Ernie Cooper is playing against familiar colors tonight in a homecoming of sorts.
The Granite Bay High School football coach will welcome the Aptos Mariners of Santa Cruz County to Placer County in a nonleague game sure to tug at his emotions. Cooper is a 1980 Aptos graduate, and he was the Aptos coach from 1989 to 1995 before starting the Granite Bay program from scratch.
So why is the coach giddy and anxious?
“The competitor in me wants to play them because it’s a great game, but the friend in me doesn’t want this game because I know a lot of coaches on that staff,” Cooper said. “If they win, they’ll feel great but will feel bad for me, and if we’re fortunate enough to win, it’ll be the the same thing.”
What’s more, Cooper is coming off his team’s most crushing defeat, a 63-0 loss to top-ranked Folsom to open Sierra Foothill League play, and the Grizzlies need a victory to distance themselves from that memory.
Aptos is coached by Randy Blankenship, a 242-game winner and former Nevada Union coach who led the Miners to City Championships in 1989 and ’90 before a myriad of coaching stops that eventually brought him and his wing-T offense to Aptos in 2010. Aptos reached the Central Coast Section Division III final in 2012 and won it last season. The Mariners, riding a 13-game winning streak, are 4-0 after routing Clovis East of Fresno 70-27.
Rhyne recovery – Del Oro welcomed the return of running back Te’Von Rhyne last Friday against Nevada Union. Just more than a year after breaking his ankle, Rhyne carried the ball three times for 4 yards in a 50-14 victory, but it was a play that didn’t count that excited teammates and coaches. Rhyne had a 60-yard scoring burst called back because of a penalty.
“It was great to see him back, and he’s endured so much over the past year,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “When he broke that 60-yarder, it was one of the highlights of my coaching career. Great kid who has had a great impact on our program on and off the field.”
Cardinal uprising – Laguna Creek earned its first Metropolitan Conference victory on its new field last Friday. The Cardinals beat Valley 23-20 at Cosumnes River College behind running back Chris Williams and defensive back Jaqwaun Brown-Collins, who returned an interception for a score.
Laguna Creek was realigned to the Metropolitan Conference along with Valley, a good fit for the programs in terms of enrollment, logistics and competitive balance. Laguna Creek had shared Elk Grove’s stadium since opening in 1994, but now calls CRC home, as does Valley.
Center-Encinal brawl – The Center-Encinal game in Alameda was called to a halt late in the third quarter after a brawl broke out and Center leading 14-13. Trouble started when a Center player made a hard tackle on a punt return. Encinal players responded angrily by throwing punches, prompting both benches to empty, according to witnesses and a statement provided in an Alameda Unified School District news release. Per CIF rules, players who leave their bench because of a fight receive a minimum of a one-game suspension. With so few players available, Encinal and district officials agreed to forfeit this Friday’s 60th annual Island Bowl rivalry game against Alameda.
On Thursday afternoon, Center learned that it, too, will have to forfeit its Oct. 10 game against Placer since the Cougars won’t have a full team because of the number of players serving one-game suspensions. Center has a bye this week.
Same page – Ninth-ranked Inderkum expects to unleash its two best play makers for the first time today against River City. Larry Hardy and Austin Thurman have made plays on both sides of the ball for the Tigers, including Hardy returning two interceptions for scores against Salesian in Richmond, but they have slowed themselves down with their own actions, Inderkum coach Terry Stark said.
Stark benched Hardy for the Monterey Trail game last month for disciplinary reasons and he sat Thurman last Friday at Yuba City for the same reasons.
“They’ll learn, I hope,” Stark said. “They’re great athletes, and we need to get them the ball. Exciting players.”