Joe Davidson

Success begins on the lines for two section football finalists

Christian Brothers’ Anthony Davis (52) is part of a young offensive line that has protected quarterback Tyler Vander Waal (18) this season. ... Christian Brothers takes the field before a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football playoff game against Cordova, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento.
Christian Brothers’ Anthony Davis (52) is part of a young offensive line that has protected quarterback Tyler Vander Waal (18) this season. ... Christian Brothers takes the field before a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football playoff game against Cordova, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento. Brian Baer/Special to The Bee

Any coach or quarterback will tell you it starts up front.

One cannot succeed in football without a strong offensive line – center, guards, tackles working in unison.

That has been a season-long trend for teams that will play in Sac-Joaquin Section championship games this weekend. Two programs offer stark contrasts regarding expectations from their lines entering the season.

Del Oro returned three starters – Hunter Halverson, Dalton Heryford and Pablo Miller – from a team that won the section Division II and CIF State Division II-AA championships. That line now includes Jack Beaman, Juan Caridad and Rory Connolly. The Golden Eagles have set a school record for rushing yards in a season with 3,556, led by Dalton Gee with 1,061, Cam Davis with 838 and quarterback Stone Smartt with 716. Del Oro will face upstart Inderkum in the D-II final Friday at Sacramento State.

As a group, they are an extreme pleasure to coach. They have all come a long way in three years. They play as a tight unit. No egos, just a bunch of guys who enjoy working hard and prefer to run the ball every down.

Dan Gazzaniga, Del Oro offensive-line coach

At Christian Brothers, the line had a makeover, with new faces learning on the fly. Riding an 11-game winning streak, the Falcons are in their first title game since 1986 and seek their first section championship since 1983 when they meet Oakdale for the Division III crown Friday at Lincoln High in Stockton.

The line coaches for Del Oro and Christian Brothers were linemen in college. The Golden Eagles’ Dan Gazzaniga played at UC Davis in the 1980s. The Falcons’ Dave Hoskins played at Sac State in the 1960s and Tom Price played at UCD in the 1980s.

“As a group, they are an extreme pleasure to coach,” Gazzaniga said of the Del Oro line. “They have all come a long way in three years. They play as a tight unit. No egos, just a bunch of guys who enjoy working hard and prefer to run the ball every down.”

Christian Brothers’ line includes Connor Capewell, Anthony Davis, Jim Ghilardi, Joe McCarley, Trey Price, Elias Robinson and Johnny Stone. Spencer Webb and Jack O’Hearn are the tight ends. Trey Price is coach Price’s son. The Falcons are balanced with quarterback Tyler Vander Waal passing for 2,781 yards and the team rushing for 1,907 yards, led by Jamarri Jackson with 568.

“This line group had close to zero varsity experience (entering the season),” coach Price said. “They started very slow but are really hitting their stride now, at the right time.”

Cross country – Davis junior Olivia O’Keeffe overcame a slow start to win the CIF Division I state championship in 17 minutes, 28.9 seconds Saturday in Fresno, helping the Blue Devils advance to the Nike Cross Nationals this weekend in Portland, Ore.

O’Keeffe’s sister Fiona won state cross country championships in 2013 and 2014 and the state 3,200 meters last spring as a senior. She now competes for Stanford.

Davis senior Michael Vernau placed second in the boys D-I final in 14:56.4. Luis Grijalva of Armijo-Fairfield won in 14:50.1, pulling away in the final 300 meters.

This line group had close to zero varsity experience (entering the season). They started very slow but are really hitting their stride now, at the right time.

Tom Price, Christian Brothers offensive-line coach

Boys basketball – Two of the area’s best boys basketball teams got off to strong starts Saturday in the 10th annual NorCal Tip-Off Classic in Newark.

Capital Christian, ranked No. 18 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports in its preseason poll, beat No. 11 Bishop Alemany of Mission Hills 82-71 behind guard Zach Chappell’s 38 points and nine rebounds. Woodcreek, ranked 19th by Cal-Hi, beat Newark Memorial 80-52 as center Jordan Brown had 27 points and 25 rebounds. The 6-foot-11 junior is a national recruit. Chris Cagle had 11 points and 12 rebounds and Jackson Hughes scored 14 points for the Timberwolves.

Girls basketball – Oak Ridge is No. 12 in Cal-Hi’s girls preseason state rankings. The Trojans have one of the biggest frontcourts in the state with 6-3 Kassidy DeLapp, 6-2 Marie Olson and 6-5 Shayley Harris. McClatchy, ranked 19th, features Utah-bound shooter Jordan Cruz and sophomore center Kamryn Hall.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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