High School Sports

Sizing up themes, teams and trends as the area high school football season heats up

It may be wise to not kick off to Abraham Banks any more. The Rio Linda senior on Friday had kickoff returns into the end zone against Foothill from 87 and 91 yards, and he has 13 such scores in three varsity seasons. The Knights are 4-1.

“It is really exceptional,” Rio Linda coach Jack Garceau said of Banks.

Wild Whitney football team

The best way to eliminate the residue of an 0-10 season is to win, and win some more. If an early 47-34 win over Placer didn’t resonate fully, then Friday’s 30-27 overtime win over storied Del Oro most certainly did for second-year coach Zac McNally. At 3-3, Whitney closes Sierra Foothill League play against Granite Bay, Folsom, Oak Ridge and Grant

In Rocklin, A is for Adams

For 17 seasons, Jason Adams called the defense at Rocklin, fierce and profound in his approach. Now he’s the head coach, taking over for Greg Benzel, and the old friends embraced following the Thunder’s stirring 28-22 win over previous No. 2 Oak Ridge on Friday. Top-ranked Folsom is well aware of Rocklin, which comes for a visit this week in a season suddenly defined by upsets.

“Oh man, it’s so fun,” said Adams of the season while heaping credit on players and assistant coaches.

Mixed Sheldon homecoming

There were a lot of familiar faces and sites for Chris Nixon and quarterback son Sean when Sheldon visited Elk Grove in a Delta League match on Friday.

Now an assistant at Sheldon, Chris coached for 20 years at Elk Grove, nine as head coach, and Sean grew up around the place as a ball boy. Sean quarterbacks Sheldon now, willing his team on every drive, including 234 yards passing during a 55-0 loss to Sheldon. And he rolled with it when Elk Grove fans lustily cheered when he was tackled on the sideline or when students chanted, “Daddy ball!” before Elk Grove administrators muted it.

It’s not the worst display of fan venom we have seen around here. That would be 1996, when Nevada Union fans cheered every time their one-time quarterback Chad Elliott was tackled while leading rival Grant in a league showdown in Del Paso Heights. Said some, standing and pointing, as Miners swarmed after Elliott, who transferred to Grant before his senior season, “Kill him!”

NU won that day, but Elliott led Grant to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship that season.

Elk Grove Herd is the word

Who says running isn’t still a staple for a championship contender? Elk Grove is 4-1 and rolling with its triple-option offense, sparked by quarterback dynamo Carter Harris and his “Hammerhead” offensive line with rival Pleasant Grove looming.

Susac season at Jesuit

Without Daniel Susac, Jesuit struggled to get going offensively.

With Susac in place at quarterback, healthy and inspired, Jesuit has rolled in successive weeks and will host red-hot Cosumnes Oaks on Saturday afternoon in the Delta League. He’s a star catcher who looks the part of star passer, too.

Oakmont uprising

Tim Moore hasn’t reinvented the coaching wheel, but the longtime Vikings coach has reaped nice rewards with a 5-0 showing for the program’s best start since fielding its last winner in 2005 at 7-3.

“Honestly, my coaches and I have prepared, coached, guided and supported this team pretty much the same way we have always done for all of our teams since 2009,” said Moore, whose teams visits Lincoln next to open Foothill Valley League action. “The difference this year is a combination of good health, depth and a group that really is committed to the process. They are very coachable, take responsibility and love to hang out together.”

Highland Great Scots

Highlands is 5-0 for the first time since the 1980s, and no one is more ecstatic than alumni coach Matt Cokley, in his 10th season in charge of the Scots.

This is his best team since the 10-3 outfit of 2011, thanks to unsung performers such as quarterback Chrichion Brown and receiver Harim Reynolds, who has 10 of Brown’s 15 touchdown passes.

Rosemont rumbling

Rosemont is 5-0 under longtime coach Rich Wanlin, who has a quarterback leader in Kyle Masterson and a reliable runner in Zion Gedeon.

Defending champion Union Mine visits Friday in a Sierra Valley Conference opener.

Natomas high on Hines

His team is 0-6, but Joseph Hines has done all he can to keep the Nighthawks competitive, rushing for 142.2 yards a game with five touchdowns, some of the spectacular variety.

Bella Vista throwing it

His team is winless, but Jackson Stephen of Bella Vista will still work a defense, averaging 233.2 yards passing. Better days ahead, young sir.

Capital Christian trench terrors

Capital Christian has some Earth-movers on its offensive line, including the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Ilaisa Gonebure, a junior with rising recruiting interest and a player whom coach Casey Taylor affectionately refers to as “a monster.”

So are his drive-blocking mates D.J. Eldridge, Kenndel Riley, Joaquin Gamez, Liumai Tupou, Makaile Shaddix and Darien Semedo.


Top-ranked St. Francis is still rolling after winning the Chris Craft Tournament.

It knocked off Ponderosa, Del Oro, Granite Bay, Lincoln, Oak Ridge and Presentation in the final to cap a 6-0 Saturday. The 24-0 record is the best start in school history. Earlier in the week, senior setter Jesiree Moral committed to play at Fresno Pacific University

Colfax enters the rankings for the first time at No. 19 after knocking off No. 20 Bear River in straight sets.

After starting the season 6-10, the Falcons have won eight of nine They are led by multi-sport star Grace Bliss, who leads the team in kills with 109. Nellie Balk and Sarah Downey have anchored the setter position, combining for 221 assists.

No. 9 Whitney has entered the top 10 after a big win over No. 18 Folsom and a close loss to No. 2 Oak Ridge.

The Wildcats are finally healthy after having players out early in the preseason. Whitney is led by captains Aubrey Miller, Raley Gilmore, Kendall Gimenez and Maddy Miller. Its biggest test of the season will come against No. 4 Rocklin on Thursday. - Cameron Salerno

The Bee’s Top 20


1. Folsom (4-1)

2. Rocklin (5-1)

3. Inderkum (5-0)

4. Oak Ridge (3-2)

5. Monterey Trail (4-1)

6. Elk Grove (4-1)

7. Davis (4-1)

8. Capital Christian (4-2)

9. Vacaville (3-2)

10. Cosumnes Oaks (5-1)

11. Del Oro (4-2)

12. Pleasant Grove (4-1)

13. Granite Bay (3-3)

14. Center (5-0)

15. Rio Linda (4-1)

16. Bear River (5-0)

17. Lincoln (3-2)

18. Whitney (3-3)

19. Placer (3-2)

20. Oakmont (5-0)

Bubble teams (alphabetical order): Casa Roble (2-3), Christian Brothers (4-2), Colfax (3-2), Del Campo (3-2), East Nicolaus (4-1), Galt (4-1), Highlands (5-0), Jesuit (2-3), Laguna Creek (3-2), Liberty Ranch (2-3), Nevada Union (4-1), Ponderosa (3-2), Rosemont (5-0), Roseville (4-2), Union Mine (3-2), Vista del Lago (5-1).


1. St. Francis (24-0)

2. Oak Ridge (22-4)

3. Lincoln (14-2)

4. Rocklin (15-8)

5. Cosumnes Oaks (12-5)

6. Nevada Union (26-5)

7. Christian Brothers (18-7)

8. Rio Americano (23-8)

9. Whitney (12-8)

10. Woodcreek (12-5)

11. Del Oro (10-10)

12. Vacaville (14-3)

13. Vanden (13-1)

14. Oakmont (8-5)

15. Pioneer (25-5)

16. Pleasant Grove (5-5)

17. Ponderosa (8-8)

18. Folsom (12-17)

19. Colfax (14-11)

20. Bear River (13-8)

- Cameron Salerno

This week’s football schedule

All games start Friday between 7-7:30 p.m., unless noted.

Capital Athletic League

Sacramento at El Camino (Thursday)

Capital Christian at Del Campo (Thursday)

Rio Americano at Vista del Lago

Capital Valley Conference

Antelope at Bella Vista

Roseville at River Valley

Woodcreek at Inderkum

Delta League

Davis at Sheldon

Pleasant Grove at Elk Grove

Cosumnes Oaks at Jesuit (2 p.m. Saturday)

Foothill Valley League

Oakmont at Lincoln

Placer at Nevada Union

Ponderosa at Rio Linda

Golden Empire League

Casa Roble at Mira Loma

Mesa Verde at Pioneer

Woodland at Dixon

Greater Sacramento League

Florin vs. Valley

Johnson at Cordova

Metropolitan League

Laguna Creek at Burbank

McClatchy vs. Kennedy

River City at Monterey Trail

Monticello Empire League

Armijo at Vanden

Fairfield at Wood

Vacaville at Rodriguez

Pioneer Valley League

Bear River at Center

Foothill at Colfax

Lindhurst at Marysville

Sacramento Metro

Delta at Woodland Christian

Western Sierra vs. Foresthill

Valley Christian vs. Encina (Saturday)

Sierra Delta League

Golden Sierra at Linden

Rio Vista at Highlands

San Juan at Vacaville Christian

Sierra Foothill League

Oak Ridge at Grant

Rocklin at Folsom

Whitney at Granite Bay

Sierra Valley League

El Dorado at Galt

Liberty Ranch at Bradshaw Christian

Union Mine at Rosemont

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Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.