Cameron Skattebo had a 67-yard touchdown rumble Saturday night on which he dealt as much punishment as he took.
It appeared all 11 San Gorgonio defenders had a piece of Skattebo at some point, and there were two separate dog piles on the play.
But each time, the Alpha Dog from Rio Linda High School emerged and kept charging forward.
Skattebo, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior, had 396 hard yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns to lead the Knights to a 38-35 victory over San Gorgonio in the CIF State Division 5-AA championship game in Rio Linda.
The Knights (13-2) became the sixth Sacramento-area state champion in football since 2006, when the format was introduced.
Skattebo was on another long gain late in the game before he was stripped of the ball. The Spartans (12-4) capitalized on the game’s only turnover to close within 38-35 on a Jordan Pachot touchdown pass, his fourth of the game.
Skattebo knew he’d get the ball back, and he capitalized. A 39-yard run erased a first and 26 deep in Rio Linda territory and salted away the game, as the Spartans were out of timeouts.
The celebration Rio Linda had been waiting for started in earnest as Knights fans flooded the field.
“My heart turned the size of a quarter,” Skattebo said of the feeling right after the fumble. “It squeezed real hard, and I knew right after that moment that I would have to fight hard for this team. There’s no way I could give this away like that.”
Skattebo became the Sac-Joaquin Section’s all-time leader in single-season rushing with 3,553 yards. That eclipsed the record of 3,458 yards set by John Bordenkircher of Dixon in 1997.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Skattebo said of the record. “But it wouldn’t have happened without the five guys on my offensive line in front of me. I love them. They played their hearts out for me.”
Those grunts up front are Nico Salaices, Eddie Rabuku, Jack Clark, Jason Dally and David Fowler.
San Gorgonio coach Mike McClure said his team was ready for Skattebo. He may rethink that on the ride back to San Bernardino.
“We team tackle,” McClure said before the game. “We’ve had six games in seven weeks and everyone has a good back, and this team is no different. So, we’ve faced three backs that have 2,600 yards or more and so every week has been the same situation. Obviously, you have to tackle.”
But McClure also mentioned controlling the tempo on offense and not allowing Skattebo to run wild. The Spartans never led and trailed 35-14 following a 50-yard run by Rio Linda junior Abraham Banks.
Yes, even Skattebo needs a rest, and the Knights have plenty of other players who can run the ball well.
“We have some guys who can take the pressure off of Cameron,” Knights coach Jack Garceau said. “Our quarterback can run the ball well, and we’ve been able to mix it up quite a bit throughout the season. His numbers stick out because they’re big numbers, but we’ve had 5,300 yards rushing, so those extra 2,200 yards came from someplace. We’re able to keep teams off balance pretty well.”
The Knights’ bend-but-don’t break defense stopped the Spartans three times in the red zone on fourth-down plays. Skattebo was in on many of those plays from his middle linebacker spot. His impact on his team, and this town, cannot be overstated.
“I’d do anything for this town,” Skattebo said. “I live and die for this town.”