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.
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
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
High school football schedule
Kickoff between 7-7:30 p.m. unless noted
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
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
Coeur d’Alene-Idaho at No. 1 Folsom
No. 9 Burbank at Clovis
El Dorado at Ferndale, 2 p.m.
Pleasant Grove vs. Bakersfield in Ventura, 5 p.m.