Coaches often say the most rational and sane time to have a baby is in the offseason.
So what did the Cattolico clan do?
Hello baby, on the virtual eve of this high school football season.
Giovani Cattolico arrived on Aug. 15, all nine pounds of him, days before the Sheldon Huskies kicked off a season of championship aspirations. Sleep remains a rumor in this house, including mom Natasha Cattolico, an English teacher at Monterey Trail, also in the Elk Grove Unified School District.
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“We lost our minds!” Sheldon coach Joe Cattolico said amid laughter. “No, really, it’s been great. It’s a whirlwind.”
The whirlwind continued right into Friday night. Tyrell Smith scored from a yard out in the closing seconds to lift the No. 8 Huskies past No. 9 Franklin 28-24 in a typical fun and frantic Delta League contest. Sheldon (4-1, 2-0) is in the thick of the early league race that includes Franklin, No. 10 Jesuit, No. 11 Elk Grove, No. 15 Grant and No. 17 Monterey Trail.
Among those celebrating were Cattolico’s other two sons who double as ball boys – 10-year-old Joseph and 8-year-old Dominic. And showing he still has some celebration moves in his legs was Joe’s father, assistant coach Butch Cattolico.
“They’re having fun with this,” Cattolico said of his ball boys. “That’s what babysitting looks like for them: Come to a game on Friday night and spend time with their grandfather, too.”
Del Oro coach Jeff Walters and wife Lindsey welcomed their 8-pound, 1-ounce son Logan earlier this season.
“What were we thinking?” Walters joked last month.
Football has long been a family affair for Team Cattolico.
Joe Cattolico grew up with the sport, jotting down notes during coaching clinics as a boy and starring at quarterback at Leigh High in San Jose, and Butch became one of the most accomplished coaches in Bay Area history.
In 26 years as head coach at Los Gatos High, Butch won 266 games, 16 league championships and 12 Central Coast Section crowns in 17 title-game appearances.
He retired following the 2012 season so he and wife Berit could move to Elk Grove and tend to grandsons. Joe Cattolico quickly lured his father back into coaching, first at Pleasant Grove and the last two seasons at Sheldon.
The Cattolicos have always stressed offensive simplicity and discipline on defense. The Huskies this season have been anchored by their offensive line, which includes three returning starters from last season’s playoff team: Koby Barrett, Louie Lewis and Jack Middleton. Junior quarterback Francisco Salinas has shown glimpses of promise and has been steady all season.
The line coach is Dale Ellingsworth, who has come full circle. He was the founding football coach at Sheldon when the school opened 20 years ago and worked along side Joe Cattolico at Pleasant Grove.
Jason Tenner, the head coach at Ponderosa from 2007-2015, is also on board, giving the Huskies a wealth of experience.
The defense has been led by returning starters in the secondary, Austyn Hurts and Ian Moore.
Sheldon lost to Reno 28-21 on Sept. 8. Reno is 6-0 and ranked fifth in Nevada. Cattolico and staff challenged the Huskies to respond. They have, beating Monterey Trail 35-20 (pitching a second-half shutout) and Franklin. But every coach in teal, black and white is preaching focus in a game of inches.
Every yard, every touchdown, every victory is to be cherished, and all of it validates the coaching plea to lift weights, to condition, to pay attention, to play as if every game might be your last.
“We feel fortunate to have pulled it out against Franklin,” Cattolico said. “We end up winning it somewhere between a foot and a yard, and that’s your margin of victory. It’s funny how sports are. That little tiny bit of yardage determines your mood following the game and the perception of fans.
“Everybody involved is happy with us because we won by a few inches. If we lost by a few inches ... The challenge with teenagers is trying to keep the kids from being too high and not too low. But wins like this, that’s our evidence, why we ask them to do all the work. We don’t want to become too big for our britches.”
Sheldon started 4-0 last season, then filled their britches, losing to Franklin (20-17) and Davis (24-21) before beating Jesuit (43-32), Grant (20-14) and Pleasant Grove (35-18). Then the britches again, a 35-0 loss to Elk Grove in the regular-season finale before recovering to beat Napa in a Division I playoff opener, 37-28. After that, Sheldon fell to powerhouse Folsom, 41-14.
“We’ve got an interesting group,” Cattolico said. “We’re still putting all the pieces together.”
The Bee’s Top 20
With last week's ranking in parentheses
1. Folsom (1) 6-0
2. Oak Ridge (2) 5-0
3. Inderkum (4) 6-0
4. Sacramento (6) 4-1
5. Granite Bay (2) 5-1
6. Del Oro (5) 4-2
7. Rocklin (7) 4-1
8. Sheldon (9) 4-1
9. Franklin (8) 4-1
10. Jesuit (12) 3-2
11. Elk Grove (13) 3-2
12. Antelope (14) 5-0
13. Del Campo (15) 5-0
14. River Valley (16) 5-0
15. Grant (8) 2-3
16. Capital Christian (11) 3-2
17. Monterey Trail (17) 3-2
18. Christian Brothers (19) 3-2
19. Bear River (20) 5-0
20. Colfax (–) 5-0
Bubble teams: (alphabetical order): Center (3-2), Cordova (3-2), Cosumnes Oaks (2-3), Highlands (4-1), Lincoln (4-1), Marysville (2-4), Oakmont (3-2), Placer (4-1), Pleasant Grove (2-3), River City (5-1), Rio Linda (4-2), Rio Americano (4-1), Vista del Lago (2-3), Whitney (2-3), Woodland (4-1), Yuba City (3-3).
All games start between 7-7:30 p.m., unless noted
Rio Americano at El Camino
No. 6 Del Oro at No. 1 Folsom
No. 7 Rocklin at No. 2 Oak Ridge
No. 3 Inderkum at River City
No. 4 Sacramento vs. Laguna Creek at Cosumnes River College, 6 p.m.
No. 8 Sheldon at Davis
No. 9 Franklin vs. No. 17 Monterey Trail at Cosumnes Oaks
No. 10 Jesuit at No. 11 Elk Grove
Roseville at No. 12 Antelope
Cosumnes Oaks at No. 13 Del Campo
Woodland at No. 14 River Valley
No. 15 Grant vs. Pleasant Grove at Sheldon
Bishop Manogue-Nevada at No. 16 Capital Christian
No. 19 Bear River at Lincoln
No. 20 Colfax at Placer
Byes: No. 5 Granite Bay
Bella Vista at Oakmont
Center at Foothill
Cordova at Galt
Delta at Western Sierra
Dixon at Marysville
Highlands at Rio Vista
Johnson vs. Florin at Monterey Trail
Kennedy vs. McClatchy at Hughes Stadium
Liberty Ranch at Union Mine
Mesa Verde vs. Natomas
Pioneer at Millennium
Ponderosa at Whitney
Rosemont at El Dorado
Rio Linda at Yuba City
San Juan vs. Encina at El Camino
Valley at Burbank, 6 p.m.
Valley Christian at Woodland Christian
Vista del Lago at Casa Roble
Woodcreek at Nevada Union
No. 18 Christian Brothers vs. Mira Loma at Hughes Stadium