There would be no last-minute theatrics this time, no chapters punctuated with exclamation points to add to the continued football legacy for Del Oro High School.
Just reaching the CIF State Division 2-AA final was an achievement, requiring late-game big plays to win in each of the previous two weekends.
But on Friday night at Cerritos College, some 430 miles from the comforts of Placer County, the Golden Eagles finally ran out of steam and chances. And there is no more season to extend.
Grace Brethren of Simi Valley used old-school smash-mouth football tactics - run, defend, repeat - to defeat Del Oro 21-14 a year after tasting bitter defeat at this stage. Del Oro won a CIF title in 2015 and nearly repeated in 2016.
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This weekend marked the fifth time since 2011 that the Golden Eagles have made a state final, the most of any regional program.
This season won’t feature the desired end result for Del Oro players, coaches, teachers and those who celebrate their football players in Loomis. It will be the journey and relentless effort to compete that will resonate. It certainly will for coach Jeff Walters, who has called coaching his alma mater the last two seasons as “living the dream.”
“We have to keep it in perspective,” Walters said. “Only two teams are left at this division, and one wins and one has to lose. But we fought to the absolute end. Super proud of these kids.”
Of course, Del Oro (13-2) made it interesting. The Golden Eagles trailed 21-7 only to march down field to pull to within 21-14 on a Carson Jarratt touchdown strike to Josh Moore with 1:03 to play. But the Lancers of the powerhouse Southern Section were able to run out the clock to cap their season at 14-2 and earn the program’s first state banner.
Lontrelle Diggs barreled and burst his way through the stout Del Oro defense to the tune of 191 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns. He averaged 7 yards a carry and finished the season with 2,427 yards and 39 touchdowns. Two of his best friends are USC-bound linemen Stanley Ta’ufo’ou and Jay Toia, people-driving terrors who play both ways.
Diggs had a 9-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead, a 7-yard run for a 13-7 lead and his 5-yard score made it 21-7 with 2:03 to play. Dawson Hurst tied it 7-7 for Del Oro with a 46-yard touchdown from Jarratt.
Jarratt passed for 222 yards and had some terrific playoff moments. Sheldon Conde rushed for 59 yards. Hurst had a 61-yard kickoff return, made plays on defense and spoke like a champion in defeat, much like older brothers Logan and Mason did at Del Oro before him.
“It is important that we remember the journey, how we got here,” Hurst said. “But I’ll also remember the 5 a.m. runs, the 6 a.m. weight lifting. I love this team, these guys.”
Del Oro fans filled a parking lot section for a festive pregame tailgate party. The school band was loud and proud. Old alums from decades past made the trip.
“Look at that crowd,” Hurst said, peering over to the stands. “We travel well. We have great support.”
Del Oro placed second to Folsom in the Sierra Foothill League and won its 12th Sac-Joaquin Section title since 1989 in its 18th title-game appearance with a stunning last-minute 20-17 conquest of Central Catholic of Modesto when Dante Pericin forced a fumble and Matt Smart raced 42 yards for the winner.
Last weekend, Del Oro topped Saint Francis of Mountain View 14-13 when Jarratt hit Smart for the game winner. This time, there was too much Diggs and not enough offensive push against a strong defense.
“(Diggs) is pretty special,” Walters said. “He was hard to stop. But we gave it everything we had.”
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: firstname.lastname@example.org, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.