The support continues in earnest for the Grant Pacers, and we can all tip our hats and helmets to that.
In an emotional and beautiful gesture of sportsmanship and respect for a program that has represented the Greater Sacramento area with class and dominance for the past three decades, Grant High School football players, coaches, students and community watched as some 300 players and coaches from around the region lined up around the Pacers’ home field – before Monday night’s rescheduled playoff game against Beyer of Modesto – as a sign of solidarity following the shooting death of Pacers cornerback Jaulon “JJ” Clavo on Nov. 13.
The gestures of comfort will continue Saturday at 6 p.m. when Grant hosts Granite Bay in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinal, with numerous teams expected to turn out again to pay their respects to the Pacers.
Elk Grove will be there. The Thundering Herd, a Division I playoff team, honored its rival on Friday night. All 55 varsity players signed a card that was delivered to Grant, and each had a block-letter “G” sticker – for Grant – on the back of his helmet, the result of hours of meticulous cutting by team statistician Shelly Loller, the wife of Herd line coach Moe Loller.
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Shelly Loller downplayed her role, explaining, “The kudos go to the young men who don the helmets in memory of JJ and in support of Grant.”
Area coaches envy the talent and success of Grant, but not the hardships. And they admire the efforts and impact of longtime coach Mike Alberghini. Coaches view him as a good man coaching good kids, wanting to make them better.
“Al’s a special guy,” Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said. “He is so much more than a football coach to that community.”
Grieving mother’s plea – Nicole Clavo, Jaulon’s mother, will continue to attend Grant games, wearing her son’s No. 5 jersey. She wants the Pacers to continue to play for their school and community and her son. Nicole also is hoping – pleading – that her appearance will prompt someone to approach her or law enforcement to share any information on “the senseless shooting of my son.”
“Someone has to come forward. Someone has to know something,” she said Friday afternoon. “I’ve heard talk. People are talking in barber shops. They’re talking in beauty shops, in the schools. People are scared, and that’s the problem.
“There’s fear because they fear street justice, but it’s stopping the justice system. Someone please talk. Imagine if it was your son, or your brother, or your friend who lost their life.”
High on Humboldt – Humboldt State, with a number of local recruits dotting the roster, is the last Division II college football program in California still playing this season.
The Lumberjacks (9-1) are in the playoffs for the first time since 1968 and will host their first playoff game since 1960 on Saturday when Augustana of South Dakota comes to Arcata for a first-round matchup. All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honorees from Humboldt State include Dillon Huffman of Bear River (Defensive Lineman of the Year), Cameron Southward of Placer (first-team kicker-punter) and Cameron Buell of Casa Roble (second-team defensive lineman).
JC Bowling – American River and Sierra will play in community college football bowl games Saturday.
ARC (7-3) hosts Delta College (6-4) in the Gridiron Classic Bowl at 1 p.m., and the Beavers are inspired to win for the wife of coach Jon Osterhout. Alison Osterhout is battling breast cancer. She was touched after receiving a game ball following a recent victory, as well as getting a get-well cake and card from the team.
Sierra (5-5) plays at Fresno City College (6-4) in the State Center Bowl. The Wolverines are led in partly Jesuit graduates Cole Brownholtz at quarterback and wide receiver Isaiah Bailey.
Ailing and out – First it was UCLA standout defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes from Placer High who was lost for the season in September with an ACL tear in his knee. On Nov. 13, USC’s leading tacker, true freshman linebacker Cameron Smith from Granite Bay High also suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Utah running back Devontae Booker, a former Grant and ARC standout, had minor knee ligament surgery Thursday and likely is done for the season.
Booker is a senior and expected recover in time for the NFL combine in February. Vanderdoes and Smith are expected to return to their respective colleges next season.