This football season has been unlike any other for Digol Jbeily.
The ninth-year Center High School coach has fielded a conference contender despite having just 23 players. But Jbeily has been troubled by the perception that the Cougars are brawlers who had to forfeit a game.
According to witnesses and video, an unnamed Encinal player started a bench-clearing brawl after being hit hard but legally during the Sept. 26 nonleague game in Alameda. Things quickly escalated, with both benches rushing onto the field.
Referees ended the game at that point in the fourth quarter with Center leading. Nearly every player for both teams was ejected. Per CIF rules, ejected players must sit out the following contest.
Encinal forfeited its 60th Island Bowl against crosstown rival Alameda, and its players had to perform community service involving violence prevention.
Center, which had 22 players ejected, forfeited its Pioneer Valley League showdown against Placer on Oct. 10, following a bye. Center administrators and coaches offered film of the melee to an appeals committee that showed Encinal to be the instigator.
Instead of playing Placer on Oct. 10, Center’s varsity bused to Reno to watch the University of Nevada host Boise State.
Center (5-3) returned to action on Oct 17, when it beat Lincoln 25-0, and defeated Colfax 33-21 on Friday to remain in the PVL hunt with games remaining against Bear River and Foothill.
“The hardest part about the season was not being able to play Placer,” Jbeily said. “And to me, as a coach, this is the first time we’ve been involved in something like that, against Encinal. Such a bizarre situation. At some point, it becomes self-defense out there. I don’t condone kids coming off the bench, but they’re helping five or six teammates who are getting punched by 15 of their guys. Our guys are getting pummeled by 45 of their guys, and their fans are on the field, too.”
Jbeily said he’s been impressed with his team’s ability to win back-to-back games after the forfeit.
Tobias Marshall ran for two touchdowns against Colfax and sealed the victory with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Leading the charge for Center have been wide receiver-cornerback Tiantai Anderson, running back-linebacker Marcellus Roberts, linebacker Kurtis Meyer, two-way lineman Joe DeMartini and quarterback Elias Jbeily (the coach’s nephew).
“We’re a bunch of scrappy, big-hearted players,” coach Jbeily said. “They give us everything, great effort. We’re not big. We have no size. We graduated 17 seniors (from last season) and have four senior (starters) now. Everyone buys in. Really proud of this group.”
Record-setting day – Caden Voges of No. 10 Sacramento tossed eight touchdown passes, setting a school record and tying the Metropolitan Conference mark, in a 60-0 victory over Johnson on Saturday. Voges has passed for 2,944 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, with only two interceptions in his past five games.
In 1987, Kevin Tinney of Kennedy burned Cordova for eight touchdowns in a 55-21 victory to help the Cougars clinch a tie for the Metro title with Johnson.
Sacramento plays at No. 17 Burbank on Thursday night for the league title.
Hillmen on rise – No. 19 Placer beat PVL rival Bear River 28-0 on Saturday night in a game postponed from Friday after the suspect in the shooting of three area deputies and a civilian was pursued and arrested near the Auburn campus.
“Our hearts go out to those families of those officers,” said Placer coach Joey Montoya, who earned his 100th career victory (90th on the varsity).
Clark Pietromonaco passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and brothers Johnny and Jacob Capra dominated on the lines as the Hillmen beat the Bruins for the sixth consecutive season. Placer, which clinched its seventh consecutive playoff berth, seeks a PVL three-peat.
The game ball, however, could have been given to Placer assistant coach Bowman Wachob, who lost $200 on the resale of his Game 4 World Series ticket so he could coach on Saturday.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
THE BEE’S TOP 20
Last week’s ranking in parentheses
1. Folsom (1) 8-0
2. Grant (2) 8-0
3. Jesuit (4) 7-1
4. Rocklin (3) 7-1
5. Elk Grove (5) 6-2
6. Inderkum (6) 7-1
7. Granite Bay (7) 6-2
8. Franklin (8) 5-3
9. Del Oro (9) 3-5
10. Sacramento (10) 7-1
11. Monterey Trail (11) 5-3
12. Christian Brothers (12) 7-1
13. Rio Linda (13) 7-1
14. Oak Ridge (14) 5-4
15. El Dorado (16) 8-0
16. Cosumnes Oaks (18) 6-2
17. Burbank (19) 5-3
18. Vista del Lago (20) 6-3
19. Placer (-) 6-2
20. Capital Christian (-) 8-0