Joey Montoya grew up around this, the grass, the dirt, the championships.
And now he’s even more a part of it.
The 11th year Placer High School football coach was equal parts proud and relieved to lead the Hillmen to their first Sac-Joaquin Section championship since 1981, and his first banner in five championship tries.
Looking the part of top seed in Division IV, Placer used balanced offense and just enough defensive stops to beat Pioneer Valley League rival Center 42-32 on Saturday night at Cosumnes Oaks High in Elk Grove.
It’s the sixth title for the storied Hillmen of Auburn, who became a state-ranked powerhouse in the 1970s under coaches Bill Miller and Tom Johnson. Miller is the grandfather of Montoya, who played football at Placer then dreamed of becoming the head coach, then agonized for his players after four title-game losses. He also lost a section championship game while coaching at Pioneer in Woodland.
Mario Perez rushed for two touchdowns for Placer (12-1), and Mike Stuck had two touchdown passes to Brad Bishop. Marshall Chapman had two touchdowns for Center, which also received two touchdown passes from Michael Wortham to Robbie Donnell.
Center finished 7-6.
Placer will compete in a CIF Northern California Regional playoff game on the weekend of Dec. 8-9. All section champions advance. Brackets will be released when all other section champions from the state are crowned. The announcement will be Dec. 3.
“Just so proud of these guys and how hard they’ve worked,” Montoya said.
Most impressive, perhaps, is this is Montoya’s youngest team. He said the Hillmen still haven’t played their best game. There’s plenty of season left to do so.