Victory is always sweet, particularly when it is earned the hard way, rooted in effort and defense.
And it’s doubly nice when a dreary streak crashes to a halt to punctuate the moment.
McClatchy High School converted a late fourth-and-1 play in order to take a knee and run out the clock – and run off the sting of misery – to beat Cordova 26-24 at venerable Hughes Stadium Friday night.
The Lions celebrated as if it really meant something, and it did.
This was a mark of progress for the long-suffering, yet ever-proud program with NFL alumni dating back generations. This represented McClatchy’s first nonleague triumph in eight seasons, snapping a 22-game skid dating to 2008. McClatchy (1-1) traditionally plays three nonleague games to open a season, and it lost them all over that stretch, some by a touchdown, others by six touchdowns, denying the Lions motivation heading into Metropolitan League play.
Second-year Lions coach Roscoe Ahn celebrated with his dancing players, too. He went 3-7 last year after taking over for Bob Lee, forced into retirement to battle health concerns. Anh said he is moved by the progress of the program.
Also racing downfield along the sideline during big plays at Hughes, or trying to before common sense and the real threat of a muscle tear, was McClatchy athletic director Rob Feickert.
He coached the football team last decade and understands what a competitive team does for the morale of players, the campus and the alumni, calling this win “one of the best for McClatchy since 2005.” Feickert also appreciates history, going the extra yard to acknowledge coaches and players at McClatchy, be it naming the basketball floor in honor of famed coach Harvey Tahara or championing the school’s athletic hall of fame efforts.
“The mood of the team is good, and a win always helps,” Ahn said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Alyas Kirkland went to work for the Lions, rushing for three touchdowns and 181 yards, and Aerrik Hunter played well at receiver with a lot of unsung defensive efforts, too.
McClatchy enjoyed Metro League success decades ago, last reaching the playoffs in 1996 as it has endured low roster numbers, coaching and administration turnover and the sort of financial and competitive hurdles that hinder scores of city programs across the state.
McClatchy remains an academic powerhouse and a staple of civic pride. The girls basketball team made history when it became the first girls team in the Sacramento City Unified School District to win a state championship, taking Division I honors last March.
But football often sets the campus athletic tone to start each academic year. The Lions are doing their part, one milestone victory at a time.
Makeup games – Three area teams had to reschedule Friday games due to heavy smoke from the Butte fire, which has burned more than 65,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties, making for extremely poor air quality exacerbated by high temperatures.
Bullard of Fresno, ranked second by The Fresno Bee, played at Sacramento Bee No. 2 Grant on Saturday night (see sacbee.com for game recap) and two Bee-ranked small-school powers will compete on Monday night.
Fifteenth-ranked Bear River rescheduled its game against Argonaut of Jackson for Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Lake of the Pines. This isn’t the first time Bear River has played a Monday game. In 2009, Bear River moved a Pioneer Valley League contest against rival Colfax from a Friday to a Monday after 14 Bear River players were stricken with illness.
Twentieth-ranked Capital Christian’s game against Amador in Sutter Creek was also switched to Monday, at Capital Christian. Some Amador players had to evacuate their homes Thursday, and by late Friday, fire officials said that the fast-moving and elusive fire, with flames reaching as high as 30 feet, had burned six homes and was threatening thousands more. Ticket and snack bar revenue from Monday’s game will be donated to Amador families needing relief, Capital Christian coach Phil Grams said.
Love for linemen – Quarterback Hunter Rodrigues is off to a sizzling start, passing, running and leading upstart Whitney to a 2-1 record after injuries crushed the Wildcats amid a 1-9 season in 2014. Rodrigues has not been sacked in three games, a credit to his mobility and especially to linemen Tristan Bauer, Nick Ackey, Andy Perkins, Grant Berry and senior captain and center Zach Slater.
Rodrigues has had time to throw deep to favorite targets Devin Brocchini and Justin Kraft and has 15 touchdown passes. He hit Brocchini twice on Friday in a 28-20 win over rival Rocklin in a festive setting at Whitney.
VCA target – Valley Christian Academy of Roseville is a section small-school powerhouse in baseball and girls and boys basketball trying to find its way in football as low numbers and injuries have stalled progress. One player who has responded is 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver Grant Woodside, who has 21 catches for 375 yards and has made three interceptions as a defensive back.
Record update – The 465 rushing yards Highlands’ Isaiah Tenette unleashed on Mira Loma last week in an 84-43 victory was initially thought to be a state record for quarterbacks. It’s actually a NorCal record for quarterbacks and second all-time on the state list, according to prep historian Mark Tennis of CalHi Sports.
Sty Hairston of Banning ran for 476 yards and seven touchdowns in a 71-14 rout of Linfield Christian of Temecula in 2012. Tenette’s rushing mark still stands as a regional record, for any position, bettering the 449 yards by James Montgomery of Cordova in 2005, and it is the most for a California prep this season, and for the position. The only other documented 400-yard single-game rusher this fall is running back Donovan Switalski of East Nicolaus, who had 403 in a 30-26 setback to Fall River of McArthur.