Before this season, who could have seen this matchup coming?
The very idea of it would have been laughed right out of the locker room. The Grant Pacers bringing their considerable act to Capital Christian High School? In football?
It came about on Friday night in Rosemont because of the immediate boost in program profile for Capital Christian, a small-school powerhouse now led by a big-name coach in Casey Taylor, whose roster is dotted by college recruits.
And Grant coach Mike Alberghini needed a nonleague game, as so many regional teams continue to avoid any part of the Pacers speed, size, ferocity and pedigree.
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No. 9 Capital Christian proved competitive but the No. 8 Pacers prevailed 19-0 on the strength of its offensive line, three gritty backs, an elusive and promising quarterback and a stout defense.
“We always want to play well-coached teams,” Alberghini said. “Potentially, we can be really good if we put it together. We’ll always put good athletes on the field.”
That was the case here in an energized, overflow setting. Deshaun Pryor scored on runs of 11 and 27 yards for a 12-0 halftime lead, and Xavier Johnson fired a 24-yard touchdown strike to Parris Warren with 5:47 to go in the third quarter. Eugene Williams and Christian Kinsey also ran hard for Grant (2-1), and the defense stymied a prolific, if banged-up, Cougars offense as Julian Reed had two interceptions.
Capital Christian (2-1) showed glimpses of how good it can be, as did Grant, but neither outfit showcased the sort of poise needed to be considered a championship team.
This contest was chippy in the first half with helmets coming off and words flying. The teams combined for nine personal fouls in the game, and Grant had a player ejected.
Grant had drives stalled with penalties as the Pacers work in Johnson, a Cordova transfer. Nate Thomas, the team’s starting quarterback entering the season, has not played a single down. Thomas had a cyst removed from his brain after experiencing vomiting and dizzy spells.
Alberghini said his team leader will be OK, though it is not certain when or if he will play football again.
“I feel for him,” Alberghini said. “He’s our best player, and our best defensive back.”
Capital Christian expected to have Jake Cruz at quarterback this season, but the Whitney transfer was not cleared by the Sac-Joaquin Section office as this is his fourth school in as many years, though the family may appeal.
Trey Jones played admirably out of position for Capital Christian at quarterback. He’s a star guard for the school’s basketball team who did not play football last season.
The Cougars’ best player wasn’t even in uniform. Christian Simmons, a powerhouse 6-foot, 225-pound running back, had surgery Friday morning to repair a fractured left fibula. The senior was on crutches and in a cast late on the sideline, and he was touched that scores of Grant players offered well wishes and a speedy recovery. The game ended with a dose of sportsmanship.