Hometown Report

Hometown Report: Old friends to face off Saturday in North Dakota

Joe Davidson
Joe Davidson

It won’t be cold enough for ice to form and be scraped off the rental car windows Saturday. And even if the forecast called for sideways sleet and snow from winds known to gust in the region, Larry Cunha was going to go anyway.

The Roseville High School football coach will be in Minot, N.D., today for his son’s season finale. Zac Cunha is a sophomore starting quarterback for Minot State, a Division II program in what can be described as both God’s Country and Cold Country.

Today, the forecast calls for a balmy 45 degrees with a slight chance of showers and a game that’s sure to include a high degree of effort. Zac Cunha is facing off with an old friend in Ryan Shields, a redshirt freshman quarterback for Bemidji State of Minnesota. Shields graduated from Oakmont, Roseville’s main rival, where his father, Jim, is an assistant coach.

These two have played in football and baseball games in Placer County since they were in the sixth grade.

This is more than just a reunion. The game bears significance. Both passers lead teams nicknamed Beavers, and each hungers for a victory. Both teams are 2-8, and neither wants to finish in the cellar of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North.

Jim Shields will be there, too, and he’ll bear-hug his old coaching friend, Larry Cunha.

“It’ll be fun, a rivalry renewed some 1,600 miles away,” Larry Cunha said. “Not coaching Zac and just watching is different. You’re not in control, and you’re a spectator, along for the ride, but the pride is still there for Jim and me for our sons. And not being in a snowstorm will be cool.”

Both quarterbacks have learned to deal with adversity after enjoying so much prep success. The learning curve remains steep with the intricacies of the college game. Cunha has passed for 2,130 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Shields started two early games and two late games as Bemidji State has juggled the lineup. Senior Alex Hass is listed as Saturday’s starter. Shields has passed for 506 yards and five touchdowns.

From Huskies to Aztecs

Neither started Thursday night, but that they finished playing in a tight game against Arizona was telling. Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams, The Bee’s last two Prep Basketball Players of the Year out of Sheldon, closed San Diego State’s 69-60 loss to the Pacific-12 Conference team. Williams handled the ball at point guard, and Allen provided typical long-armed defense as a wing.

Aztecs coaches urged the true freshmen to be more aggressive with the ball as they combined for just three points. Xavier Thames of Pleasant Grove started at guard for San Diego State, tying for team-high scoring honors with 19. Aaron Gordon, a two-time Cal-Hi State Player of the Year out of Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, had 16 points and eight rebounds for Arizona.

Amazing Grace

Granite Bay senior Grace Reego, who signed a letter of intent to play water polo at UCLA, is continuing a family legacy. Brother Andrew is the assistant water polo coach at Granite Bay who said recently to the Roseville Press-Tribune, “There’s no better player to coach than my own sister.” The Granite Bay graduate played water polo at USC and won five NCAA championships, becoming one of three men to accomplish the feat. Andrew said he forgives his sister for signing with the rival Bruins.

Grace scored more than 300 career goals for Granite Bay, which lost to St. Francis 6-5 Wednesday in a section playoff game. She is also a section championship-caliber swimmer in the spring.