Larry Cunha is a dinosaur and proud of it.
He’s creaky and lineman-slow – some things never change – but his zest to coach football in Placer County hasn’t dimmed. In a booming voice, he radiates his passion for the game, emphasizing fundamentals, effort, execution and good Friday fun.
This group we have this year, very impressive in terms of competitiveness and character, and they compete and they work, and all the credit goes to them.
Larry Cunha, Roseville football coach
In his 25th season as Roseville High School’s coach, Cunha is basking in one of his finest seasons. The Tigers are 5-0 for the first time since 2007, winning with defensive stands or big rallies, punctuated by Friday’s homecoming triumph over Cosumnes Oaks in Capital Valley Conference play.
Trailing 24-7, the Tigers stormed back to win 42-24 on the strength of three defensive touchdowns and offensive poise led by gritty senior quarterback Nick Martig, who missed his sophomore season because of a knee injury and was a backup last season.
Cunha is the second-longest-tenured head coach in the region. Mike Alberghini has been Grant’s coach since 1991, a year before Cunha replaced Bob Jellison. Terry Logue has been Bear River’s coach or co-coach since 1987, though he took two seasons off to coach at Sierra College.
“This group we have this year, very impressive in terms of competitiveness and character, and they compete and they work, and all the credit goes to them,” Cunha said. “This group has rejuvenated me. You reach that point in coaching where there’s a lot of investment. The kids make it worthwhile, and you relish teams like this.”
Roseville has one blue-chip star, UCLA-bound tight end Jimmy Jaggers, who also plays defensive end. He is known for his ferocious effort, good grades and character.
“We have a bunch of really good high school football players, and not many pass the college recruiters’ eyeball test except Jimmy,” Cunha said. “When they’re on the field, they play awfully hard, and they have a good motor, and when you have that, you can be successful.”
Officials under fire – Fearing retaliation, coaches won’t publicly criticize officiating. But many have expressed concern about excessive penalties this season, particularly those that don’t affect touchdowns.
On Friday at Elk Grove, Alberghini stormed onto the field to dispute a call that negated a fourth-quarter touchdown.. The Pacers lost the Delta League showdown 24-17.
Witnesses said several Grant fans chased the officials into the parking lot when the game ended. Law enforcement stepped in to ease the tension.
He’s just a beast.
Mike Johnson, Franklin football coach, on linebacker Kaderro Tamondong
Frustrated fans regularly vent about calls on social media. Many leave emails or voicemails at The Sacramento Bee, insisting they will continue to bombard the media and especially the Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF office while demanding answers and change.
It doesn’t work that way. The section and CIF, the state’s governing bodies for prep sports, do not rule on officials’ calls. Coaches know the drill, however. They are encouraged to send film to their local officials association for clarification on calls. And officials encourage coaches to talk to them during games – the head coach, not a fuming, towel-throwing assistant coach.
What is not tolerated, however, is officials cursing at coaches, and some have been reprimanded for such conduct over the decades.
Franklin bounces back – The beauty of sports is how teams respond.
Franklin did after a 56-0 loss at Grant, rallying to beat Sheldon 20-17 in Delta play.
This is the youngest of coach Mike Johnson’s 15 teams at Franklin. The leader is linebacker Kaderro Tamondong, one of the top players in program history. “He’s just a beast,” Johnson said.
All-America honors – Burbank defensive end D.J. Johnson and Inderkum tight end Josh Falo received Under Armour All-America Game jerseys during on-campus presentations last week. The game is Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla.
Johnson is headed to Miami after getting 100 scholarship offers. Falo, deemed the nation’s top prep tight end, is weighing offers from Alabama, Ohio State and many Pacific-12 Conference schools.
On Wednesday, Folsom defensive end-linebacker Ariel Ngata, who has committed to Washington, will be presented with a U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey during an assembly in the school gym. The game is Jan. 7 in San Antonio.