Joe Davidson

Grant-Rocklin football experiences laced with sportsmanship, memories

Grant's Mike Alberghini: Football coach, mentor, community treasure

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
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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

The teams have met just twice, but they have a good history marked by sportsmanship.

Grant High School rallied to beat Rocklin 21-20 in an opener Friday in Del Paso Heights, where the energized night began with the field being named in honor of famed Pacers coach Mike Alberghini. It ended with the Grant players mobbing each other and their beloved old coach after Cam Davis, in his first varsity start at quarterback, hit Larry Hardy with a late touchdown pass.

We’ve had a good thing with Rocklin.

Grant coach Mike Alberghini

Imagine if the Pacers had come up short on a night to honor their longtime coach, a fixture in teaching and coaching in the Grant district for 48 years. But knowing the man known as Coach Al, we sense how he would’ve have responded: admirably.

As Alberghini ages – or seasons, as he likes to say – he handles defeat better than he did in his younger days.

A defining moment for Alberghini came after perhaps his most crushing defeat. In 2009, the defending CIF state champion Pacers had their unbeaten season derailed by Rocklin’s goal-line stand in a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game. Rocklin held on to win 21-19 when a last-play field-goal attempt by the Pacers just missed.

Alberghini immediately consoled his kicker, Charlie Vue, and told the sophomore he was going to leave Grant as the greatest kicker in school history. The coach was right. Vue went on to shatter regional kick-scoring records. Alberghini praised Rocklin then, and he does now, especially after the shooting death of Pacers defensive back Jaulon Clavo before a playoff game last fall. Thunder coaches Greg Benzel and Jason Adams took their players, in full uniform, to Grant to watch the playoff game against Beyer of Modesto, a moving example of solidarity and class.

Alberghini won’t forget, adding, simply, “We’ve had a good thing with Rocklin.”

Coach Cat is back – Joe Cattolico won his coaching debut at Sheldon, which beat host Woodcreek 47-21 behind speed, defensive plays and the leadership of Washington-bound Alex Cook, a wide receiver and defensive back.

Cattolico started the program at nearby Pleasant Grove in 2005, quickly elevating it into a regional power. Sheldon is a sleeping giant with a lot of athletes and administrative support. Cattolico runs the defense and his father, Butch Cattolico, a 266-game winner at Los Gatos High, runs the offense.

Bleacher issues – Structural concerns with the visitors’ bleachers at Inderkum forced school officials to bring in portable seating Friday for Elk Grove fans, who packed in for the Thundering Herd’s 37-6 victory. There was initial thought of moving the game to Rio Linda, but Natomas Unified School District superintendent Chris Evans and Inderkum athletic director Matt Hinton scrambled to keep the game on campus.

“The Elk Grove fans were understanding and fantastic, and we thank them,” Hinton said, adding the district will continue to study the situation.

Like father, like son – The last time a Dotson was at Hooper Stadium in Grass Valley, the night ended in frustration.

In 1992, Robert Dotson rushed for a touchdown, but a missed extra point doomed Grant in a 7-6 loss to top-ranked Nevada Union. Grant recovered to beat the Miners 35-6 in the City Championship as Dotson rushed for 204 yards, and the Pacers won their first of seven section titles a week later.

On Friday, Dotson saw his son, Elijah Dotson, face the Miners. The Antelope senior rushed for 179 yards and two scores in a 28-21 victory.

Tigers pounce – Roseville beat visiting Chico 38-0 for its first shutout in nine seasons, thanks to defensive stoppers such as Nico Andrada, Jimmy Jaggers, Brendan McMinn and Hayden Simpson, who had four quarterback hurries as the Tigers allowed 42 passing yards. Nick Martig, slowed by injuries in previous seasons, passed for three touchdowns and ran for one in his first varsity start.

Scorza remembered – Pete Scorza was on the minds of many when Kennedy hosted Bradshaw Christian. Scorza, who coached Kennedy to the Metro League championship in 1987, to the playoffs in 1990 and to the school’s first No. 1 Sacramento Bee football ranking in 1991, died this month at 65 after battling cancer. A celebration of life for the Burbank and Sacramento State graduate will be held Thursday at the Dante Club at 11 a.m.

The Elk Grove fans were understanding and fantastic, and we thank them.

Inderkum athletic director Matt Hinton, on problems with the visitors’ bleachers Friday

Kennedy coach Matt Costa spoke often with Scorza to get a sense of tradition and how to rebuild, and he led the Cougars to their first playoff berth since 1990 last fall with an 8-3 team. On Friday, Kennedy lost 22-16.

Winning debut – Dan Davis won his varsity head-coaching debut as Laguna Creek shut out West Campus 49-0 at Burbank. Davis had been a longtime assistant throughout the Elk Grove Unified School District.

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