Joe Davidson

Prep football at an all-time high level in Sacramento

Which prep football team will be Sacramento area's best? Plenty of candidates

Who's No. 1 as the 2016 high school football season begins in the Sacramento region? The Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson has some strong thoughts about that. See who Joe tabs as the best and where the other top teams fall on his list.
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Who's No. 1 as the 2016 high school football season begins in the Sacramento region? The Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson has some strong thoughts about that. See who Joe tabs as the best and where the other top teams fall on his list.

High school football in the Sacramento area has never been better.

Not only are the teams a source of civic pride in the schools’ communities, the players and teams are faster, more prolific and more entertaining. And the game has never been safer, with the understanding that if played correctly, concussions and serious injuries are more a rarity.

There are powerhouse teams across the region, from Folsom, Del Oro, Elk Grove and Oak Ridge in the suburbs to Grant, Burbank and Sacramento in the heart of the city.

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And with the season kicking off Friday, there might not be a better entertainment value for a family.

“There isn’t a better game,” Kennedy coach Matt Costa said. “I don’t know what else there is to do in Sacramento on a Friday night in the fall than to catch a high school football game. This is the thing to do.”

The region has a history of strong football programs over the years, from Cordova’s wishbone attack in the 1970s to Grant, which in 2008 became the first area team to win a CIF state championship. The Pacers will honor longtime coach Mike Alberghini on Friday when their stadium in Del Paso Heights is renamed during a ceremony before kickoff against Rocklin.

In recent years, the spread formation has spread across the region, with no team more successful than Folsom, which won state titles in 2010 and 2014. And Del Oro proved last season that slow starts don’t have to doom a season. After opening 2-6, the Golden Eagles won eight in a row and became the latest area team to hoist a CIF state trophy.

High school football also has helped students and communities heal. Del Oro was rocked when popular reserve lineman Ronny Andrews died in a car accident weeks after Loomis celebrated the Golden Eagles’ state title.

“Football,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said last week, “helped us get through that, to cope.”

The game also is helping Bear River in Lake of the Pines cope. Running back Toran Maronic was injured in a 7-on-7 passing drill over the summer when he landed awkwardly and suffered a serious brain injury. His recovery has inspired the Bruins.

Inspiration also can be found at Kennedy, where the football program has struggled. Costa increased participation and helped the Cougars improve from 0-10 in 2012 to an 8-3 playoff team last fall.

“If you love what you do, and the kids buy in, anything is possible,” Costa said.

Yet there remain areas of concern. With concussions an issue at all levels, states and districts nationwide have limited tackling in practice, and some schools have dropped freshman teams as participation falls because of parents’ fear of catastrophic injury.

In California, 100,205 high school students played football last fall – nearly double track and field, the sport with the second-most participants – but the total represented a decrease of 3.39 percent since 2013.

The emergence of social media has given football more exposure than ever, but not always in a positive way because of often boorish behavior, including taunting, on Twitter.

And the obsession of parents and players to land a Division I scholarship continues to grow. There are far more high school players than D-I scholarships, but there are plenty of opportunities to play beyond high school, from D-II and D-III programs to community colleges.

Football always comes down to blocking and tackling, and the Sacramento area features a number of high school football players who are standouts. Here are the best of the best, the most skilled players to look for in 2016. Some have playoff experi

Grant High School will honor its longtime football coach, Mike Alberghini, before the Pacers' season-opening game against Rocklin on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, renaming its football stadium after Alberghini, the Sacramento area's winningest active coa

High school football preview

  • The Bee’s Joe Davidson reports on what makes defending CIF state champion Del Oro click and why more big things are expected of the Golden Eagles.
  • Expanded rundown of The Bee’s top 20 teams
  • 25 seniors to watch
  • Videos, photo galleries and more

Coming Thursday

The Bee’s preseason football top 20

(with last year’s record)

1. Folsom 14-1

2. Del Oro 10-6

3. Elk Grove 13-1

4. Inderkum 12-1

5. Grant 10-2

6. Rocklin 10-4

7. Granite Bay 7-6

8. Jesuit 5-5

9. Burbank 6-5

10. Oak Ridge 10-3

11. Vista del Lago 8-3

12. Christian Brothers 9-3

13. Antelope 12-1

14. Sacramento 8-4

15. Franklin 7-5

16. Whitney 6-5

17. Del Campo 9-3

18. Placer 12-1

19. Monterey Trail 5-6

20. Bear River 9-4

Joe Davidson

High school football schedule

Kickoff between 7-7:30 p.m. unless noted

FRIDAY

Top 20

St. Paul-Santa Fe Springs at No. 2 Del Oro

No. 3 Elk Grove at No. 4 Inderkum

No. 6 Rocklin at No. 5 Grant

No. 7 Granite Bay at No. 8 Jesuit, 5 p.m.

No. 10 Oak Ridge at No. 11 Vista del Lago

No. 13 Antelope at Nevada Union

No. 14 Sacramento at JSerra-San Juan Capistrano

No. 15 Franklin at McNair-Stockton

Davis at No. 16 Whitney

Merced at No. 17 Del Campo

No. 18 Placer at Golden Valley-Merced

Wilcox-Santa Clara at No. 19 Monterey Trail

No. 20 Bear River at Orland

Bye: No. 12 Christian Brothers

Others

Amador at Union Mine

Argonaut vs. Mesa Verde at San Juan

Bella Vista at Casa Roble

Bradshaw Christian at Kennedy

Capital Christian at Rosemont

Chico at Roseville

Delta at Biggs

El Camino at Oakmont

Encina vs. Valley Christian at Highlands

Foresthill at Portola

Galt at Kennedy

Golden Sierra at Colfax

Johnson at Waterford

Marysville at Las Plumas

Mira Loma at Foothill

Pioneer at Natomas

Ponderosa at Lincoln

Rio Americano at Cordova

Rio Linda at Center

River City at Liberty Ranch

River Valley at Cosumnes Oaks

Sheldon at Woodcreek

West Campus vs. Laguna Creek at Burbank, 6 p.m.

Woodland at American Canyon

Yuba City at Pleasant Valley-Chico

SATURDAY

Top 20

Coeur d’Alene-Idaho at No. 1 Folsom

No. 9 Burbank at Clovis

Others

El Dorado at Ferndale, 2 p.m.

Pleasant Grove vs. Bakersfield in Ventura, 5 p.m.

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