The welts and bruises are appreciated now. They indicate a look of resolve and progress.
Members of the Woodcreek High School football team rub out aches and pains these days with the understanding that the results are worth it now. Winning cures all ills and does wonders for a team’s morale.
It can even lift the spirits of a school – this is the one sport that can help shape campus vibe to start any academic year.
The Timberwolves are 4-0, competing against programs that have similarly struggled in recent seasons. Woodcreek has dispatched Rio Americano 42-14, Kennedy 42-12, El Camino 42-7 and, on Friday, Pleasant Grove 49-14.
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The team heads into a realigned Capital Valley Conference slate, collectively glad the rigors of the Sierra Foothill League are in the rear-view mirror.
“It’s been a great start for us,” Woodcreek coach Kyle Stowers said. “They key for us is experience. We have 16 guys who started games last season, who had significant playing time in the SFL. No doubt, we took our lumps in that league. When you get your butts kicked like we did, it can go one of two ways: Guys don’t come back, or they really get committed, and this has been a great group.
“The SFL was just so hard. You’re beat down, play Folsom, then get Oak Ridge and never catch a breath and recover. Sometimes, guys can say, ‘Why do this any more? Why do we have to get up at 7 in the morning in March, or do study hall?’ But they’ve bought in this year. It’s made Monday through Thursday so enjoyable, and Friday’s too.”
The SFL gauntlet overwhelmed Woodcreek with heavies Folsom, Oak Ridge, Del Oro, Rocklin and Granite Bay, programs that feed on the ones trying to stay afloat and competitive.
Woodcreek has the makings of a sleeping-giant program, and the Roseville school has produced championship teams in other sports, including basketball and baseball. There are good enrollment numbers (2,121 students) and there is administrative and student support. And the Timberwolves are eager to gain traction and build momentum.
The program has not produced a varsity winning season in the 24 years since it opened. There have been seven 5-5 seasons, two playoff berths and one playoff win, in 2008.
“We’re trying to build success, and success builds success,” Stowers said.
Stowers was a multi-sport competitor at Amador High in Sutter Creek, graduating in 2001. He learned the coaching trade as an assistant to Tony Martello in four seasons at Colfax and two seasons at Del Oro under Casey Taylor, now at Capital Christian. Stowers also learned from his older brother, Jason Stowers, who preceded him as head coach at Woodcreek.
“My brother had a big impact on me, and Tony and Casey were great for me – how to organize practice, how every day was dialed in,” Stowers said. “I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned to make an impression at Woodcreek.”
It helps to have players. The Timberwolves have three of note. Quarterback Carter Krupp is a pass-run threat, a relentless competitor and one of the best in the region. Linebacker Danny Castillo is the “heart and soul of our defene,” Stowers said. And Grant Dinger plays all over the field. Against Pleasant Grove, Dinger rushed for 168 yards and scored three touchdowns, and he had six tackles, an interception and scored off a fumble recovery.
Stowers and his team let out a collective sigh of relief for another reason Friday. Linebacker Angelo Acia hurt his neck when he collided with a teammate in trying to break up a pass play. He was taken to a local hospital by an ambulance and was released after X-rays revealed no damage.
But the game was called a final contest with 11 minutes to go because another ambulance did not arrive (it is state policy that a football game does not start or continue without an ambulance).
“I guess there’s a shortage of ambulances in Placer County,” Stowers said with a laugh. “But everything is OK. We’re happy.”
Bounce-back city: Foothill is 3-0 under second-year coach Anthony Eustace and the efforts of running back William Goebel, quarterback Kyle McLaughlin and receiver Traivion Drummer.
The Mustangs are coming off successive 1-9 seasons. They also went 1-9 in 2012 and 2013. The last playoff berth was in 2008, when Foothill enjoyed its last winning record (7-4 under coach Allen Berg). Foothill’s best years were in the 1980s and early ‘90s under 200-game winning coach Frank Negri, now an assistant at Rio Linda.
Good hands: Chris Delaloye of Western Sierra Academy in Rocklin is the national leader in receptions (47) and yards (735), thanks to good line play and the quarterback skills of Aiden Lucia.
Delaloye averages 15.6 yards a catch and 183.8 yards a game. He has six touchdowns for the Wolves, who are 1-3.