In a season of upstart teams, unsung players are influencing regional high school football with league championships and playoff hopes on the line.
Take Graylon Lindsey, who has a flair for late-game dramatics.
A week after sealing a victory at Jesuit with a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown with 18.7 seconds to play, Lindsey scored on a 4-yard run with four seconds to play to lift Sheldon past Grant 20-14 in a Delta League game Friday night, capping the Huskies’ homecoming. Sheldon trailed 14-0 at halftime.
Lindsey seemingly has come out of nowhere, as have the Huskies, who kept alive their hopes of the program’s second league championship since the school opened in 1997 and its first since Ed Lombardi was the coach in 2006.
First-year Sheldon coach Joe Cattolico, who built championship teams at nearby Pleasant Grove, has the Huskies embracing what every coach wants: belief, trust, effort.
6,178 Career area-best rushing yards by Grant’s Onterrio Smith (1995-98)
“It was a great moment and a great team win,” Lindsey said.
Behind second-year coach Darren Nill, Cordova inched closer to its first league championship since 1991 and first playoff berth since 2006 – both under famed coach Max Miller – with a 40-14 rout of El Dorado in a Sierra Valley Conference game.
Deante McCullough, a converted wide receiver, rushed for 206 yards and two touchdowns for the Lancers, a regional powerhouse in the 1970s and ’80s, and fellow unheralded leader Kelechi Njoku had four sacks, giving him a Sac-Joaquin Section-leading 16.
Two unsung players have El Camino in the hunt for its first league championship since 2004, when Howard Cadenhead was the coach. Running back and return ace William Horne is one of the area’s fastest players, and Jahari Kirkendoll is a sack specialist for coach Adam Reinking, an El Camino alum who has the team one win from its third playoff team since 2012.
4,511 Career rushing yards by Galt’s Zach Orman
Colfax isn’t an upstart program, but the Falcons have rebounded from an uncharacteristic 3-7 last season amid declining enrollment.
By beating Bear River 31-14 on Friday, the Falcons – 22 players strong – clinched their 18th playoff appearance for coach Tony Martello, thanks partly to quarterback Ryland Heimann, who passed for 326 yards.
There are also unheralded players for struggling teams. Dawson Weber of Pleasant Grove (0-8) is proof that college recruiters do not care about team records. They want playmakers with skills and speed. An all-purpose player who can run and catch the ball, Weber last week committed to Sacramento State.
San Juan (1-7) features junior Tui Vaivai who ran for 150 yards, passed for 105 and made 15 tackles at linebacker in a 55-24 loss at Highlands.
Orman for more – Zach Orman rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner, as Galt won in overtime for the second consecutive week, 35-30 over Union Mine. Orman also scored the winning touchdown a week earlier in a 13-7 victory over Rosemont.
Galt seeks its first playoff berth since 2004. Orman could become the sixth-leading career rusher in regional history. Grant’s Devontae Booker (2008-09) is sixth with 4,734 yards. Orman is seventh with 4,511.
Running with the leaders
The Sacramento area’s all-time career rushers from Bee archives and the Cal-Hi record book:
6,178 – Onterrio Smith, Grant, 1995-98.
5,457 – Marcel Brown, Rio Linda, 2012-14
5,385 – James Kidd, Elk Grove, 1989-91
5,046 – Albert Hollis, Christian Brothers, 1997-99
5,005 –Mark Jenkins, Pleasant Grove, 2009-11
4,734 – Devontae Booker, Grant, 2008-09
4,511 – Zach Orman, Galt, 2014-16 (active)