Joe Davidson

Can Del Campo halt Antelope’s ‘staggering’ success to make history of its own?

Antelope coach Matt Ray talks with his players during last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game against Grant.
Antelope coach Matt Ray talks with his players during last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game against Grant. Sacramento Bee file

His team is bearing down at the prospect of a third successive 10-0 season, but it hasn’t been easy.

So says Matt Ray, the coach who founded the football program at Antelope High School when it opened in 2008. The Titans stand tall in the Capital Valley Conference, having won 21 consecutive league games – some by blowouts, some by an inch.

Ranked No. 10 by The Bee, Antelope plays at No. 11 Del Campo on Friday night in a battle of 7-0 teams eager to seize the CVC.

Antelope has gone 31-2 the last three seasons, anchored by back-to-back school-record 12-1 campaigns.

“It’s a grind, but we’re not complaining,” Ray said with a laugh. “I’ve heard those numbers for awhile, but I don’t see it that way, the overall wins and streak. I see the battle that’s in front of us, be it practice or a game. But it’s nice, though. Those are staggering numbers, and they come through the result of a lot of work of a lot of players and our coaches.”

Del Campo is attempting to make its own history.

The Cougars have never had a 10-0 regular season. Their last attempt in 2015 was derailed by Antelope in a meeting of 7-0 teams. The Titans prevailed 27-20 in Fair Oaks to spoil homecoming.

It’s homecoming Friday at Del Campo, so fire up the memory banks.

Del Campo opened in 1963 and fielded some lousy teams, mediocre ones and good ones over a 32-year stretch. The Cougars reached the playoffs for the first time in 1995, under Steve Kenyon.

Mike Dimino has been Del Campo’s coach since 2003, having produced 13 playoff teams. His best squad was the 13-1 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship winners of 2009, led by Bee Player of the Year Ryan Dimino, who is now on his father’s coaching staff. Kid brother Tyler Dimino is the team’s quarterback, having passed for 1,358 yards and 22 touchdowns to provide balance for a team that includes running backs Greg Cabral (885 yards, eight scores) and Levi Markey (705, five).

Antelope has been led by quarterback Nathan Lucero (841, five) and running back Moses Paul (846, 10).

Ray said the Titans have been anchored by strong two-way line play by Martel Gay, Jacob Pinola, Dominic Jefferies, Daniel Parker and brothers Carter and Hunter Sullivan.

“When you play Del Campo and some of the teams in our league, you need guys up front to compete against the ground-and-pound teams, and we do that as well,” Ray said.

Antelope was a senior-dominated team a year ago, much like Del Campo is now.

“It’s hard to scroll back to zero with a team that has so many young players,” Ray said. “But you have to throttle back to neutral, to let them get their feet under them, and then you go.”

It’ll be all systems go on Friday.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD