The respect runs deep between the Grant High School and Monterey Trail football teams, and the competition is fierce, like a heavyweight bout with repeated haymakers to the chin.
“We’re always sore the next day when we play them,” Grant assistant coach Carl Reed said before Friday’s game, a bruiser like the rest.
No. 5 Grant staged two fourth-quarter goal-line stands to stymie the No. 11 Mustangs 29-23 on Friday night at Mark Macres Stadium in another Delta League thriller.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
With 41 seconds to go at the Grant 6, the Mustangs fired an incomplete pass in the end zone on fourth down, and the collective exhale from the Pacers came for a second consecutive week.
Grant held off upset-minded Pleasant Grove 21-20 last week in a season defined by surprises.
The Pacers (6-1, 3-1) remain in the running for the Delta title, losing only to Elk Grove 24-17. Elk Grove’s loss was 16-14 at Davis in one of the epic upsets in regional history.
From the start, this one was fast-forward fun.
Cam Davis hit Quay Mitchell for an 84-yard touchdown on the game’s second play for Grant, and Monterey Trail responded with a 3-yard scoring run by quarterback Robert Holt and a 94-yard fumble return by Bishop Brown.
Back and forth it went.
Grant’s Lawrence Hardy showed why he might be the region’s fastest player on a 55-yard touchdown run that tied it 15-15.
Holt pushed the Mustangs (5-2, 2-2) ahead 23-15 with an 84-yard scoring sprint before Grant running back Tyree Marcelle countered with touchdown runs of 28 and 8 yards.
And then the Pacers defense took over. All this for a Grant team that has some key players sidelined by injuries.
“We have a lot of depth, a lot of players, and it won’t be injuries that decides the league race,” Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. “It’ll be how teams play. We can be really good.”
The Pacers certainly have a good quarterback in Davis, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior who passed for 275 yards, and he has a deep threat in Hardy, who has scored on offense, defense and special teams this season.
The 5-7, 160-pound Marcelle rushed for 122 yards and has 1,046 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Grant for years has relied on big lines, swift receivers and productive backs to grind away on teams to the tune of seven Sac-Joaquin Section championships and 25 consecutive playoff appearances under Alberghini since 1991.
“They’re always so good,” Monterey Trail coach T.J. Ewing said.
The Mustangs are plenty good, too, just a win away from securing the program’s fifth playoff berth since 2009, a run that saw them reach two section Division I championship games.
Monterey Trail lost 27-22 to Sheldon on Sept. 23 and closes the regular season against Elk Grove, Jesuit and Davis, each ranked in The Bee’s Top 20.