Joe Davidson

Sacramento Dragons crave high school football playoff home cookin’

Sacramento High School running back Tariq Hollandsworth, center, celebrates after his team won the Metro League championship last season. Hollandsworth has helped the Dragons reach the top spot of The Sacramento Bee’s rankings for the first time since the 1960s.
Sacramento High School running back Tariq Hollandsworth, center, celebrates after his team won the Metro League championship last season. Hollandsworth has helped the Dragons reach the top spot of The Sacramento Bee’s rankings for the first time since the 1960s. aseng@sacbee.com

A crew will arrive on the Oak Park campus Sunday, armed with lawn tools, mowers, assorted heavy equipment, white spray paint and a dash of hope.

Leading the brigade will be Justin Reber, the Sacramento High School football coach tasked with trying to get an old football field with tattered grass game-ready for the approval of the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Longtime Sac High administrator Jim Scheible will also be there. He is also championing the cause for the Dragons – top ranked by The Bee most of the season – to host playoff games.

And his mandate is spot-on. The Dragons should be able to pursue a title on their home field, where they played during the regular season, the just reward for a high seed in these playoffs.

Sacramento is the No. 1 seed in the Division II field, but because the field needed work, the Dragons looked elsewhere for their Friday opener. Reber, Scheible and athletic director Marco Lopez looked into venues in the Elk Grove and Sacramento City Unified School Districts last week. No takers.

It wasn’t due to rental cost, and there was no resistance to the Dragons as a charter school basking in their status as Bee No. 1 for the first time since the 1960s. Venues were either being used for soccer practices or, because Friday was Veterans Day, schools didn’t want to pay overtime for staffing to run a game for another program.

So Sacramento played at opponent Stagg High in Stockton on Friday, agreed to split the concession sales and rolled to a 54-14 victory. Now the Dragons are scrambling to get their share of the concession-stand sales.

So back to the drawing board. Or, to be specific, back to the grass field on campus, which has hosted playoff games in recent seasons and generates quite a cozy, electric crowd with scores of alumni and the general curious packing in to peek at the Dragons. The revenue generated can fund athletic programs thin on finances, and the Sacramento-Inderkum showdown promises to be entertaining.

“If it’s up to us, our decision is to play at Sac High,” Scheible said, adding, “for Sacramento’s oldest high school, that bears the city’s name, there is a tradition of representing the community with a sense of pride and respect. Hosting reinforces to our student-athletes that they earned the privilege of playing at home, and we have the responsibility that comes with wearing ‘Sacramento’ on their jersey.”

Said Reber, “Our kids have been great and they’ve worked their butts off, do everything we ask. They’ve earned the right to play at home. We’ll have coaches and players and a guy we know who runs a lawn company here, and we’ll get a roller out there, get some work done on it and get it playable.”

Section assistant commissioner Ryan Tos has been invited to survey the field Monday. If the field is deemed unplayable, Sacramento will look into renting Rosemont High or Cosumnes River College.

“We know we’re not going to Inderkum to play,” Reber said. “Inderkum is good enough already. We had a great showing in Stockton with our fans and our community as more and more are starting to follow us. We want to let them watch us at home.”

Blowout city – The Sierra Foothill League is not a good matchup for the Metropolitan Conference. Top-seeded Folsom rolled Kennedy 78-6 in D-I a night after No. 2 Del Oro took out Laguna Creek 79-0 in D-II play.

Neither program ran up the score. Both pulled starters early. This is an example of the gap in competition, reflective of a lot of playoff openers across the country. Players from Del Oro and Folsom went to social media to praise the composure and effort of the Metro programs.

Generation gap – Cordova won the first four D-I section championships from 1976-79, including City Championship games at Hughes Stadium. An assistant coach on those Lancers teams was Ron Kerekes, now an assistant at Christian Brothers, where being seasoned and gray is fashionable. Al Hooker is in his 58th year of regional coaching, Dave Hoskins in his 50th and head coach Dan Carmazzi in his 40th.

“We’ve got more than 200 years combined coaching, and we still love it,” Hooker said. “We don’t coach for the money or ego. We do it because the kids are fun.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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