Eric Cavaliere went old school this week in El Dorado Hills.
After watching his tight end, Ryan Sullivan, get crunched on a play in the last game, the Oak Ridge High School veteran coach figured the best way to soothe the burly senior’s neck was to get adequate padding installed just below the back of the helmet.
“Went to the pool supply place, got a swimming pool noodle, taped it up, and we had a throwback neck roll,” Cavaliere beamed before Friday night’s nonleague game against visiting Burbank.
The coach and tight end beamed plenty after the Trojans, ranked No. 3 by The Bee, plowed through the No. 15 Titans 45-28 in offering a glimpse of resolve, old grit and big-play ability.
Burbank led 7-0 on an Eric Brown 12-yard run following a Trojans turnover, but Oak Ridge kicked it into gear from there with its balanced attack, anchored by the offensive line. Ian Book passed for 226 yards, hitting Sullivan for first-half touchdowns of 13 and 6 yards, and Drew Lackowski on a 48-yard second-quarter screen pass to make it 35-7.
Lackowski rushed for 107 yards and Stephen Douglas 114.
Burbank had success on the ground with a fleet of quick backs, headed by quarterback Harrison Anderson, to make it a bit more interesting in the second half, but this one was never really in doubt. Oak Ridge eliminated Burbank twice in recent playoff outings, and this was the first regular-season meeting between the programs.
Despite graduating 35 seniors from a 12-2 team, the Trojans are 3-0. Last week, Oak Ridge stopped Vacaville an inch short of the goal line on a potential game-winning two-point conversion attempt. The three returning starters on offense are Book and linemen Giuseppe Scalise and Nolan Book, the quarterback’s brother. And only Lackowski returned as a defensive starter.
“I’ve been impressed with our backfield,” Cavaliere said of Lackowski, Douglas and Dalton Santos. “They’ve provided us with most of our big plays and have a physical nature to them that we haven’t had in the backfield in quite some time.
Lackowski, Douglas, Santos and Nolan Book are two-way starters, the most in a few years for the Trojans. Lackowski said he has been most impressed with his team’s willingness to condition and prepare.
“Football’s big here, and we put so much time and work in, it’s crazy because it means everything to us,” Lackowski said. “The way we practice, the way we condition, the way we watch film, it’s personal. We want to have a great season.”
Cavaliere and company have long maintained that Oak Ridge has all the ingredients to be an annual championship contender: administrative support, healthy participation, facilities, athletes and tradition. This is a school that has talked titles, and won them in league or Sac-Joaquin Section play, since the mid 1980s.
“We have everything going for us,” Lackowski said. “We have that goal in mind to get back to the section championship and beyond.”
Oak Ridge lost to top-ranked Folsom in the Division I final. Members of the Delta River League last season, Oak Ridge and Folsom have been realigned to a Sierra Foothill League that includes recent CIF Bowl teams Del Oro, Granite Bay and Rocklin and current Bee-ranked Nevada Union and Woodcreek.
“It’s a great league, and we can’t wait,” Lackowski said.
Burbank (0-2) lost its opener 20-0 to No. 4 Grant but still stands as a favorite with No. 8 Sacramento in the Metropolitan Conference.