The leaders met at midfield before the game, 47 years of combined head-coaching experience exchanging compliments and old war stories of their craft.
And then their teams got after it, Casey Taylor’s Del Oro crew facing off against Mike Janda’s Bellarmine bunch in a meeting of defending upper-division Northern California champions.
Sacramento Bee-ranked No. 2 Del Oro sparkled on offense early and on defense late on Friday night to register a 16-14 triumph over the Bells of the Central Coast Section at San Jose City College.
“This a great opportunity for our guys to come here and play a great team,” Taylor said during pregame warm ups. “It feels like a playoff bowl atmosphere, a business trip.”
The Golden Eagles (3-0) succeeded on two nifty two-point conversions and led 16-0 in the first half. It would have been more if not for two narrowly missed 35-yard field goals.
Cam Davis scored on a 1-yard run and Mason Hurst fired a two-point conversion pass to Noah Kravich out of an odd formation to ignite Del Oro.
Hurst moments later pulled in a 52-yard touchdown strike from Stone Smartt, and Hurst’s two-point conversion run on a reverse made it 16-0.
Hurst also had 106 returning yards and nearly broke two for long touchdowns, but the stellar senior couldn’t evade kicker Dimitris Tsatalos, a first-year player not known to drop game breakers.
Hurst will surely receive grief for this from his teammates, and he will roll with it.
All is good in Loomis for the Golden Eagles, who sputtered to a 2-6 start last season, including a last-second home loss to Bellarmine, which went on to end Folsom’s 14-0 season in the NorCal Division I finals.
Del Oro capped the 2015 season with an eight-game winning streak, including six wins in the playoffs, punctuated by a 16-13 win over a 15-0 Camarillo team in the CIF State Division II-AA championship game in the rain at Sacramento State.
Seventeen starters are back this season for Del Oro, which has the attention of Janda, the Bells coach since 1984 and the winner of a Central Coast Section-record 272 games.
Janda teaches honors chemistry and lives two blocks from the San Jose campus. This is the good life, he said, and his group played a monstrous team that will only make his better.
A Del Oro-Bellarmine rematch could happen in the NorCal finals if Del Oro were to win the Division I Sierra Foothill League that includes top-ranked Folsom and No. 6 Oak Ridge.
“They’re fabulous – big, strong, physical, fast,” Janda said of Del Oro. “That’s an exceptional high school team. We think we can be pretty good, too. Time will tell.”