Joe Davidson

Baldacchino keys late drive to help No. 7 Oak Ridge edge No. 3 Del Oro

Oak Ridge Trojans Marco Baldacchino (2), runs with the ball during the second quarter, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016.
Oak Ridge Trojans Marco Baldacchino (2), runs with the ball during the second quarter, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. Special to The Bee

There’s been a long list of standout quarterbacks to march through El Dorado Hills and lead the Oak Ridge football team.

Perhaps the most talented of that lot from a collection that dates to when the school opened along Highway 50 in 1980 was Ian Book, the strong-armed leader who led the program the previous three seasons.

He’s now at Notre Dame on scholarship, though on Friday night, the redshirt freshman was in Loomis with a sideline view of the Trojans’ new field general.

These days, say hello to Marco Baldacchino, who seems to up his game by the week, as do the surging Trojans.

Baldacchino had two touchdown passes and a touchdown run in the first half, and he expertly led a game-sealing drive late in the fourth quarter, punctuated by a 25-yard touchdown to Kyle Brown on fourth down with 2 minutes, 37 seconds to play to key a 34-32 victory for the No. 7 Trojans over No. 3 Del Oro in a Sierra Foothill League game dripping with championship implications.

Del Oro (7-2, 3-2) scored on a Stone Smartt keeper from 2 yards out with 40.3 seconds to go but Oak Ridge (7-1, 4-0) recovered the onside kick.

Baldacchino, a junior who is as impressive with his legs as he is with his arm, is a cousin of Dano Graves, who electrified the region for Folsom High for a 14-1 CIF State championship team in 2010 and leads Cal Poly as a senior quarterback now.

“Marco has really done a nice job for us,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said before the game. “He’s a talented athlete physically and his desire to learn more from a mental aspect has really impressed us. He is a true student of the game and has completely bought into our program.”

Cavaliere has raved about scores of two-way players, leaders who “leave it all on the field.” They include Truman Andrus, Parker Blomquist, Jakob Flores, Rhys Kennedy, Hayden Nabers, Michael Pittman, Justin Poerio and Cameron Stone.

If Baldacchino is the dazzling aspect to the team, the rest of the players are best defined as “gritty,” Cavaliere said. Style and grit blend well here.

In his 18th season at Oak Ridge and 10th as head coach, the tradition of success and excellence remains strong at a program with all the makings of a championship. The Trojans are going to the playoffs for the 17th time in that stretch.

The SFL title is theirs if they win out, meaning victories over Nevada Union next week and over No. 2 Folsom in Week 10. Oak Ridge lost only to five-time Nevada state champion Reed of Sparks, a setback that served as a wake-up call.

Parker Barry hit Stone for a 73-yard touchdown on the team's first possession - a trick play - to cap a 95-yard drive. Baldacchino made it 14-0 with a 7-yard touchdown and 21-0 with 1:19 in the first with a 36-yard touchdown to Poerio.

Camrion Davis and Dalton Gee scored on runs of 5 and 30 yards, and Smartt hit Mason Hurst for a touchdown for Del Oro.

Before the game, Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said his team “laid an egg” against Folsom two weeks earlier, falling 42-7.

“We still don’t know how good we are,” the coach said. “We’ll find out. A win and we have a good bye week coming up. A loss and we’ll be back here grinding away all week.”

A common connector to the programs is Mark Watson. The one-time Oak Ridge head coach was a mentor to Taylor when he got his coaching start at Oak Ridge, his alma mater.

Watson is also a mentor to Cavaliere, and he still coaches on staff. Fittingly, he works with the quarterbacks.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280,, @SacBee_JoeD

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