August 31, 2009
Section Top 10 rankings get people chatty already

Ah, the comments on our blogs. Gotta love it.

On the Sac-Joaquin Section Top 10, we fielded reader comments all across the board. For starters, too many people are putting too much emphasis on scrimmages.

Del Campo's showing against Grant on Saturday was spirited - no surprise, since coach Mike Dimino demands such effort - but Grant wasn't at full strength.

A lot of folks believe Ponderosa is overrated. We'll see when the Bruins open at home against Berkeley and then visit Nevada Union. Others suggest Granite Bay is overrated, not worthy of any Top 10 mention. Coach Ernie Cooper senses he could have one of his best teams. We'll find out early with the Grizzlies, too, as they open against formidable Pittsburg.

The Del Oro doubters were there, too, flabbergasted that an injury-plagued team that went 4-6 could be ranked. Someone wondered how much coach Casey Taylor is paying me. Never thought of that. I take cash, cashier's checks or Visa.

Laguna Creek went 4-6 in 2007, we ranked them in the Top 10 a year ago and it reached the City Championship. Del Oro has a ton back. It will represent nicely.

Others wonder about Inderkum. The Tigers are talented, yes, and we'll monitor their progress under coach Terry Stark, one of the very best in the business. One reader insists that Inderkum is ranked No. 6 in the state. Not even close.

They are ranked in the NorCal Top 20 by NorCalPreps, but our list is 10 only. Any suggestions that Central Catholic is a token small-school entry is absurd. The Raiders beat St. Mary's by a point a year ago and are apparently better this season.

We will run The Bee's regional top 20 on Thursday in the print edition of the paper, with a copy also on www.sacbee.com. The Section Top 10 runs every Monday on this blog site.

August 31, 2009
Sac-Joaquin Section Football Top 10 Rankings

At long last, football season is officially here. A handful of teams play Zero Week games this week.

The Bee will launch its regional Top 20 on Thursday, with a feature on Grant. Next week: more rankings, league previews, a look at the top 25 players in the area, a look at the new playoff format and other features.

For now, we debut a Sac-Joaquin Section preseason top 10 (and last year's record). We will post section rankings every Monday.

Suggestion for all the experts: If you think a team should be in the top 10, don't forget to mention who you believe should not be in there. The Section Top 10 is a true best-of-the-best crew. Dig in.


1. Grant (14-0)
The Pacers return just three starters from the magical 14-0 state CIF championship bunch - best team in Sacramento history, anyone? - but wow, talk about talented returnees. What's more, Grant coach Mike Alberghini has some exceptional depth from last year and a host of players from an 8-2 JV team to make another section title run, such as the versatile Shaq Thompson (could play any of five positions). RB Devontae Butler and DT Viliami Moala are major recruits. Butler, tough and determined in the Onterrio Smith mold, rushed for 1,964 yards and 37 total touchdowns despite not becoming the fulltime back until nearly a month into the season. Alberghini is every bit Grant football - tough, determined, productive, admired. In his 18 seasons, he has had 18 playoff teams, 15 league championship teams, six section title teams and two unbeaten super powers in the last three seasons. His program was The Bee's Team of the Decade in the 1990s and very well could be The Team of the Decade for the 2000s, too (up through 2010, that is). The Pacers debut at No. 6 in the state preseason rankings, which seems a bit low. This is Grant we're talking about. Grant opens at home on Friday against always formidable Montgomery of Santa Rosa.

2. St. Mary's (12-3)
The Rams reached the CIF Division II bowl game after downing Pleasant Grove in the section D-I championship, and despite losing star QB Cody Vaz to Oregon State, the Stockton school could be even better this fall. New QB Marcus McDade sparkled in summer passing leagues and camps and is rated the No. 2 senior QB in Northern California by NorCalPreps, and he will flourish in a wide-open system under coach Tony Franks. McDade has some terrific receivers in recruits Josh Harper and Louie Lechich, each of whom had 1,000 yards receiving a year ago. The Rams open at Jesuit on Sept. 12, a year after blowing the Marauders clear out of Stockton. Jesuit is much improved, however. Should the Rams repeat as section champs, no surprise.

3. Nevada Union (10-2)
The Miners of Grass Valley roared back to their customary spot among the elite last fall after a downer of a 2007 season that included tough losses and an assortment of injuries. Coach Dave Humphers returns a ton of talent, so much so that NU could very well wind up back in the City Championship game. The Miners return 13 starters, including anchors in QB Broughan Jantz (1,441 yards, 19 TDs), a real weapon of versatility and poise, and LB Zach Vallejo, a tackling machine in the Matt Beck/Spencer Havner mode of yesteryear. NU has the makings of one of its greatest teams, and they've had some great clubs, including the 1989 and '90 City Championship team, the 1993 and '94 section title teams and the title teams of earlier this decade. The wing-T master Miners open at home against Ponderosa on Sept. 11, a great test.

4. Pleasant Grove (11-3)
The Eagles of Elk Grove beat Laguna Creek in the City Championship after downing a terrifically talented Nevada Union bunch in a semi-final despite a rash of injuries. It was a testament to the program coach Joe Cattolico has built. QB Taylor Congdon, out for the playoffs last fall due to injury, is back, and he's as fast and dangerous as anyone at that position in the region. Versatile WR Jalen Saunders - bound for Fresno State - had a terrific summer camp showing (he also played QB in the playoffs). The defense is headed by Darius Powe-Reed. One of the promising young players is sophomore lineman Arik Armstead, already offered a scholarship by UCLA. This isn't a new school any more. It's fully arrived. The Eagles open at home against Lincoln-Stockton on Sept. 11.

5. Granite Bay (9-2)
The Grizzlies are always good to great. Nothing less. It's a given, and it's a credit to coach Ernie Cooper, fast becoming one of the great leaders in this region. Remember, Granite Bay gave Grant its toughest game all of last season, an assessment Pacers coach Mike Alberghini agrees with. A ton of seniors departed Granite Bay, giving way to a ton of new eager seniors. Cooper has a varsity crew of 85 players, making for intense practices and incredible depth and new wrinkles to explore on offense, including unleashing tailback Devaunte Bolton and defenders Mike Wade and Andrew Knapp. Early test right away in Bay Area power Pittsburg on Sept. 13, then it's Burbank. We'll see right away how Granite Bay, all about toughness and discipline, handles superb athletes.

6. Del Oro (4-6)
It was an off year for what has been a decidedly up program under coach Casey Taylor this decade. The Golden Eagles of Loomis have a lot of star power returning, including RB Bryce Pratt, who scored 19 times a year ago as a classic power runner, and WR Spencer Butterfield, one of the top athletes in the state, regardless of sport. He was the best player for a playoff basketball team a year ago. All told, 12 starters are back, and the JV team went 8-2. Del Oro also returns some key defenders, which is good considering the Sierra Foothill League will be a bruising affair again, including Granite Bay, Roseville, Rocklin and Oakmont, among others. The Golden Eagles open against California of San Ramon, seeking the program's fifth SFL title since 2006.

7. Lincoln-Stockton (10-2)
The Trojans annually give St. Mary's a battle, including a 32-31 loss last season. And the Trojans have won the SJAA title six times this decade. Lincoln has skill players galore, including RB Philip Ruhl, WR Jamal Campbell and WR Brandon Cooks. New coach Brian Gray takes over for Jim Rubiales, with defense a strength, anchored by DL Roderick Townsend. Opener at Pleasant Grove will be telling.

8. Ponderosa (7-3)
The Bruins of Shingle Springs did not want last season to end. They belted rival - and Sierra Valley Conference champion - Oak Ridge 61-35 - in a regular-season finale in the most ridiculous rout of a league champion as any of us can remember. And this is the last team to beat Grant, in the 2007 playoffs, so motivation and anxiety are a big part of the scheme for coach Jason Tenner, who has done terrific work in his short tenure in getting the Bruins right back to that feel-good championship level from the late 1970s and early '80s under famed coach Travis Hatcher. One of Tenner's easiest tasks is having RB Lyndell Scarr take handoffs. He torched Oak Ridge for more than 450 yards and eight scores in one of the most outrageous single-game showings in state history. Leading the way is Connor Rains, all 6-6, 290 pounds of him. Ponderosa returns 10 starters and has an infusion of talent from a 9-1 JV team. It opens against athletic Berkeley on Saturday.

9. Napa (10-2)
Troy Mott has the Indians in cruise control in recent years, including a section title in 2007 and a 10-2 showing last season. Charles Boyett returns at QB after rushing for 988 yards, and he has talented tailback Logan Hess as well (1,408 yards, 20 touchdowns). LB Juan Martinez leads a revamped defense. Should win the Monticello Empire League again. Napa opens at home against very dangerous and vastly improved Vista del Lago of Folsom on Sept. 11.

10. Central Catholic (11-2)
Don't scoff at the size of the school. This is every bit a small-school super power, where the Raiders of Modesto play larger powers in nonleague games and generally prevail, including downing St. Mary's last season. Ten starters return, and there are newcomer talents from yet another 10-0 JV team for coach Roger Canepa. The leader is QB Dylan Swartz, rated the No. 5 senior QB in Northern California by NorCalPreps. The Raiders open with a classic against longtime state power Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa.

August 24, 2009
Granite Bay football coach offers cautionary note about showcase games

Although Granite Bay High School football coach Ernie Cooper is pleased that his Grizzlies will play Pittsburg Sept. 12 in the four-game Battle at the Capital at Folsom High School, he says playing in such showcase events isn't necessarily a slam dunk for programs like his.

"We're happy to participate as long as it didn't cost us one of our five home dates," Cooper said of what will be the season opener for his team. "You lose one of those gates and that's huge because, in this day and age, you need every dollar."

In participating in the Folsom event, Cooper said the Grizzlies will split gate receipts with seven other teams and promoter Matt Williams.

"We certainly are not going to come even close to making what we'd get for a home game," Cooper said. "Still, we're excited to be in it."

August 19, 2009
NU's Miraldi follows in family footsteps, accepts scholarship

Apparently Abbie Miraldi wanted to enter her senior season of volleyball at Nevada Union free of distraction.

As reported by Grass Valley Union sports editor Brian Hamilton, Miraldi accepted a scholarship offer to play collegiately at Cal State Fullerton beginning next year. There she will join 2008 Bee Player of the Year Kayla Neto, who is beginning her freshman season.

Miraldi can only make a verbal commitment at this point as the fall sports early signing period is Nov. 11-18. During that week Miraldi will be able sign a national letter of intent.

According to Hamilton, Miraldi will be the fifth member of her immediate family to play a sport on scholarship.

Miraldi, whose fifth-set block sealed the Miners' seventh straight Sac Joaquin Section Division I championship last November, will seek an eighth straight section title this fall with legendary coach Bob Rogers back after a one-year absence.

Miraldi spent the spring and summer on Force's 17-1 Blue team which finished 21st at USA Volleyball's Junior Olympics.

She is also the latest in a long line of Miners to accept D-I scholarships as she is the fifth since 2004 to do so. Others include former Bee Players of the Year Ali Daley (Long Beach State and later UCLA) and Sarah McAtee (San Jose State), sister Kylie Miraldi and teammate from last season Taylor Japhet -- both of whom are also currently at San Jose State.

August 19, 2009
Anders, Lozano on AVCA preseason All-America watch list

The American Volleyball Coaches Association released its preseason All-America watch list and Christian Brothers' Megan Anders and Oakmont's Maddie Lozano are among the 383 players listed.

As practice began on Monday, Anders entered her senior season at Christian Brothers after playing three years of varsity volleyball for Loretto before the diocese closed the school following the 2008-09 academic year.

The 6-5 middle will likely step in and occupy the vacancy left by 2008 Bee Player of the Year Kayla Neto, the Falcons' lone graduate from last year's state finalists, who is beginning her freshman season at Cal State Fullerton.

Last season Anders led the Capital Athletic League in kills per game (four) and aces per game (one) and was fourth in total kills with 211.

Anders spent this past spring and summer playing for Northern California Volleyball Club's 18-1 Moxie squad for Falcons coaches Jeff and Kristi Deter which finished 11th at USA Volleyball's Junior Olympics in the open division in Miami.

Lozano, a senior at Oakmont, was fourth in the Sierra Foothill League in kills per game (1.3) and sixth in total kills posting 91. She spent the spring and summer on Force's 17-1 Blue team which finished 21st at Junior Olympics in the national division.

August 19, 2009
Natomas' Negri likely state's oldest high school football coach

With Frank Negri coming out of retirement at age 74 to become the new Natomas High School football coach, that likely makes him the oldest varsity football coach in California.

Prep sports guru Mark Tennis of Cal-Hi Sports couldn't think of anyone older. He says Marijon Ancich, who is tied with De La Salle's Bob Ladouceur for most wins with 377, is "at least a year younger" than Negri.

After helping his son at another school last season, Ancich is returning for his third stint at St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs this fall.

Pete Michaletos, who has coached 46 seasons at Kennedy of Fremont, is 70.

"You can never be certain about a claim that Negri is the oldest head coach in the state, but there's only been a handful of head coaches in any sport in all the years we've been following California prep sports that have been in their 70s," Tennis wrote in a recent online post.

And when Negri says he's 74 going on 34, believe him.

Negri, who coached for 42 seasons at Foothill, conducted his interview with this reporter last week while playing 18 holes of golf at Wildhorse in Davis.

"Hey, I play better when I'm talking on the phone," Negri quipped at one point as he prepared to line up another shot.

It's that sense of humor that has endeared him to his fellow coaches and his players through the years.

"The great thing about taking over at Natomas is none of the kids have heard my material," Negri said. "I'm pulling out jokes from the 1950s. And they still can't believe that when I was in high school, I played without a face mask."

August 15, 2009
Locals aid Hoosiers; area girls club hoops team nationally ranked

Jesuit's James Moore and Sacramento's Will Davis helped the Bay Area Hoosiers Red to a 31-4 record, earning NorCalPreps.com's top Northern California boys basketball club ranking for the season.

The Sacramento-based Play Hard, Play Smart that featured Sac High's Robert Garrett and Capital Christian grad Charles Standifer ranked No. 5 while the area's NorCal Pharaohs, which included Sac High's Travon Abraham, Folsom's Kori Babineaux and Rocklin's Cody Kale, ranked No. 9.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento-based Just Believe Sports Purple, coached by Sean Chambers, finished the year as the No. 7 ranked girls club team in the United States, according to the web-site Hoopgurlz.ESPN.

JBS went undefeated in winning the Nike Summer Showcase July 11-14 in Chicago and the adidas EA Sports Showcase July 22-24 in Las Vegas. The team capped the month by winning the Fila Showtime National Championship tournament July 26-28 in Santa Ana.

JBS started the summer by winning the Platinum Division and reaching the Final Four of the End of the Trail tournament July 6-9 in Oregon City, Ore. JBS suffered its only loss of the summer in the semifinals to Nike-sponsored Cal Swish Black of Southern California, which finished as the nation's top-ranked team.

Stanford-bound Sara James of Oak Ridge; Brittany Shine and Kyra Dunn of Sacramento High and Ariel Thomas of McClatchy led JBS.

August 14, 2009
East Sacramento all-stars finish 1-2 at Babe Ruth Western Regionals

The East Sacramento All-Star baseball team finished 1-2 in the recent Babe Ruth 16-18 Western Regionals in Watsonville.

East Sacramento beat Hanford 9-1 as American River College's Jon Surratt and San Juan's Chris Daniels combined for the victory. San Juan's Josh Dreier had two doubles and Oakmont's Kory Groves homered.

The locals lost 9-5 to Modesto and 6-5 to eventual champion San Gabriel Valley of Southern California.

"The team played very well and made us all proud," said East Sac manager Barry Worthington. "Most of our players can come back next year, so we will give it another shot next season."

August 7, 2009
Lady Magic eliminated from ASA 18U Gold Nationals

Lady Magic made it to the big field -- Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Stadium, the site of the Women's College World Series -- on Friday, but was shutout by the defending national champion Gold Coast Hurricanes (Fla.) 5-0 eliminating the Elk Grove squad from the ASA 18 Gold Nationals in Oklahoma City.

Cal-bound pitcher and Sheldon graduate Jolene Henderson went five and a third innings giving up two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks before giving way to Pleasant Grove junior and Bee Player of the Year Ally Carda. Carda pitched the final two outs of the sixth inning, giving up three runs on three hits and three walks.

Elk Grove junior Shelby Wisdom pitched a scoreless seventh, not allowing a hit and picking up a strikeout.

Sheldon junior third baseman Danielle Henderson continued her hot hitting in Oklahoma City, going 2-for-3 against the Hurricanes. Jolene Henderson, Johansen of Modesto's Sadie Coenen, Rodriguez of Fairfield's Kiara "Yaya" Garcia, and Rosemont's Simone Heyward each had base hits for Lady Magic on Friday.

By virtue of a late-night/early-morning win on Friday in which it was on the field until 1:50 a.m., the Lady Magic assured themselves of leaving Oklahoma City with at least a .500 record and are among the Top 24 teams in the nation.

August 5, 2009
Lady Magic downs Miami Valley Express, move on in OKC

Elk Grove's Lady Magic got back on the winning track with an impressive 5-0 victory over the Miami Valley Express on Wednesday afternoon at the Amateur Softball Association's 18 Gold Nationals in Oklahoma City.

The win came just 14 hours after Texas Glory-Shelton dropped the Lady Magic out of the main bracket in an 8-2 romp late Tuesday night. Because of double-elimination format, the Lady Magic's next loss will eliminate the team.

Against the Express Ally Carda and Shelby Wisdom combined for a four-hit shutout as Carda pitched the first three, striking out five before giving way to Wisdom who pitched the final four innings, striking out four. Both allowed two hits.

Third baseman Danielle Henderson got the Lady Magic on the board in the top of the first with a two-RBI double scoring centerfielder Simone Heyward and Carda. Henderson, Heyward and left fielder Hayley Miles all went 2-for-3 with runs scored.

The Lady Magic must continue to navigate the choppy waters of the elimination bracket and are back on the field at 8 p.m. in Oklahoma City to face an opponent yet to be determined.

You can follow the rest of Lady Magic's journey here on the sports blog, at gold.asasoftball.com, or via Twitter at twitter.com/magicsoftball.

August 3, 2009
Lady Magic victorious in second round of pool play, move on to main bracket Tuesday

Elk Grove's Lady Magic evened its record at the Amateur Softball Association's 18 Gold Nationals to 1-1 with a 2-1 victory over Washington's Sidewinders on Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Jolene Henderson went the distance in the circle for the Lady Magic, striking out eight in seven innings of work and helped herself with an RBI in the first inning, scoring Emily Caruthers who pinch ran for catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt following a double.

Washington's Joni Cook picked up the loss, allowing six hits in six innings while striking out five.

Simone Heyward, who threw out a runner at the plate in the Lady Magic's opening round loss on Sunday night, scored what would stand as the winning run in the second inning while pinch running for Sadie Coenen. After Coenen hit a one-out single to left, Heyward stole second base, got to third on a third on an overthrow by Sidewinders catcher Ashley Andrews and scored on a base hit by DeJanee Moore.

The Lady Magic move on to double-elimination bracket play on Tuesday. Its opponent is yet to be determined as the bracket will not be finalized until pool play concludes on Monday night.

You can follow the rest of Lady Magic's journey here on the sports blog, at gold.asasoftball.com, or via Twitter at twitter.com/magicsoftball.

August 2, 2009
Lady Magic stumbles in first game of ASA Gold Nationals

Elk Grove's Lady Magic stumbled in its first game of the Amateur Softball Association 18 Gold Nationals on Sunday night, losing to Indy Dreams 1-0, despite strong outings in the circle from Ally Carda and Jolene Henderson, who both pitched three innings of a time-limit shortened game.

Carda started the game and struck out three Dreams hitters but could not work her way out of a troublesome third inning in which she walked two of the first three batters and the Magic appeared to be on the wrong end of an interference call involving a runner cutting off shortstop Cheyenne Cordes which would have ended the inning. As it happened, with two outs, the next Indianapolis hitter hit a dribbler between Carda and third baseman Danielle Henderson to score the game's only run.

Jolene Henderson struck out five in her three innings, allowing three hits. Centerfielder Simone Heyward prevented a second Dreams run from scoring by throwing a runner out at the plate to end the top of the sixth inning.

Official stats and names of Dreams players were not available as of press time.

You can follow the rest of Lady Magic's journey here on the sports blog or via Twitter at twitter.com/magicsoftball.



About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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