High School Sports

Senior fullback helps Placer run past Vista del Lago to snap first slide since 2016

The Placer High School football team is joined by the cheering section after the Hillmen beat Vista del Lago on Friday night in Folsom.
The Placer High School football team is joined by the cheering section after the Hillmen beat Vista del Lago on Friday night in Folsom. sholkko@sacbee.com

Coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2016, the Placer High football team had one plan going into Friday night’s game: Feed Hans Grassman.

Behind a dominant game on the ground from the senior fullback, the Hillmen got a 45-34 road victory against previously undefeated Vista del Lago.

Grassman rushed for 213 yards and four touchdowns in the first half and finished with 290 yards and five scores on 27 carries. Senior running back Jesse Whigam ran for 104 yards with Grassman as the lead blocker on most carries.

The Hillmen came into Friday night’s matchup with a 47-34 loss at Whitney on Aug. 30 and a last-second 30-27 home loss against Cardinal Newman last week in the team’s first game on their new field.

Placer coach Joey Montoya said after the game that he was proud of his team and coaching staff for being resilient amid two consecutive losses.

“(Placer) is a program that’s used to being on the right side of things,” he said. “We learned a lot of lessons from our previous two games. We’re headed in the right direction.”

The Hillmen went 13-2 in 2017 and 12-1 in 2018, but with the loss of several starters to graduation, the 2019 Hillmen are almost a new team.

Grassman gave credit to his offensive linemen for his monster performance Friday night.

“They played great,” Grassman said. “They don’t get enough credit. They are the leaders on our team 100 percent. They go out there and fight every day.”

Grassman is a multi-sport athlete who played rugby growing up.

“I’ve played football for 12 years since I was a little kid,” Grassman said. “It’s always been a part of my life. I’ve played pretty much every position through junior Hillmen.”

Montoya was quick to praise his fullback following the win.

“He is one of the best running backs in the (Sac-Joaquin) Section and probably one of the best running backs in the state,” Montoya said. “It was on full display tonight: 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and runs like a horse. He’s a hard guy to bring down.”

When asked if Grassman has the potential to be an NCAA fullback or tight end, Montoya said “100 percent” and noted the offers and interest Grassman has received.

Montoya expressed to his players in a postgame speech that Friday’s game could be the turning point in the season for the Hillmen.

“We’re nowhere close to our ceiling yet,” Montoya said. “We’re not even close to the potential that this team has. Fortunately for us, we get healthy with a bye week and we get a couple guys coming back in a couple weeks. That’s gonna help us out a lot and the sky’s the limit.”

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