The end is near, and the finish line is familiar, comfortable turf.
The Del Oro Golden Eagles will end their high school football campaign at the same venue as last season: Sacramento State.
After racing past storied Bakersfield 57-16 on Saturday night to win the Northern California Division I-A Regional Championship in Loomis, the Golden Eagles now set aim on a CIF State repeat – and their place in history.
Already riding a regional-record 11-game playoff winning streak spanning two seasons, Del Oro (13-2) plays Southern California Regional Champion San Clemente (12-3) of Orange County on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hornet Stadium. No area team has repeated as CIF State champion, though the CIF Bowl format is still relatively new, having started in 2006. This is Del Oro’s fourth CIF Bowl appearance since 2011.
Sac State is in the second year of a four-year contract with the CIF to host the upper divisions of the state championships. The event will be capped by the prestigious Open Division final on Saturday night between national powers De La Salle (11-1) of Concord and St. John Bosco of Bellflower (12-2). The Friday showcase is the Division I-AA contest between Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion St. Mary’s of Stockton (14-1) and Cathedral Catholic of San Diego (14-0). Friday’s games will air on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Saturday’s games will be shown on Comcast SportsNet California.
“Just so proud of our guys, what we’ve done, because we know how hard it is to even win a section championship,” said Del Oro coach Casey Taylor, whose team was led by four touchdown passes from Stone Smartt, including two 49-yard plays to Mason Hurst. Dalton Gee rushed for 156 yards and two scores, and Camrion Davis scored on a touchdown run and a kickoff return. Each of those seniors is a returning starter from last season’s team that beat 15-0 Camarillo 16-13 in the CIF State Division II-AA title game.
This season, Del Oro placed third in the rugged Sierra Foothill League with losses to Folsom and Oak Ridge but found new life in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II field with a 4-0 showing. By decades-long section enrollment policy, the Golden Eagles were placed in the D-II section bracket. And per the CIF’s new competitive-equity NorCal and state playoff model, the Golden Eagles were placed in the Regional Division I-AA bracket, where they downed a Bakersfield program that hails from a school of 2,800 students, some 1,200 more than Del Oro, debunking any theory that the Golden Eagles cannot compete against larger schools.
Del Oro was trending on Twitter late Saturday night, including a lot of disgruntled followers from Golden Eagles opponents and rivals that took issue with the program’s success and staying power.
Assistant coaches, alums and boosters from area programs went to social media, but not to offer congratulations. They instead insisted that Del Oro has somehow manipulated the playoff system with the backing of the CIF in a howl of sour grapes. And a lot of these voices have for weeks insisted that Del Oro could not possibly be an honorable champion, alleging the Golden Eagles recruit players from other programs while the CIF turns a blind eye. No proof has been offered.
Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo laughed it all off Saturday night, saying, “We do things right here.” Said Hurst, a three-year starter, “If we weren’t winning, no one would care. We win, and people take issue with it.”
Said Taylor, the 15th-year Golden Eagles coach, “People who really understand us, have seen us up close, they understand what we are. And we’re better off the field. On Wednesday, our players read to kids from Loomis Elementary for two hours to promote literacy. Football here is a vehicle for life lessons. We win some games along the way, too.”
CIF State Football Championships
Note: The five CIF State Championship games at Sacramento State will be televised on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area (Friday) and Comcast Sports Net California (Saturday)
State Bowl: De La Salle (11-1) vs. St. John Bosco (12-2) at Sacramento State, Saturday, 8 p.m.
North: St. Mary’s-Stockton 49, Freedom 40
South: Cathedral Catholic-San Diego 35, Narbonne 28
State Bowl: St. Mary’s (14-1) vs. Cathedral Catholic (14-0), Sac State, Friday, 8 p.m.
North: Del Oro 57, Bakersfield 16
South: San Clemente 39, Edison-Huntington Beach 35
State Bowl: Del Oro (13-2) vs. San Clemente (12-3), Sac State, Saturday, 4 p.m.
North: Valley Christian 31, Cardinal Newman 6
South: Madison-San Diego 60, Calabasas 53
State Bowl: Valley Christian (13-1) vs. Madison (12-2), Sac State, Friday, 4 p.m.
North: Serra 49, Sanger 36
South: Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth 21, Los Angeles 6
State Bowl: Serra (10-4) vs. Sierra Canyon (15-0), Sac State, Saturday, noon
North: Menlo-Atherton 49, Manteca 21
South: Paraclete 34, Mater Dei Catholic 18
State Bowl: Menlo Atherton (12-2) vs. Paraclete (11-4) at Antelope Valley College, Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: Oakdale 27, Sutter 10
South: Bishop’s 28, Valley Christian-Cerritos 9
State Bowl: Oakdale (13-2) vs Bishop’s (14-0), at La Jolla High School, Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: Campolindo 30, Palma 21
South: Bakersfield Christian 28, Selma 27
State Bowl: Campolindo (11-3) at Bakersfield Christian (13-1), Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: Pleasant Valley-Chico 24, Milpitas 21
South: St. Anthony 48, Yorba Linda 23
State Bowl: Pleasant Valley (10-3) vs. St. Anthony (13-2) at Veteran’s Stadium, Long Beach, Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: Bishop O’Dowd 24, Capital Christian 21
South: Valley View 31, San Gorgonio 14
State Bowl: Bishop O’Dowd (14-1) at Valley View (12-3), Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: McClymonds 45, East Nicolaus 26
South: La Jolla Country Day 63, Arroyo 42
State Bowl: McClymonds (12-1) at La Jolla Country Day (12-3), Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: Amador 21, Mendota 14
South: Rancho Christian 56, Franklin 21
State Bowl: Amador (15-1) vs. Rancho Christian (13-2) at Murrieta Mesa High, Saturday, 6 p.m.
North: St. Patrick-St. Vincent 47, Brookside Christian 18
South: Strathmore 62, Horizon Christian Academy 22
State Bowl: St. Patrick-St. Vincent (12-3) at Strathmore (14-0), Saturday, 6 p.m.