the football team is the sudden buzz word for all. Alumni have trickled out to catch a glimpse of the upstart Titans. They have enjoyed a good show.

Grant has had years of good living in football, since the 1980s. Since 1991, however, it's been great living, a run under the tutelage of coach Mike Alberghini, who has directed 18 consecutive playoff teams, 15 league titles, five section titles and a wealth of scholarship athletes.

Burbank, meanwhile, has endured a lot of misery over the years, including some winless teams in the 1980s and '90s, one-win campaigns despite having eventual college and NFL talent such as Alex Van Dyke. Coaches have come and gone.

But since coach John Heffernan took over earlier this decade, the culture has changed, and so have the results. Burbank is among the best programs in the region now. Heffernan has made football important on campus, fun, a happening. Just like it is at Grant.

A winner in this game?

It's Grant. The Pacers have more experience, more size, more speed, more depth. And more tradition. More years of good living will overwhelm the recent success of the Titans. Burbank's time is coming. It's Grant's time now.

December 3, 2008
Grant moves up, Casa Roble falls in latest state bowl rankings

While Grant has moved up, Casa Roble has dropped in today's North state bowl rankings.

The Pacers climbed from No. 3 to No. 2 behind top-ranked De La Salle of Concord in the Division I rankings.

Grant moved ahead of Oak Grove of San Jose (11-1), which lost to Valley Christian of San Jose (10-2) last Friday in the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals.

Bellarmine of San Jose (11-1) moved from No. 4 to No. 3 and also remains in the bowl picture. The Bells play Valley Christian on Friday for the CCS title at San Jose City College.

De La Salle (10-1), which plays Foothill of Pleasanton (9-2) in the North Coast Section semifinals on Friday is the favorite to land the new North Open Division bracket-berth after the California Interscholastic Federation expanded from three to five games.

Grant, which plays Burbank Friday for the D-II section title at Folsom High School, may have a slight edge over Bellarmine for the state D-I bowl berth based on its 12-0 record.

But there are those in the Bay Area who argue that if the Bells (11-1) win on Friday (they beat Valley Christian 27-16 during league play) they should be selected over the Pacers, based on overall strength of schedule.

Weak Metro Conference schedule aside, Pacers faithful point to beating two state champions in Alta of Utah and Highland of Idaho in the preseason and also to having been denied a berth two years when they went 13-0.

Only section champions get consideration for a bowl berth.

But Casa Roble (12-0), enjoying its best football season in school history, could win the D-III section title - the Rams play Inderkum for the championship on Saturday at Oakmont High School - complete an undefeated season and still not get selected for the D-II North bowl berth.

The Rams had been No. 1 for four weeks in CalHi's rankings but dropped to No. 2 today behind Valley Christian.

Valley Christian moved up because it beat Oak Grove 23-20 in Friday's CCS semifinals and CalHi's Mark Tennis suggests the Warriors will stay in the top spot if they beat Bellarmine.

But even a Valley Christian loss and Casa Roble win still might not be enough for the Rams.

No. 3 St. Mary's (10-2) of Stockton still is in the bowl picture because it competes in D-I at the section level. If St. Mary's beats Merced in the semifinals Friday, then wins the section championship the following week, these Rams could wind up getting the nod over Casa Roble.

Keep in mind, however, that CalHi's rankings are unofficial. Section commissioners are the ones who will vote on Dec. 14 for the participants in the Dec. 19-20 bowl games.

December 2, 2008
Christian Brothers mounts epic comeback to beat Ripon, advance to State championship

Christian Brothers went down two sets to none, but came back to beat Ripon in a five set thriller (18-25, 23-25, 25-13, 25-22, 15-8) to win the CIF Division IV NorCal title and move on to play for the State championship on Saturday.

Erika Cuevas had a match-high 21 kills, including six in the fifth set, to lead the Falcons. Kelly Pelz had a match-high 44 assists while Kayla Neto and Whitney Swain had 28 digs apiece.

Christian Brothers will face Santa Fe Christian on Saturday at noon at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center for the D-IV state title. It will be Christian Brothers' second appearance in the state title match in three years. Marymount of Los Angeles swept the Falcons in the 2006 state final.

December 2, 2008
Would you gamble with the big play against Grant?

I don't know if John Heffernan likes to gamble in Las Vegas. But I do know he likes to gamble on the football field.

The Burbank High School football coach likes to take chances when the odds are not in his favor. Case and point took place in the Titans 36-27 victory over Roseville in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal last week

Heffernan ordered a pass on second and nine from his own two. The result? Stellar quarterback Miles Freeman connected with speed running back Lucky Dozier over the middle and the play went for a 98-yard touchdown.

Example No. 2. Second and 20 from his own 25, Heffernan ordered another pass. The result? Freeman connected with standout receiver Anthony Larry for a 67-yard pass play. Two plays later, Freeman scores from a yard out.

I say all of that to say this. Is gambling the right strategy to use against Grant? It could be. But it could also backfire. Personally, I think Burbank should take a page out of Granite Bay's book.

Granite Bay used a methodical, ball-controlled, offense that chewed up the clock and limited Grant's possessions. As a result, Granite Bay came up a little short, falling to Grant 22-19.

Still, Granite Bay kept itself in the game down to the wire. I don't know if gambles can help Burbank do that, especially when they don't work. Failed gambles stymie momentum and take the wind out of a team. So here's the key question. Is it smart to take gambles with so much at stake?

I don't know. What I do know is Heffernan and Burbank have gambled to this point and now they are one win away from a D-II Section title. Now, the Titans need them to work in their biggest game of the year.

December 2, 2008
A look at tonight's D-IV NorCal Championship match

Unseeded Ripon (45-5) at No. 2 seed Christian Brothers (33-7), 7 p.m.: The Falcons swept top-seeded Ripon in Section championship on Nov. 20 primarily by running middles Kayla Neto and Katie Hoekman around the setters' back, thus exposing holes in the Indians' block. Expect much of the same tonight as Neto and Hoekman have been unstoppable since the playoffs started and, for the most part, all year.

Ripon counters with seniors Kirsten Duren and Jenna Dunkel, who are Nos. 2 and 4, respectively, in hitting percentage in the state. Christian Brothers has had considerable success slowing them down in the last three years as Duren and Dunkel are 0-6 in their careers against the Falcons.

The winner will face either The Bishop's School-La Jolla (27-9) or Santa Fe Christian (30-6) who are playing tonight for the SoCal title in a rematch of the San Diego Section final, which Bishop's won two weeks ago.

The D-IV State Championship match is at noon Saturday at the Bren Events Center on the campus of UC Irvine.

December 1, 2008
Grant should win. However, Burbank could pull an upset victory

Many would agree Grant is favored to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game Friday over Burbank.

However, don't be surprise if Burbank produces an upset victory. Here are some compelling reasons why.

Grant could fold under the pressure.

This is not your average D-II section final. Grant needs a victory to remain in contention for a State Championship Division I Bowl Game berth. Winning the section title is the first requirement toward bowl eligibility. A perfect record is also a plus. Grants needs both to get a shot when the pairings are announced on Dec. 13. Can Grant perform at a high level with this much at stake?

The revenge factor
Burbank would like nothing more than to take down its Metro League rival, especially after Grant dismantled the south Sacramento team 35-13 in the regular-season finale, a game that determined the Metro League title. Keep this in mind, too. It's not easy to beat the same team twice in a season. Moreover, the D-II final is Burbank's equivalent to a State Bowl game. It's the biggest stage the Titans will play on this season. Expect them to play inspired and with a lot of emotion.

Grant can't afford to fall behind big.
Burbank built a huge a 28-7 lead over Roseville last week in the D-II semifinal. How will the Pacers respond if the Titans duplicate the feat against them? The Pacers don't play well when they fall behind big. Why? They rarely fall behind big. They don't know what it is like to be in that position. Moreover, the Pacers rely on the run a lot and do not have a polished passing attack needed to overcome a huge deficit. That could be a factor on Friday.

The Big Play Factor
Burbank quarterback Miles Freeman has a knack for the big play. Besides, passing for 304 yards against Roseville, Freeman threw a 98-yard touchdown pass to Lucky Dozier, and ran for a 67-yard score. Grant's secondary has been known to give up the big play. Freeman may exploit the Pacers' weakness.

Penalties and mistakes.
Both teams hurt themselves a lot with bad penalties and mental errors. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. Burbank may be that team because it has nothing to lose. The pressure is more on Grant to win. As a result, it could play tight and make a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, especially down the stretch.

All in all, Grant should win the game. But don't be shocked if Burbank produces the upset victory. Just remember who called it and gave the reasons why.

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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