You just never know in the Sierra Foothill League.
With the playoffs looming, No. 10 Del Oro pulled off an upset Friday, knocking off No. 3 Rocklin 21-14 behind rushing touchdowns from Sheldon Conde and Kal Lunders and an 8-yard Ryan Lewis scoring pass to T.J. Willson.
Del Oro (6-3, 3-2) started the season 4-1, losing early to still-unbeaten and No. 2 Inderkum, before dropping a 30-27 overtime game at Whitney in the SFL and a 38-15 contest at No. 3 Oak Ridge.
Last week, the Golden Eagles got back on track with a 38-21 victory over Grant. Rocklin is also 6-3 and 3-2.
“I loved these guys as much as I did three weeks ago, but to come out on homecoming night and upset a great Rocklin team was big,” Del Oro coach Jeff Walters said. “This proves that we have been a really good football team all along. We ran into a little dip earlier in the season but that’s what makes stories so awesome. We just keep riding the roller coaster.”
So what makes Del Oro so good in late October and early November? Tradition, for one thing. Del Oro last season won the program’s 12th Sac-Joaquin Section championship in 18 title-game appearances – all since 1989.
“Our guys are just branded different,” Walters said. “While other kids are thinking about basketball or wrestling, our guys are gearing up for the second season.”
On Friday, Del Oro’s defense shined as bright as its marching bands colorful lights in the school’s annual homecoming halftime show. The Golden Eagles forced two big turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a fumble inside the 10-yard line with eight minutes left. Willson on the final play of the game intercepted Rocklin quarterback Richie Watts to seal it.
That is something to dance about, and good timing: Del Oro will have its homecoming dance at Woodcreek High in Roseville on Saturday. The location change is due to the PG&E power shutoffs occurring all over Northern California.
Sheldon Conde in the first half danced around the Rocklin defense.
The Del Oro senior ran for 122 of his 174 total yards in the first half against one of the top defensive lines in the section.
Rocklin running back Nolan O’Harran also had a big game on the ground in his first game back from a shoulder injury. He rushed for 125 of his 151 yards in the second half.
Playing running back for Conde is in his blood. He started playing the position when he was 6 years old for the Del Campo Jr. Cougars. He also played for the Antelope Jr. Titans before switching to the Del Oro youth program.
“Playing running back is what I love to do,” Conde said. “This is what I live for.”
The long school days leading up to the Rocklin game had him eager to run.
“All week felt like game day to me,” Conde said with a laugh. “When Friday came, I was ready to go.”
Homecoming week at Del Oro revolves around the football team. The town of Loomis comes together on Friday afternoon for a parade. Streets are closed, kids are out of school and then they pack the football stadium.
Del Oro’s rooting section “The Black Hole” was loud Friday, which players appreciated.
“Our student section is our backbone,” Conde said. “We feed off of their energy. We can definitely hear them all game long.”
Del Oro will be moved up to Division I for the playoffs after years at D-II or III. No challenge is too big for Walters and the Golden Eagles.
“For a long time it was anyone, anywhere and anytime,” Walters said of scheduling. “Every team is trying to win big games in the playoffs.
“We will just have to wait and see if we can play with the big boys.”
After the game ended and players shook hands, Walters yelled out to Rocklin players, “Go win a section championship.” Rocklin will be in D-II.
This league means a lot to him.
“The SFL is the best league in Northern California,” Walters said. “I’m rooting for them like crazy to go win a championship. I hope we can keep the league on top in the playoffs.”
Del Oro will close out the season against top-ranked Folsom. Rocklin will play Granite Bay, a big game for D-II positioning.