No one in their right mind saw this sort of revival coming in the searing heat of late August and early September.
Inderkum High School, a powerhouse program with at least 10 wins in each of the previous 10 seasons, had wobbly legs after a season-opening 31-point loss to Elk Grove. Two weeks later, there was more angst after a 35-point loss to American Canyon.
On Saturday afternoon in Carmichael, the self-doubt officially was washed away amid a steady downpour as the Tigers’ players and coaches beamed at the thought of what lies ahead.
The Tigers pulled off another road playoff upset, 52-35 over Jesuit in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal that was a rout after the first quarter. The previous week, Inderkum ousted top-seeded Sacramento 35-33 in mud and muck after storming to a 26-0 first-quarter lead.
“We’ve come so far,” longtime Tigers coach Terry Stark said. “I’ve never had a team work so hard just to be average, to compete and win a game. It took us seven weeks just to be a good team, and it’s taken this long to become a great football team. These kids kept coming to work, getting better, and that’s all you can ask.”
Now the real challenge looms: Del Oro for the section title Friday at Sacramento State. The Golden Eagles are the defending section and CIF State Division II-AA champions, but at this point, Inderkum (11-2) would take on the Oakland Raiders if it were allowed.
With 10 consecutive victories, the Tigers suddenly are big on confidence to match their impressive talent. On Saturday, Trajon Cotton passed for four touchdowns, three to Isaah Crocker, and ran for two scores.
Inderkum led 17-0 in the first quarter and 38-7 in the second quarter. Cotton opened the scoring with a 17-yard pass to nationally recruited tight end Josh Falo. Cotton, who also is fielding scores of recruiting offers, threw touchdown passes of 51, 40 and 36 yards to Crocker, one of the fastest players in the section.
Cotton said he saw plenty of upside in his team.
“I knew we could get better, because early this season, we were not very good,” he said. “But we came together. We figured it out.”
The Tigers are in their fourth section final since 2008 and looking for their first championship. Their three title-game losses were by six points or fewer.
Inderkum pressured Marauders quarterback Calvin Brownholtz, who hadn’t been sacked in the previous six games. Still, Brownholtz competed to the end, and he closed his Jesuit career with three touchdown passes, two to Jayme Thomas. Lorenzo Burkes scored on runs of 2 and 10 yards for the Marauders (9-4).