The hottest ticket in Placer County on Friday night was in Rocklin. If you didn’t buy a ticket beforehand, you might have needed a less-than-legal way of attending the Rocklin-Whitney football game.
And if you arrived right before kickoff, hopefully you were wearing comfortable walking gear because the parking lot was full by the first quarter of the junior varsity game and you were going to have a long jaunt ahead of you.
All of this is to say the Quarry Bowl is a very, very big deal for the city, with about 6,500 people in attendance.
The game was a giant party. Whitney’s student section, The X-Factor, and Rocklin’s Storm flooded the bleachers with posters and good cheer. The 10th annual Quarry Bowl justified the hoopla. No. 7 Rocklin had a fast start behind touchdown runs from Richie Watts and Tanner Gomes and held on for a 27-14 win. Special teams also played a factor, with two field goals and a blocked punt for a score by Cole Strandberg.
Rocklin now leads the all-time Quarry Bowl series 8-2.
“We are one town and one big community,” Rocklin principal Dave Stewart said. “After the game, we will all come together because these kids know each other so well.”
Rocklin quarterback Richie Watts knows all about Whitney because he grew up as one of them. Before high school, Watts played for the junior Wildcats throughout his pre-teen years. A move by his family prompted him to enroll at Rocklin his freshman year.
“It’s pretty cool to me because I know every player on Whitney’s roster,” Watts said. “It’s more personal when we play Whitney because it hits a little bit closer to home.”
Watts is a first-year starter on the varsity team and his play has caught the attention of his coach early.
“Richie is a natural leader,” Rocklin coach Jason Adams said. “He is demanding in his way. The guys respond well to him because he loves to compete. If you watch him run the ball, he plays like he’s 6-foot-5 210 pounds.”
Adams, who served as the defensive coordinator for 17 years, is in his first season as head coach at Rocklin. This community means as much to him as it does his players. He embraces getting to teach at the school and be around both his football team and two biological kids. Megan is a junior on the volleyball team while his son Austin is a freshman on the football team.
“It’s beyond special,” Adams said on having his kids on campus with him. “These years I get to have them on campus with me is the best years I can possibly have. I’m lucky to have them here.”
Rocklin (4-1, 1-0) will face Oak Ridge next, which lost a tight 36-33 game to Folsom. Whitney (2-3, 0-1) will play Del Oro, which is coming off a 28-10 victory over Granite Bay.
“Every team we play in the SFL will be a challenge,” Adams said on the remaining schedule. “We believe we can compete with anybody and we embrace the opportunity to play in the league.”