Mike Alberghini had his Grant High School football team take a knee late Saturday afternoon, and then the coach known to raise his voice in a fit of emotion let the Pacers have it.
He praised them.
“No words can describe how proud I am of you,” Alberghini said after the No. 2-ranked Pacers belted No. 3 Jesuit 52-14 to win the Delta League championship. Alberghini was beaming, and dripping from a customary championship soaking. It’s was Grant’s finest effort in a season of many with scores of area coaches and alumni on hand to watch the prohibitive Sac-Joaquin Section Division II favorite.
Behind 270 rushing yards and four touchdowns from junior DeShawn Collins, a steady performance by quarterback Donovan Brown and a suffocating defense, Grant tore apart a Jesuit team riding an eight-game winning streak that still emerged as the No. 2 seed in Division I.
Alberghini anticipated a strong season with 18 returning starters from an 8-4 campaign, but now he wonders if this team might emerge as one of the greatest in his 23-year head-coaching career dotted with six section titles.
The foundation of Grant’s success this season has been an offensive line that includes college recruits in 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior Darrin Paulo, 6-4, 330-pound junior Soape Tupou and 6-4, 310 sophomore Orlando Umana.
“This could be one of the best lines we’ve had, and they’re athletic, big kids,” Alberghini said.
The coach said the numbers that stand out most with Collins, a junior, aren’t his 1,760 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, but his grades.
“DeShawn got straight A’s,” Alberghini said. “He came out of nowhere (as a reserve to a starter), and he sticks his face in there when he runs and goes. He’s not big at 5-9, 170, but he sure plays big.”
Welcome aboard – The playoffs aren’t just a showcase for traditional powerhouse teams. Natomas and Esparto, two schools more accustomed to losing seaons, will enjoy the postseason.
Natomas (6-4) – which had a state-high 32-game losing streak entering the 2014 season with 0-10 showings in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – is in the postseason for the first time since 2009. Adrian Leyva has passed for 1,122 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Dejon Glover has rushed for 824 yards and five scores for the Nighthawks, who draw two-time defending CIF State D-IV champion Central Catholicof Modesto in their opener.
Esparto (7-3) endured back-to-back 0-10 seasons and snapped a 22-game skid earlier this season to bounce back big. The Spartans host Trinity of Weaverville in a Northern Section Division IV opener. The Spartans have rushed for 3,482 yards and 39 touchdowns, including 1,197 yards and 13 scores from Randy Ashdown, and 1,017 and nine touchdowns from Jacob Jensen.
Defensive score – Folsom has a number of defensive stalwarts such as linemen Sam Whitney and Jonah Williams, and linebackers Sam Whittingham and Bailey Laolagi. But linebacker Tyler Crandall leads the top-ranked Bulldogs in tackles (67). Crandall returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown last Friday in a 71-7 victory over Woodcreek to cap the program’s third successive 10-0 regular season.
The Bulldogs will play 16th seed Stagg of Stockton in a Division I playoff opener Saturday night. Vista del Lago, which shares Folsom’s home field, will host American Canyon on Friday in a D-III playoff opener.
Three for five – Will Floyd’s five touchdown passes against Nevada Union last Friday – vaulting Rocklin into the D-II playoff field as the No. 6 seed – tied a school record set by injured starter Max O’Rourke and Jimmy Laughrea (class of 2011).
Unwanted company – Mira Loma finished 0-10 while allowing 540 points, second-most in regional history. Natomas surrendered 528 points at 0-10 last season, Nevada Union 511 at 0-10 last season, Casa Roble 514 at 0-9 in 1967 and Sacramento 505 at 0-9 in 1999. Casa Roble’s average of 57.1 points allowed is a regional record (when the Rams were a first-year varsity program).
Mira Loma coach Toby Thurman said he’s already looking forward to next season, vowing to improve player participation and to continue academic progress.
Lopsided finish – In a Metropolitan Conference finale, Sacramento beat McClatchy 85-0 on Saturday in the annual “Victory Bell” game. It was the most-lopsided score in the 77-year history of the series, the longest rivalry in the region.
A running clock was implemented in the second quarter as the Dragons scored three defensive touchdowns in posting the second-most lopsided outcome in section history. Grant beat McClatchy 89-0 in a 2008 Metro game with a second-half running clock and six defensive or special-teams touchdowns.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
THE BEE’S TOP 20
Last week’s ranking in parentheses
1. Folsom (1) 10-0
2. Grant (2) 10-0
3. Jesuit (3) 8-2
4. Elk Grove (4) 8-2
5. Inderkum (5) 9-1
6. Del Oro (8) 5-5
7. Granite Bay (6) 7-3
8. Rocklin (7) 8-2
9. Franklin (9) 6-4
10. Monterey Trail (10) 6-4
11. El Dorado (12) 10-0
12. Burbank (13) 7-3
13. Rio Linda (14) 8-2
14. Cosumnes Oaks (15) 8-2
15. Vista del Lago (16) 7-3
16. Christian Brothers (11) 8-2
17. Sacramento (17) 8-2
18. Placer (18) 8-2
19. Roseville (19) 6-4
20. Capital Christian (20) 10-0
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