Saturday, December 07, 2013

EG Up 19-0, Drops D-II Championship, 20-19

The old saying goes, "When it rains, it pours."

That happened twice to the Elk Grove football team Friday night in losing the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division II championship for the second time in two years.

First, the rain which was a sprinkle at kickoff at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium, became a downpour by the fourth quarter. That plus a brisk south wind played greatly into the game's outcome.

And, on the football field, the Herd dominated the Del Oro for three quarters, but when the Golden Eagles scored early in the fourth quarter to narrow the Elk Grove lead to 19-6, a
Freeze frame of the Del Oro onside kick clearly shows the football
short of the 50-yard line and Del Oro players blocking Elk Grove
players away from fielding the ball. H.S. rules state the kicking team
cannot block receiving team from the ball until it travels 10 yards.

controversial call on the ensuing onside kick which gave the Eagles the ball led to a Del Oro downpour that stole the game from the Herd, 20-19, and awarded Del Oro its ninth Section championship in football. 

In an on-the-field post-game celebration, a drenched Del Oro head coach Casey Taylor looked shocked that somehow his team pulled off an incredible comeback.

"We just couldn't get it going," Taylor described his team's first three quarters where they had only four first downs and 80 yards total offense. "They just beat us upfront and beat us everywhere."

Elk Grove used the running of senior back Wadus Parker to jump out to a 13-0 first quarter lead. Parker who was hobbled in the Section semi-final game against Rio Linda with a bad high ankle sprain, had 90 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first half, including a 37-yard sprint for a score. That play followed a Del Oro punt of only 18 yards into the howling wind.
(Game Stats below)

"I told (the team) going into the fourth quarter, 'Don't quit on me. We got 12 minutes left to try to do something. Keep grindin'. We'll find a way to win,' " Taylor said.

And, the Golden Eagles, the Sierra Football League champions and top seed in the Division II playoffs, didn't quit and they won, setting themselves up for a CIF Division I NorCal playoff game this Friday.

Elk Grove's swarming defense had quarterback Michael Moore scrambling around in the pocket, throwing off-target passes while stopping the Eagle's top running back, Dylan Kainrath to less than 50 yards. Plus, Shaunard Harts and Julian Fullah each had interceptions of Moore passes. 

But, once Del Oro got the ball at their own five yardline early in the fourth quarter, converted a fourth-and-three at their own 13 and scored six plays later, it was as though the Herd defense couldn't stop the Eagles any longer.

"I thought (quarterback Michael) Moore really stepped up and made some plays, our pass protection was really good and Trey Eudoffia, our sophomore receiver made some terrific plays," Taylor said. 

Moore threw to Travis Newman on that pivotal fourth down play and it seemed to spark the Del Oro offense. Moore followed with a 20-yard pass to Tyler Meteer and running back Dylan Kainrath, held to 48 yards on 26 carries through the first three quarters, burst open for 47 yards to take the ball to the Elk Grove 14.

Moore then found Eudoffia from ten yards out for Del Oro's first TD. The score was 19-6, Elk Grove, with 6:56 remaining in the game.

"In all sports, when you get momentum going, it's unbelievable how strong that can be," He added. That was an understatement in the eyes of the soaking wet and shocked Elk Grove fans.

Both Taylor and Herd head coach Chris Nixon pointed to the onside kick, recovered by Del Oro on the ensuing kickoff, as the turning point of the game.

When Eagles' Mason Humes tapped the ball off the tee forward, three Del Oro players followed the ball as it bounded along the ground. They knocked Herd defenders Noah Letuligasenoa and B'won Canada away and two Eagles fell on the ball at the Elk Grove 49 yardline.

Nixon was vehemently pleading with the officials that it should be a penalty on Del Oro or Elk Grove football. The high school football rules state the kick off team cannot block the receiving players away from a ball on an onside kick prior to it traveling ten yards.

"It was put in as a safety rule a couple years ago and it was clear one of our guys was knocked away from trying to recover the ball before it went ten yards," Nixon claimed.

The officials didn't agree.

Letuligasenoa was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for disputing the call and an additional 15 yards was tacked onto the play and Del Oro had the ball at the Elk Grove 34 yard line. Seven plays later Moore hit Udoffia from 11 yards away and with Humes' extra point the Eagles were within six, 19-13, with 5:35 remaining. 

This time Humes kicked off the ball deep and Elk Grove started on its own 35 yardline, hoping to burn time off the clock and perhaps sneak out of Hornet Stadium with its first Section championship since 2001.

It didn't happen.

Parker, who had sprained his knee on a run where he was stopped at the one-yard line in the second quarter on a fourth-and-goal play, just couldn't compete any longer. In the backfield, Nixon put junior Manny Scott-Anderson in at tailback. 

He ran the ball six times in a row, getting a pair of first downs. After an Elk Grove timeout with 2:55 left and the ball on the Del Oro 38, the Herd had a third-down-and-five. Elk Grove guard Trevor Reinwald false started. That moved the ball back to the Eagles' 43.

Herd quarterback Tommy Arnold handed the ball, once again, to Scott-Anderson on a lead play to the right side of the formation. Scott-Anderson was met in the backfield by a pair of Golden Eagle defenders and spun to the ground. He lost hold the slippery ball and as it was heading towards the Elk Grove sideline, an Del Oro defender grabbed a hold of it and stepped out of bounds at the Elk Grove 49.

Moore then hit Udoffia for a 29-yard gain to the 22. Two plays later the pair hooked up for a 14-yard pass play to the Elk Grove nine. 

After a Kainrath rush to the four, Moore found Kainrath under the linebackers and he beat the Elk Grove defenders to the corner pilon to tie the game at 19. Humes followed with the point-after-kick to give Del Oro the lead for the first time and just 1:06 on the game clock.

Elk Grove took over after the kickoff at its own 30. Arnold scrambled for 20 yards and got out of bounds with 49 seconds remaining. Spencer Sheff was stopped for no gain on an inside trap. Arnold then attempted three passes and couldn't hit a receiver to give up the ball on downs with 31 seconds on the clock.

Del Oro kneeled down once to end the game and grab the Section banner, its third in Division II. The Golden Eagles won Division III championships in 2010 and 2011.

In a very somber Elk Grove locker room, Nixon said one thing he could commend his team on was the fact they had won 36 games over the past three seasons.

"This group of seniors should walk away from this holding their heads high, knowing there hasn't been an Elk Grove team with kind of success over a three year span," he said. 

Nixon said things might have been different had the Herd converted three fourth-down situations in the first half with the ball deep in Del Oro territory.

"You hate to look back at each one of those plays and think converting one would have changed the outcome, but it might have," he said.

Leading 13-0 in the second quarter, Elk Grove tried to take advantage of a punt that flailed in the wind and bounced backwards after hitting the ground and had to be downed by the Eagles on their 22 yard line, a punt for a minus-four yards. The Eagles held the Herd and Robards just missed a 33-yard field goal to the right.

The Herd also gave up the ball on downs at the Del Oro one and the Del Oro 30. 

"And, if we would have made one or two of our point-afters, well, we would have forced Del Oro to consider going for two on one of their point-afters, so no telling how this one would have ended up," Nixon lamented.

The Herd finished the season with a 12-2 mark, co-champions of the Delta Valley Conference. They were runner-ups in Division II each of the past two years and lost in the D-II semi-finals in 2011.

 Box Score (Final)
  Score by Quarters     1  2  3  4   Score
  -----------------    -- -- -- --   -----
  Elk Grove........... 13  0  6  0  - 19       Record: (12-2)
  Del Oro.............  0  0  0 20  - 20       Record: (12-2)

  Scoring Summary:                                                               EG - DO

  1st Quarter
06:33 EG - Wadus Parker 1 yd run (Ryan Robards kick)
                                              5 plays, 77 yards, TOP 1:29         7 - 0
      04:58 EG - Parker 37 yd run (Robards kick failed)
                                               1 play, 37 yards, TOP 0:09        13 - 0
  3rd Quarter
07:19 EG - Spencer Sheff 61 yd run (Robards kick failed)
                                              4 plays, 89 yards, TOP 1:08        19 - 0
  4th Quarter
06:56 DO - Trey Udoffia 10 yd pass from Michael Moore (Moore pass failed)
                                              9 plays, 94 yards, TOP 2:28        19 - 6
      05:35 DO - Udoffia 11 yd pass from Moore (Mason Humes kick)
                                              7 plays, 34 yards, TOP 1:21        19 - 13
      01:06 DO - Dylan Kainrath 4 yd pass from Moore (Humes kick)
                                              6 plays, 51 yards, TOP 1:41        19 - 20

                                       EG       DO
  FIRST DOWNS...................       11       12
  RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............   52-245   32-104
  PASSING YDS (NET).............       76      155
  Passes Att-Comp-Int...........    6-1-0  26-14-2
  TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS.....   58-321   58-259
  Fumble Returns-Yards..........      0-0      0-0
  Punt Returns-Yards............     2-19      0-0
  Kickoff Returns-Yards.........     2-42     3-63
  Interception Returns-Yards....     2-33      0-0
  Punts (Number-Avg)............   2-25.5   6-20.3
  Fumbles-Lost..................      3-2      1-0
  Penalties-Yards...............     7-63     6-40
  Possession Time...............    22:14    25:17
  Sacks By: Number-Yards........     3-22     3-17

  RUSHING: Elk Grove-Wadus Parker 23-120; Spencer Sheff 9-80; Manny Scott-Anderson
  8-26; Tommy Arnold 11-18; Eltoro Allen 1-1. Del Oro-Dylan Kainrath 25-120;
  Tyler Meteer 1-6; Dominic Pericin 1-2; Michael Moore 5-minus 24.

  PASSING: Elk Grove-Tommy Arnold 1-6-0-76. Del Oro-Michael Moore 14-26-2-155.

  RECEIVING: Elk Grove-Ryan Robards 1-76. Del Oro-Tyler Meteer 5-71; Trey
  Udoffia 5-68; Jonathon Tuttle 1-6; Travis Newman 1-6; Dylan Kainrath 1-4;
  Kyle Wells 1-0.

  INTERCEPTIONS: Elk Grove-Julius Fullah 1-5; Shaunard Harts 1-28. Del Oro-None.

  Stadium: Hornet Stadium        Attendance: 4000
  Kickoff time: 7:30 pm   End of Game: 10:05     Total elapsed time: 2:35

  Temperature: 46        Wind: SSE 16    Weather: Rain

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