High School Sports

Placer Hillmen’s wing-T wonders roll Rio Linda in showdown of backs

The wing-T lives on here.

The run-heavy offense resonates through the very core of the Placer Hillmen, a way of life for a good many of these players for as long as they have blocked and tackled.

The wing-T equates to halfbacks and burly fullbacks taking handoffs and scooting left or right or powering right up the gut with a down-hill look and feel. The scheme works with linemen large and small, so long as everyone is on the same page.

Ranked 18th by The Bee, Placer barreled past No. 15 Rio Linda 24-7 on Friday night in Auburn to emerge as the lone unbeaten team in the wildly competitive and entertaining Foothill Valley League.

Placer (5-2) has won four consecutive games, thanks to an improving defense and a prolific and grinding rushing attack that often gasses and demoralizes defenses, including the fast and physical unit of Rio Linda, which had its five-game winning streak halted.

At 2-0 in the FVL, Placer is muscling closer to its eighth consecutive league championship and 12th successive playoff berth under coach Joey Montoya, an energized and organized sort who stresses the wing-T as a way of football life.

“We believe in it,” said Montoya, an alum of the school whose grandfather, Bill Miller, coached the Hillmen to championship heights in the 1970s and early 1980s. “The wing-T is who we are. It’s our identity. And it works on all fields and in all conditions.”

Placer capped an odd week with a feel-good triumph in front of another overflow crowd as football remains a vital part of the community. The PG&E power issues left Placer and a lot of nearby homes and shops without power, and there was talk by mid week that Friday’s game could be pushed to Saturday.

“It was weird, but the one thing you learn about coaching is that it never goes smooth,” Montoya said.

Placer has basked in championship glory in the mud and muck at LeFebvre Stadium for decades and now for the first time with a sparkling new field turf.

And is there a better running back name for a smashmouth game than Hans Grassman?

The stout 6-foot-4, 230-pound Placer senior rushed for 87 bruising yards and a 1-yard touchdown.

Dylan Logelin ran for 84 yards and scored on a 14-yard run and Jesse Whigam went for 62, including a 23-yard touchdown in his first game in nearly a month due to injuries as Placer sent waves of backs into the Knights defense.

Placer’s offensive line led the charge behind Michael Callas, Kyle Christiansen, Chase Esty, Evan Robinson and Jackson Sabins. Sabins is the son of assistant coach Mike Sabins, the one-time Placer player and head coach.

Another coach of note on a staff is Eric Rodarte. The Hillmen’s defensive coordinator soaked in a tremendous defensive effort that stalled Rio Linda (5-2).

The Knights had one big play, a 49-yard touchdown sprint by Abraham Banks, but he had just 89 yards rushing for the game.

Cameron Skattebo, he of the 3,500-yard season a year ago, came in averaging 172 yards rushing. The senior was held to 88 on 14 carries. Skattebo started at quarterback to offer a different look, and he had his moments as he generally does, including as a kicker and punter.

Placer had a goal-line stop to end the first half, leading 14-7, and stopped the Knights twice on downs. Nate Russell also had two interceptions.

Coach Rodarte’s father, Jim Rodarte, is a household football name in the region. A retired Spanish teacher at Placer, Rodarte was a decades-long Placer assistant who still helps out. He had three sons play for the Hillmen, and he beamed before the game about Montoya, “What a great coach!”

“Jim’s a living legend,” Montoya said. “Just love him.”

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