About the only thing that didn’t hurt was his head.
Dominic Scotti ignored the pain Saturday night, thinking championship before rest as he hurled his aching body into the middle of the action. The Granite Bay High School senior made plays in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I soccer final against Jesuit, attacking the ball and defenders bent on stalling him. Regulation stretched into an extra session, and like old floor boards in a creaky building, Scotti gave the impression of a man about to give way.
He would take a knee to catch his breath or wind up on his back, his legs cramping. At times, Scotti would slump over, reduced to a slow jog, grimacing, hand on ribs. But he kept going, kept competing.
Perhaps the region’s top soccer talent, Scotti assisted on a goal and then a moment later delivered the crushing blow into the corner of the net at Cosumnes Oaks High School as the upstart Grizzlies toppled Jesuit, the nation’s No. 2-ranked team, 2-1. Observers, scores of them coaches from eliminated teams, agreed it was one of the best-played championship soccer games in section history.
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And there was the celebration, a season in the making, to punctuate the moment in an example that this sport has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. In high school football, a player is often penalized for exhibiting any end-zone emotion or sideline jumping.
Not in soccer, where every goal is treasured. After delivering the winner, Scotti curled away from the goal, peeled off his jersey in full sprint and raced down the track in front of his student rooting section that filled the stands, his teammates in tow. He was too spent to return to the field, but it didn’t matter. The game was over.
“I didn’t even think about the jersey – I just took it off in the moment,” Scotti said Sunday, his voice still weary. “I’m definitely sore. My ribs, my left shoulder, my calves, my legs. But I couldn’t stop. I looked at all my teammates, still giving it their all, and it’s one for all. I couldn’t slow down.”
Scotti embraced the large blue section championship banner to the point that he took it home and snapped a photo with it Sunday. He posed nude in the picture, partly covered by the thin banner. He later posted it on a social media site, delighting in his photography.
Scotti’s Granite Bay classmates loved it while Jesuit students took great offense, insisting it was disrespectful to the Marauders. Scotti said he was having a silly senior moment, adding he has too much admiration for Jesuit to mean any ill will.
“I have 100 percent respect for Jesuit,” Scotti said. “I know a lot of those guys, having played with or against them for years.”
Scotti’s performance will resonate well beyond the match. He in effect provided an assist for prep programs who battle club teams for players, and he scored a goal for the argument that athletes can indeed multi-sport.
Club teams pressure players to remain fixed to their programs, meaning less time – or no time – for the high school teams. Scotti decided it was time to share some loyalty with his Granite Bay teammates, “guys who have been with me since I started playing soccer at 4 years old, so I owed it to them,” he said.
Scotti left the club team earlier this fall and elevated the Grizzlies’ soccer team. And when he’s not on the pitch, Scotti kicks for Granite Bay’s football team. He booted two field goals and two extra points in the Grizzlies’ 58-12 win over Tokay in a Division I playoff game. The Grizzlies seek a section three-peat in that sport.
Scotti had never picked up a helmet or shoulder pads until last summer.
“The team captains, friends of mine, wanted me to try out, and the coaches were willing to have me,” Scotti said. “We made a commitment to make the two schedules work for soccer and football. I had a tryout, but there wasn’t much accuracy going on at first. It’s totally different than kicking a soccer ball, but I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Scotti said playing two sports caps his Granite Bay athletic career.
“You never know when it can be your last game, or the last time you put your cleats on, so why not play as many as you can?” Scotti said. “No regrets at all.”
Scotti also has no regrets about plans to graduate in December so he can enroll early at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., on a soccer scholarship. He wants to be on the field next spring, sore ribs, tender calves and all. He might even work on a shirt-removal celebration, too.