The rain pounded off helmets, shoulder pads and the Hornet Stadium field, ambushing the grounds and masses like so many projectiles hurled from the sky.
But it’s a funny thing about inclement weather and championship games. The winners never seem to mind it, or even notice.
And that was the prevailing theme for Del Oro High School on Friday night at Sacramento State amid a celebratory postgame scene that was in stark contrast to a team that was reeling out of control at 2-6 in late October. Players, some with agriculture backgrounds, joked that the moisture was welcomed in this drought-stricken area, and besides, it also came as a way to officially wash away all of the grime of a trying regular season.
The Golden Eagles beat Camarillo of Ventura County 16-13 to win the most improbable of championships, this one in the CIF State Division II-AA title game in a result most didn’t dare forecast a month ago.
Del Oro wasn’t awed by the Scorpions’ 15-0 record, or their 53 points per game. This group had seen it all, experienced it all, and grew to embrace the hurdles. With Camrion Davis rushing for 202 yards on 24 carries and scoring the deciding touchdown on a dazzling 58-yard burst for a 16-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, and the defense playing its most spirited game of the season, Del Oro (10-6) bows out of the season with several lasting milestones.
It became the first team in state history to win a state championship with this many losses, capping the campaign with an eight-game winning streak. And Del Oro didn’t just win a trophy for its loyal Loomis community in Placer County. It scored one for all of regional football, and for Northern California, really.
Del Oro is the first area team to reach a CIF Bowl three times, all coming since 2011, and it now can add some hardware to complete its otherwise glossy résumé and trophy case. The Golden Eagles join Grant in 2008, Granite Bay in 2012 and Folsom in 2010 and 2014 as area teams to win state football crowns.
“To go from 2-6 to this ... wow,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said, the emotion clear in his voice and expressions. “I’ve never been more proud of a team.”
He’s also never been more frustrated with one. Del Oro players during that 2-6 stretch started to jaw at each other, and then they started to tie into each other. Normally, those teams go no where. The Golden Eagles found leaders, common ground and peace as they pieced it together to win seven successive elimination games just to get here.
Del Oro is now 5-0 all-time at Sac State, the other four victories coming in Sac-Joaquin Section title games, including earlier this month over rival Rocklin. That the Golden Eagles kept winning despite mounting injuries to key players also speaks of the team’s resolve.
Davis didn’t rush for any yards until Del Oro’s fifth game. He then stepped up as injuries slowed down or sidelined starters. Davis, one of many key juniors on the team, also made a lot of defensive stops on Friday.
“I came in thinking that there was no way we were going to be stopped, going to lose, and I was going to do everything I could to help us win,” Davis said.
Davis opened the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown, and Bryan Willhide’s 38-yard field goal gave Del Oro a 10-0 halftime lead. Junior quarterback Stone Smartt passed for 120 yards for Del Oro, 75 going to Mason Hurst, another junior. Hurst also had an end-zone interception. John Spencer and Justin Burrage led Del Oro’s defense with seven tackles each, and it was a day for the “D.”
Jake Constantine passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns for Camarillo, but he was chased plenty. He was sacked three times in the second half, much to the delight of defensive coordinator Steve Birch, Taylor’s right-hand man since taking over the Golden Eagles 14 years ago.
The Golden Eagles pulled no stops, going for it on fourth down at the game’s turning point, with Davis getting a yard when he needed inches, setting up his 58-yard score that would prove the difference.
The day started with a hero’s sendoff in Loomis, with fans lining the streets, cheering, waving, clanging bells, holding signs. It ended in the rain, and some tears from players, coaches and those backing them in the stands.
“Just amazing,” Del Oro senior wide receiver-defensive back Trey Udoffia said. “We just kept getting better. Now we’re champions. We’re really on the football map now.”
In the background, players and fans started a sing-song chant of “We Belieeeve.” That mantra started last weekend in Bakersfield, when Del Oro players started to sing their motto during a 28-24 victory over Liberty in a NorCal final. They believed, and then they delivered.
Mission Viejo 24, Bellarmine 0 – Brock Johnson passed for two first-half touchdowns and Colin Schooler ran for two short, second-half scores to power the Diablos to the Division I-AA championship in extending their state-leading winning streak to 28.
Mission Viejo, coached by Johnson’s grandfather Bob Johnson, won its first title by holding Bellarmine of San Jose to 44 rushing yards on 37 carries and 51 yards total. Bellarmine snapped Folsom’s 30-game winning streak last week to win the NorCal title.