It took Casey Taylor a good while to learn about all of his players, and the school, and opponents.
Now well into his second season as coach at Capital Christian High School, Taylor is basking in the challenge of a fresh start.
And nothing revs up a program quite like a signature victory to put an extra stamp of approval of what’s brewing up Highway 50.
No. 8 Capital Christian relied on the legs of four-year program great D’Marcus Ross and the arm of a newcomer showing a lot of promise in Cooper Crick to throttle No. 9 Grant 42-14 in a nonleague game on Friday night in Del Paso Heights.
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Though these Pacers are not to be confused with the star-studded, regal bruisers of yesteryear, it’s still Grant. And few programs in Northern California history can match Grant’s luster, pedigree, snarl and staying power.
While Grant (1-2) fields its youngest team in coach Mike Alberghini’s 28 years as head coach, Capital Christian (3-0) is growing by the week as Taylor and his staff have expertly blended in new faces with old ones.
Ross is a powerhouse running back, a four-year varsity starter. He opened with an 11-yard touchdown run, caught a 17-yard TD pass and left his impression on a 76-yard gallop, pulling away from the speedy Pacers and into the end zone. He rushed for 233 yards.
Crick, a transfer from Oak Ridge, passed for 228 yards and four touchdowns to provide balance. The offensive line was led by Shane Semeit, a towering 6-foot-7 tackle.
It goes down as the milestone victory Taylor sought at Capital Christian after 15 championship seasons at Del Oro. Opened in 1977, Capital Christian has gone from the cozy school tucked off Highway 50 to a sports power across the board.
The school was ambitious in its pursuit of Taylor, and he has always been ambitious in his scheduling. Small-school programs just don’t try to compete with Grant, but Capital Christian bucks the norm there, too.
Friday marked the Cougars’ greatest football triumph, beyond any of the small-school Sac-Joaquin Section championships.
“This is a great opportunity for our program,” Taylor said before the game. “We want to build something special here and play great programs. We’ve got a lot of respect for Alberghini and Grant.”
Capital Christian expected to make a title run in last season’s playoffs but were stunned in an opener by Bear River. Taylor called it, “the best thing that could’ve happened to us.”
“It’s tough to rebuild and it takes time, but it’s very rewarding,” Taylor said of the Capital Christian challenge. “Our kids are learning to compete. It’s great to see the growth. I’m really enjoying it.”
There’s joy in watching Ross rumble past or over people, and to see Crick settle into his role.
“He’s a special player,” Taylor said of Ross. “He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen around here.”
Xavier Johnson had two touchdown passes for Grant, which last season missed the playoffs for the first time since 1980.
“We’re capable, but if we don’t play better, we’ll be in trouble,” Alberghini said.