Mike Alberghini burns off anxiety and calories by sweeping.
He’ll grab a broom and tidy up the Grant High School football dressing room a good 90 minutes before kickoff, forever a papa bear of sorts tending to untidy youth.
The longtime Pacers coach had the place debris free, and moments later implored his attentive group to make senior night matter.
Message received. Message delivered.
In looking much like so many of the fierce and efficient teams Alberghini has led, No. 8 Grant flexed its defensive muscle and offensive balance to dispatch of No. 13 Davis 24-7 in a Delta League game on Friday night in Del Paso Heights.
The victory was good tonic for the weary Pacers who were stunned at upstart Sheldon last week on a long, last-minute scoring drive that resulted in a 20-14 Huskies victory.
“Our problem was we had to stop feeling sorry for ourselves – injuries, a loss,” Alberghini said mid-sweep. “We need to step up. I like this league. Every game is a dog fight, down to the wire. You have to be ready.”
The Pacers were ready and executed behind familiar faces.
Cam Davis hit Lawrence Hardy on a short pass on Grant’s second possession, and Hardy did the rest. One of the fastest players in the state weaved and bolted for a 57-yard touchdown. He wears jersey No. 5 in honor of his friend, JJ Clavo, a popular Grant football player who was fatally shot before the playoffs last season, rocking the program and its community to the core.
Grant led 10-0 at the half on a Sox Lee 36-yard field goal and led 17-7 after three on a 28-yard touchdown run by Jalyn Norris.
A goal-line stand stalled Davis’ last threat with 8:42 to go, and Tyree Marcelle iced it a moment later with a 14-yard touchdown sprint.
Marcelle had 113 rushing yards, and the shifty and explosive senior has 1,293 yards and 14 scores this season. The Pacers (7-2, 4-2) close the regular season Saturday, Nov. 5, at No. 9 Jesuit and will head to the playoffs for the 26th consecutive season under Alberghini, an on-going Sac-Joaquin Section record.
Grant has shown flashes of excellence this season, and it has shown glimpses of confusion and chaos. Alberghini has seen it all here, and he likes the potential of these Pacers, who seek their eighth section title since 1992, a fact that Pacers assistant coach Carl Reed reminds Davis principal and old friend William Brown, a Grant alum.
Grant lost earlier this season to No. 4 Elk Grove 24-17. The Thundering Herd are alone in first place in the Delta, where six teams are scrambling for playoff berths.
Davis tied it 7-7 on a 21-yard touchdown run by quarterback John Lagattuta, who has helped lead the Blue Devils’ resurgence by directing league wins over Elk Grove, Sheldon, Franklin and Pleasant Grove.
Davis (4-5, 4-2) can secure just its third playoff showing in 17 years with a win at No. 12 Monterey Trail next Friday. A loss might still be enough to get the Blue Devils in, though no team likes to enter with back-to-back defeats.
Ethan Iacono rushed for 115 yards for Davis, and Tucker Fisk had another terrific showing for the Blue Devils. The Stanford-bound senior caught passes as a tight end and made driving blocks on defenders. He made plays on the defensive line and played on special teams. He is the son of 1980s Davis star defensive lineman Jason Fisk, who played at Stanford and 12 years in the NFL.
Jason Fisk is an assistant coach for Davis who raved about the effort of all Blue Devils this season.