Joe Davidson

Sacramento High hopes to regain football glory

Cincinnati Bengals Jim Breech (3) and Cris Collinsworth (80) stand near their bench and watch the scoreboard clock run own in the closing moments as the 49ers beat them, 20-16, to win Super Bowl XXIII in Miami on Jan. 22, 1989. Breech had three field goals in the Bengals’ loss.
Cincinnati Bengals Jim Breech (3) and Cris Collinsworth (80) stand near their bench and watch the scoreboard clock run own in the closing moments as the 49ers beat them, 20-16, to win Super Bowl XXIII in Miami on Jan. 22, 1989. Breech had three field goals in the Bengals’ loss. AP

Justin Reber is new to this school, an old-soul coach who embraces football history.

In his first year at Sacramento High School, Reber couldn’t find any old pennants, trophies, news clippings – anything – that chronicled the storied past of the program.

There’s a reason: It’s all gone, or it was stashed and stored somewhere during a wholesale cleaning job at the Oak Park campus several years ago. No one seems to know where the treasure trove is, and that’s a shame. Sac High has tradition dating to the 1930s.

Reber was led to believe that the school has been mired in the mother of all football droughts, saying, “Rumors are that Sac High has never, in the history of the school, won a football league championship.”

Not so.

The Dragons won Metropolitan Conference titles in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. We know this because we saw those old banners and trophies, once displayed in trophy cases and in a coach’s office, and the titles have been chronicled in Bee sports sections through the decades.

On Saturday, more history can be made. Ranked 11th by The Bee, Sacramento (5-3) hosts rival Burbank (5-3), ranked 12th, at 1 p.m. for a shot of at least a share of the Metro championship. This is city football flexing its muscle, playing on real grass in an era of field turf, during the day in an era of night games. The field will be immaculate, partly because the Dragons help groom, manicure and paint the field on Friday mornings before home games.

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“There’s always extra paint and care with the Dragons logo,” Sacramento quarterback Caden Voges said with a laugh.

But before the field was painted, captains and coaches from both teams met for breakfast to talk football and sportsmanship.

“It was great for sportsmanship and to get to know each other,” Reber said. “This game means a lot to all of us.”

An overflow crowd is expected. Alumni from different eras – from both schools – will be on hand.

On Friday, Jim Breech, Dragons class of 1974, stopped by his alma mater as part of the NFL’s celebration of the 50th Super Bowl with a Super Bowl High School Honor Roll tour of sorts. He’s one of the most famous alums of Sac High.

Sac High has tradition dating to the 1930s.

Super Bowl alums have been stopping by their former high schools to present a commemorative golden football. Breech quarterbacked Sac to the Metro title in 1972, then kicked for four seasons at Cal and eventually became the all-time career scorer for the Cincinnati Bengals, playing in Super Bowls XVI and XXIII against the 49ers, who won both games.

The Dragons excelled in the 1970s under coach Dave Hotell but crashed in the 1980s, going 13-85. When long losing streaks were snapped, coaches and players received high-fives from administrators and students.

Sac High last won the Metro in 1992 under Bee Coach of the Year Tom Rutten, who went 8-42 in his previous five seasons before a breakthrough 9-1 year. His top players were Bee All-Metro running back Norman Miller, tight end-linebacker Andy Bevins, quarterback Todd Daneau and lineman Cory Jones – some will attend the Burbank game.

Miller’s father, Norman, was on the 1972 team with Breech. Young Miller lived in Texas during his sophomore and junior year and returned to Sac High as a senior, offering this after an early 1992 game: “I’ve heard Sacramento has had a rough time here for years. Well, I’m here.”

Sac High last won the Metro Conference in 1992 under Bee Coach of the Year Tom Rutten.

A new era is here, too. The Dragons have won playoff games in recent seasons, but the chance for a freshly minted league banner awaits.

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