Coaches Mike Alberghini and Tony Franks became friends in 2008 when their teams played in CIF State Bowl games in Carson.
The squads were housed in the same hotel that December. Alberghini’s Grant Pacers capped the wild weekend with a 25-20 victory over Long Beach Poly, ranked No. 2 nationally, in the Open Division championship game. Franks’ St. Mary’s Rams from Stockton lost to Cathedral Catholic of San Diego 37-34 in the Division II title game.
Franks recalled not getting much sleep that night, not with the chants of “Paaaacers!” reverberating off the walls. The programs were the first from the Sac-Joaquin Section to compete in CIF Bowl title games, and they meet on Friday nightat Sacramento State with bowl implications.
Top-seeded Grant (13-0) will play third-seeded St. Mary’s (12-1) in the section Division II championship game, and the winner has an excellent chance to advance to the Northern California Division I Regional game (teams from this section move up in level for this game). The 10 CIF commissioners will meet Sunday to determine regional matchups.
Grant and St. Mary’s usually bump into each other during the summer at passing leagues and jamborees. Grant beat St. Mary’s 20-11 in the 2010 D-II section playoffs, the only postseason meeting between the schools.
“Great coach, great program,” Franks said of Grant.
Said Alberghini of St. Mary’s: “Tremendous coaching staff, and their kids play hard. Tony and I coached teams in 2008 that started to get this section some recognition, so there’s a lot of pride there.”
Alberghini played baseball at Mira Loma and Sacramento State in the 1960s and was encouraged by Hornets coach Cal Boyes to pursue teaching and coaching. Franks played in the trenches at St. Mary’s in the 1970s and at UC Davis, where he was an assistant coach for 12 years, learning from Aggies coaching greats Jim Sochor, Bob Foster and Bob Biggs.
“I was a 235-pound lineman, then 215 pounds when the season ended, so I knew coaching was my future,” said Franks, who seeks his second section title with the Rams.
Headed to Harvard – Folsom wide receiver Cole Thompson is a 4.5 grade-point-average student who is never far from his Harvard hat. The senior will attend the Ivy League school to study economics and catch touchdown passes. His senior project at Folsom? Economics.
“Harvard was my dream school,” Thompson said. “I’m really excited.”
Thompson has had a dream season for the top-seeded Bulldogs (13-0), who will play seventh-seeded Tracy (10-3) on Saturday night at Sac State for the D-I championship. Thompson has 67 receptions for 1,421 yards and a state-leading 29 touchdowns, second most in the country. Teammate Josiah Deguara has 94 grabs for 1,420 yards and 22 scores.
Folsom quarterback Jake Browning has a nation-leading 76 touchdown passes, a state season record, and is five shy of tying the national record set in Ohio in 2011.
High on Hardy – Inderkum’s best player receives the ball right away in games. Larry Hardy returned the opening kickoff 90 yards to the end zone against Sacramento in a D-III semifinal last week to trigger a 51-34 victory and send the top-seeded Tigers to the championship game for the third time since 2008.
Inderkum (12-1) will play third-seeded Oakdale (12-1) on Saturday at Lincoln High in Stockton.
Hardy also rushed for 118 yards and two scores against Sacramento.
“That was such a great kickoff (return) because there’s always that early nervous tension when a game starts,” Inderkum coach Terry Stark said. “Larry’s a special player.”
In a 49-14 quarterfinal win over Benicia, Hardy ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught three passes from Jonathan Henry for 111 yards and two scores.
The only time Hardy has looked human on the field, Stark joked, was in a playoff opener against Valley. He ran for 149 yards and two scores but failed to make any extra points as a fill-in for injured kicker Javier Gomez.
“He was 0 for 10, but it wasn’t his fault,” Stark said laughing, “He can play everything else. It’s not easy to kick.”
Gomez returned after the Valley game.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.