It was decided early.
Rio Linda scored 13 points in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game – before even its first offensive possession. The Knights’ dominance in Saturday’s 63-14 win over Casa Roble was on display behind Cameron Skattebo’s seven scores, as well as dazzling performances by Abraham Banks and Eddie Rabuku.
Before No. 3 seed Casa Roble (11-2) could even blink, junior running back Banks returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a 7-0 lead.
“Whenever Abraham gets the ball on a kickoff, he has a chance to score,” Rio Linda coach Jack Garceau said. “It was huge. He hasn’t had any kicked to him in a while so it was great to actually have that happen and he delivered.”
On the next Casa Roble possession, junior lineman Rabuku blocked a Rams field-goal attempt, which junior running back Skattebo scooped up and ran 75 yards for a touchdown to give the Knights a 13-0 lead.
“I didn’t know I was going to get through that fast,” Rabuku said. “I was looking at the ball the whole time, I was faster than the offensive lineman and I just put my hands up and I blocked it.”
This is the first time Rio Linda has won the section title since 2004 and it is the first time they will advance to a Northern California Regional game. The top-seeded Knights (11-2) came into the game after narrowly beating Oakdale 31-28 last week.
“It’s been a long time,” Garceau said. “I was here as an assistant coach for the 2004 title. The kids have worked so hard and they have earned it. It’s a big deal.”
Skattebo came into the game with 2,606 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns but didn’t get off to the fast start he was accustomed to. On his first six carries, he totaled 25 yards. On his next 11 carries, he ran for 266 yards and five touchdowns.
The Knights scored on each of their possessions in the first half and at one point, Skattebo scored a touchdown on three consecutive carries for 20, 49 and 62 yards.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle,” Skattebo said. “I believed from the second game after we were getting beat up by Center that this was going to be happening.”
Skattebo finished with 313 rushing yards and will enter next week’s game needing 81 rushing yards to become the section’s first 3,000-yard rusher since Grant’s Onterrio Smith ran for 3,125 in 1998.
Rio Linda senior quarterback Tyson Ybarra had zero passing yards in last week’s win over Oakdale but came out and completed his first three passes against Casa Roble.
On the Knights’ first offensive drive, Ybarra threw two passes of 24 yards, the second of which went to Skattebo for a touchdown to make the score 21-6.
On the first play of the next drive, Ybarra found Banks wide open for a 60-yard touchdown for a 28-6 lead. By the end of the first half, Rio Linda led 56-14, which led to a running clock in the fourth quarter and a 63-14 win.
“I’m speechless,” Rabuku said. “Last year, we talked about it a lot and our coach predicted it. We had a good practice this week and I’m just really happy, no words.”