“Stop the run.” It rings true at all levels of this sport.
In any football championship discussion, coaches understand the wisdom of running the ball, and, of course, stopping it.
At Rio Linda High School, coach Jack Garceau relies on old-school tactics in a new-era game of passing. He calls up Cameron Skattebo handoffs to let the junior do his thing, with emphatic results.
Skattebo has rushed for 2,606 yards and 32 touchdowns. As he goes, so, too, do the Knights.
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Rio Linda (10-2) takes on Casa Roble (11-1) at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Whitney for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.
Garceau will feed his tailback plenty to extend the season as the Knights seek their first section banner since 2004 and first Northern California regional berth.
“We know we’ve got to stop their guy, and we know he’s great, and we know he’ll be coming at us,” Casa Roble coach Chris Horner said. Easier said than done.
Skattebo has been the focal point for Rio Linda since August. The 6-foot 205-pound back is a mixture of speed, power, balance and instincts. He leads the section in rushing. He is first in Northern California in yards and fourth in the state with as many as three games to go.
Skattebo racked up 253 yards against Pioneer, 276 against Foothill, 279 against Lincoln, 390 on Nevada Union and 293 against Pacheco. He has 32 touchdowns.
All of this from a mild-mannered sort who sports a jaw-line beard and one nasty in-game disposition.
“First and foremost, he’s tremendously talented, driven and super competitive,” Garceau said. “He doesn’t want to lose at anything, ever. He has a rough exterior. He’s been the best athlete in his class his entire life, and that creates issues sometimes.”
Issues in that Skattebo is hard to please and is relentless in his pursuit of perfection. And he has a name to live up to.
His older brother, Leo, was a standout Bee All-Metro fullback/linebacker in 2013. Their father, also named Leo, was a three-sport star at Rio Linda in the early 1990s.
The current-edition Skattebo is also a terrific baseball player, racing around the bases with home-run blasts.
“Cameron’s brother was a D-I player and their dad an All-NorCal receiver when he was here,” Garceau said. “All of that carries some baggage when you’re the last one through. Typical small-town thing.”
The coach added: “He’s a very nice kid, very emotional and he wants to succeed. He’s learning every day what it is like to rely on a team instead of just his own talents, which he was able to do growing up.”
Skattebo has the most rushing yards for a regional back in a single season since Mark Jenkins of Pleasant Grove ran for 2,739 yards and 41 scores in 2010. That team went 13-1 and won the section Division I championship under coach Joe Cattolico, whose idea of a trick play is a forward pass.
In 2009, Ryan Dimino of Del Campo rushed for 2,702 yards and 28 scores for a 13-1 team. The Cougars won the Division III section title.
In 2008, Zach Graves of Whitney ran for 2,783 yards and 39 scores for a 13-0 Division IV section winner.
In 2008, Matt Satchwell of Casa Roble ran for 2,178 yards and 30 touchdowns for a 13-0 team that won the Division III crown.
In 1992, Robert Dotson of Grant ran for 2,203 yards and 25 scores for a 12-2 team that won the program’s first Division I section title.
In 1991, James Kidd of Elk Grove rushed for 2,358 yards and 33 scores for a 13-1 team that won the program’s first Division I banner.
And in 1983, Vince Delgado of Christian Brothers set what was then the section’s single-season rushing mark with 2,357 yards and 28 scores for a 13-1 team that won section Division I honors.
The theme hasn’t changed over the decades: run to daylight, even at night.
The only area runners to eclipse 3,000 yards in a single season are John Bordenkircher of Dixon in 1997 (3,458) and Onterrio Smith of Grant in 1998 (3,125). Those teams lost just once, in section semifinals. Skattebo is aiming for titles and 3,000 yards.