Mike Alberghini never professed to be an academic genius in his day.
But a good football coach with a simple and sound game plan? He’s all of that and plenty more.
The longtime Grant High School football coach hasn’t changed a bit, preferring to control games with a power running game with beef and fury in the trenches and a bevy of backs to handle the load. It’s been a staple of his success and Grant’s remarkable staying power.
On Friday night in a season opener in Del Paso Heights, it was more of the same. Bee-ranked No. 2, Grant broke in its sparkling new synthetic field at Rutherford Stadium by rumbling and racing past No. 10 Burbank 50-14.
Deshawn Collins rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns, and the senior dazzled on an 85-yard kickoff return. Mike Green provided some power to the run game, rushing for 121 yards and opening the scoring with a 22-yard effort. Michael Cook hit Lawrence Hardy on a 44-yard touchdown pass, and the Pacers’ defense surrendered 142 yards rushing from returning 1,000-yard back Michael Roots but allowed very little otherwise. Linebacker David Moala led the Grant defense with 13 tackles.
“I wasn’t very good in math in school, but what I did learn was that a straight line is the shortest distance,” Alberghini cracked earlier this week. “And being short, I always wanted the shortest routes.”
Grant has remained a powerhouse program with this sort of simplicity. With an army of returning starters, the Pacers seek their Sac-Joaquin Section ongoing record 25th consecutive playoff berth, their 19th league title, their eighth section crown and 11th unbeaten regular season, all since 1991, when Alberghini moved from defensive coordinator to head man.
Alberghini has gone 254-49-1 in sending scores of athletes to college via scholarship. He is second all-time in the section in career victories, trailing Mark Loureiro of small-school powerhouse Escalon, who as gone 265-53-1 and is still active.
Grant went 14-1 last season on the strength of a big and strong offensive line, and Collins and Green. The backs have combined for more than 3,500 yards and 40 scores. It’ll be more of the same this season behind the biggest line in the region with Jordan Lagaaia, Darryel Abraham, Julio Marquez, Soape Tupou and Orlando Umana. There isn’t anyone weighing less than 300 pounds on the line.
“Both of our running backs are getting recruited, and some of the linemen, too,” Alberghini said. “We have to stay within our comfort zone, and that’s running the ball.”
Collins scored on runs of 21, 3, 46 and 29 yards. Burbank scored on a 19-yard pass from Jaemyn Hickman to R.J. Spagner and on a Roots 48-yard run.
Grant and Burbank have been longtime rivals, once competing for Metropolitan Conference titles. Realignment moved Grant to the Delta League, but the series continues. The respect runs deep between both programs, from coaches to players.
“It’s been a great gauge game for us to see how we stand against size and speed,” Burbank coach John Heffernan said. “We find out right away what we need to work on. I love playing them. It’s good for us. Grant is like the big brother, a standard that we want to match.”
Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SacBee_JoeD