Monday, December 29, 2014

Top Local Sports Stories of 2014

As we ring in the new year, let’s look back at 2014 and recall the top local sports stories of the year:

1     1.    Kyle Larson Named Rookie-of-the-Year By NASCAR

The former Pleasant Grove High School student (who finished high school through independent study so he could start a professional driving career) was the youngest guy on NASCAR’s 2014 Sprint Cup circuit, the top group of stock car drivers in the country.

At age 22 not only did he attract the attention of his peers by driving for Chip Ganassi in the Target Chevrolet No. 42 car, but scored the eighth-most points this NASCAR season. That earned him the NASCAR Rookie-of-the-Year Award. 
NASCAR's Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson

He’s the first Elk Grove resident ever to drive on the NASCAR circuit and that fact alone earned him a key to the City of Elk Grove in July. (See video below)

2    2.   Sheldon Boys’ Basketball Sanctioned By Section

In the thirty years of the Sac-Joaquin Section there had been only one heftier set of sanctions placed upon a high school sports program – the football recruiting scandal at Franklin of Stockton in 2007.

Sheldon’s boys basketball program drew the ire of Section officials when eight players transferred schools to play for the Huskies, the four-time defending Division I champions, prior to the start of the school year. Three of those boys were ruled ineligible for the entire season in December of 2013.

After an in-depth investigation by the Elk Grove Unified School District, five additional players were ruled ineligible for CIF play for one calendar year because of what Section officials said were false statements on their transfer paperwork.

The Huskies were ruled ineligible for the playoffs and are currently on probation. Head coach Joey Rollings was suspended for four weeks.

The situation fanned the flames of the debate on whether parents had the right to choose the best high school sports program for their child, no matter where the family resided.

3    3.   Ryan Gomes Fired As Football Coach at Cosumnes Oaks

Gomes had more than thirty former Wolfpack players playing collegiately and had established Cosumnes Oaks as one of the most competitive football programs. In five seasons the Wolfpack was 33-22.

However in late summer came word that Cosumnes Oaks principal Patrick McDougall had fired Gomes. He never publically gave a reason for the action. Gomes told the Citizen he wasn’t given a reason for his dismissal, either. 

Gomes’ long-time friend and assistant coach Derick Milgrim took over and led the Wolfpack to a Capital Valley Conference championship.

Gomes ended up on the coaching staff at American River College.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wiggins Returns to the Chargers

Kenny Wiggins is back in Charger blue. As the NFL heads into its final week of play and San Diego is still hoping for a place in the playoffs, Wiggins will get another chance to play for the AFC West squad.

Charger guard Johnnie Troutman injured a knee in Saturday’s overtime win over San Francisco and put him out of action. Thus, Wiggins, who spent much of 2013 with the Bolts, was inked to take his spot. 
Former EGHS tackle Kenny Wiggins,  signed Monday by the Chargers

The 6-6, 313 pound tackle who played locally at Elk Grove High School and later at Fresno State, was on the Chargers’ practice squad for nine weeks last year, then was put on the active roster at the end of the year.

Wiggins was also in training camp with San Diego this summer but was released prior to the start of the regular season.

Wiggins has also been on the practice squads of the 49ers and the Ravens.

Six Herd Grapplers Place At Zinkin Classic

In their second tournament of the season, Elk Grove’s wrestling squad found the competition stiff at the Zinkin Tournament at Buchanan High School in Clovis Saturday.

No team scores were kept in this tournament, but six Herd grapplers placed in the 40-team event. rd at 132 pounds), Zach Krock (5th at 170 pounds), Jacob Seto (6th at 113 pounds), Terrell Turner (7th at 138 pounds), Jesse Arroyo (7th at 120 pounds) and Nahele Tonge (7th at 126 pounds).
Elk Grove's Jacob Seto
They were Kelani Tonge (3

Latest Section Rankings
The California Grappler’s updated rankings of wrestlers in the Sac-Joaquin Section show several locals in the top eight of their respective weight group.

Valley’s Bilah Baloch is ranked number one at 106 pounds, as is Elk Grove’s Sai Ta’amu at 220 pounds and teammate Jacob Seto at 113 pounds.

Ta’amu has recently begun working out with the wrestling team because of a hand injury suffered in the Herd’s playoff loss to St. Mary’s. He’s expected to begin competition in January.

Jesse Arroyo of Elk Grove is ranked eighth at 126 pounds, while teammate Kalani Tonge is fifth at 132 pounds and heavyweight Tyler Yates is ranked seventh.

There are three Franklin grapplers ranked, as well. Josh Villaflor is ranked third-best at 132 pounds, Antonio Jimenez is seventh at 138 pounds and Robbie Nickerson is considered fourth-best at 182 pounds.

Hikutini Signs With Louisville

Cole Hikutini, a former wide receiver at Pleasant Grove High School who has played football the past two years at City College of San Francisco, recently signed a National Letter-of-Intent to continue his collegiate career at Louisville.

Playing at tight end for the Rams, the 6-5, 245-pound Hikutini led the team with 40 receptions for 658 yards and four TD’s in 2014. CCSF made it all the way to the State Community College championship game before losing to Mt. San Antonio College, 27-17.

Allen Seeing Regular Playing Time With Aztecs

The San Diego State Aztecs are ranked in the top-20 in most college men’s basketball polls with an 8-3 record. Former Sheldon standout Dakarai Allen has played in all eleven games for the Aztecs, averaging three points and making 47 percent of all shots. He’s averaging about eleven minutes of playing time each game for head coach Steven Fisher.

Allen’s Sheldon teammate D’Erryl Williams has played in six games thus far. Both are sophomores at SDSU.

Aztec freshman center Malik Pope, who played his high school ball at Burbank and Laguna Creek, has seen action in six games thus far.

EGYSL Adds Full-Time Staff, Office

There are many youth sports organizations based in Elk Grove, all with the purpose of teaching children the sport these groups have a real passion for. But, in this city there is no single sports group that serves as many young people as the Elk Grove Youth Soccer League (EGYSL).

There are more than 6,000 boys and girls who play for a team sanctioned by the EGYSL. So large is the task of organizing coaches, games, officials and fields that a few years ago they broke down the Elk Grove area into regional clubs to take care of running youth soccer in their territory.

“They are not their own non-profit, but they are given their own authority because the Elk Grove Youth Soccer League is a 501-C-3 and we grant the authority to each of our ten clubs and they operate by the bylaws we give them,” EGYSL president Debra Carlton explained. “They paint their fields, organize their players into teams.”

Carlton and her fellow EGYSL Board of Directors realized a few years ago that the overall operation really couldn’t continue with volunteers only. With more than $2 million in resources EGYSL hired a full-time Chief Operating Officer, along with a full time director of coaching, now tabbed as the “Technical Director.”

“We basically created in the bylaws a specific process where each territory elects their own directors to represent their own club,” Carlton said. “About five years ago we had grown dramatically and we wanted to be known as a very professional organization. We had felt that with six thousand players that it wasn’t wise to continue being run by volunteers.”

Andrew Donnery, who came to the U.S. from Liverpool, England, is the CEO. He has worked with several U.S. organizations including the Wilmington Hammerheads professional team and the Coastal Carolina Soccer Camps.

Earlier this month EGYSL hired Adam Smith as its technical director and Girls’ Director. He formerly worked for the Portland Timbers, a MSL franchise, as its Academy Director.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Buchanan Grabs Mettler Title, EG Second

Perennial state wrestling power Buchanan easily won the team championship of the Curt Mettler Invitational Saturday, outdistancing the second place school, host Elk Grove, by more than twice the Herd’s total team points.

Buchanan scored 318.5 points on the strength of seven individual championships and four second-place finishes.

The Herd scored 144.5 points thanks to one first-place, sophomore Jacob Seto at 113 pounds, and three second-places: Kalani Tonge at 138 pounds, Jesse Arroyo at 126 pounds and Terrell Turner at 145 pounds.

Other Elk Grove grapplers who placed in the top six were freshman Lokahi Tonge, fifth at 113 pounds, and his twin brother Nahele, who was fifth at 120 pounds. Brandon Viale, a 160-pounder, was sixth while Zack Krock took fifth at 180. At 220 pounds Joe Guimont placed fourth and heavyweight Tyler Yates grabbed a fifth-place award.

Fresh off the Monterey Trail football field, E.J. Viacrusis grabbed a fifth-place trophy at the Mettler.
 ***Curt Mettler Invitational ***
Team Results                        Points
1. Buchanan                          318.5
2. Elk Grove                           144.5
3. Chico                                    141
4. Folsom                                95.5
5. Rodriguez                         92.5
6. James Logan                   81
7. Ponderosa                        78
8. De La Salle                        73
9. Escalon                               72.5
10. Oak Ridge                      68

More than 30 schools participated in the annual tournament considered by most, especially Elk Grove wrestling coach Pat Coffing, as the season-opener.

Midway through the day-long event Coffing was pleased to see that most of his wrestlers were returning to the mats for the second round in the championship brackets.

“This is a real tough deal for us because we’ve been just going against each other,” Coffing said. “We don’t know what we’re good at or what we’re not good at until we see other people.”

“I can see we need to work a bit on defense, although our offense is a little better than what I thought we would be,” he added. “Our pinning combination is a little weak.”

Monday, December 08, 2014

Best Winter Sport? How About Hockey!

In most of California winter sports primarily means basketball, with a dedicated, yet smaller, contingent of wrestling fans. But, almost forgotten is a core of fans that are diehards from the word “Go.”

They are hockey fans. The National Hockey League has a pair of successful franchises in the state, the San Jose Sharks and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

But, there is no CIF-sanctioned high school hockey. There are several colleges in the state that have club hockey teams but almost no one with a NCAA-sanctioned team.

If you travel to the Northeast or the upper Midwest hockey fans outnumber basketball crowds in the high school gyms. More than 19,000 crowd the St. Paul Arena for the four-day Minnesota High School hockey championships, that state’s top draw for prep sports.

Locally, hockey fans travel in decent numbers to the Stockton Arena during the winter for exciting, entertaining (and relatively-inexpensive ticketed) games of the Stockton Thunder.

Now in their tenth season in Stockton, the Thunder has a core of fans clad in hockey “sweaters”, the term for the jerseys in this sport, that sit in the 50-degree climate of the arena.
Best seat for hockey is in the endzone, unlike football

The man who calls the play-by-play account of each Thunder game is Brandon Kisker. It’s been a couple years since those broadcasts have been aired by a Stockton radio station. Kisker calls the games over the Thunder website.

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Kisker grew up a big hockey fan. Two years ago he left Cincinnati to work for the Thunder.

“I played hockey when I was basically old enough to walk and to skate,” he recalled. “I remember all the skating lessons and playing youth hockey. My father would take me out at six in the morning to play hockey games. Hockey has always been a passion of mine.”

And, of course, he’s a fan of the Buffalo Sabres, the National Hockey League franchise in that city.

Like many of the Stockton players, Kisker is gaining experience at the minor league level of hockey. The Thunder is a part of the ECHL, which he describes as the “Double-A” level of the sport in this country. The ECHL is made of 29 teams spread all across the country.

“(ECHL) basically doesn’t stand for anything now,” Kisker explained. “It used to be the East Coast Hockey League, but now it’s just called the ECHL because it merged with the Western Hockey League a few years ago. It’s the only league at this level now. There used to be a Central Hockey League, but that league disbanded and those teams came into our league this year.”

This means the players who come through cities such as Stockton are mostly new to professional hockey. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

CRC Womens' Soccer Play For State Title

CRC's women's soccer squad

It’s been about five years, but Cesar Plasencia knows a little bit about what it’s like to play for a state community college soccer championship.

“It was 2009 and we lost in the championship game to the same team we play in the (state) semi-final on Friday,” the Cosumnes River College womens’ coach said on Tuesday.

That team is Santiago Canyon, a squad that stands at 20-0-3 and is the number one seed from southern California. The two colleges face off Friday at 7 p.m. in the women’s semi-finals being played at Mt. SAC College in Walnut.

The Lady Hawks entered the California Community College soccer playoffs an 11th seed after going 8-7-6 during the regular season. But, then the girls caught fire.

“I always thought our team was little better than our record and what we showed on the field,” Plasencia said. “Injuries affected us in a portion of the season that was difficult for us. We were unable to overcome and we were playing some real difficult teams.”

The Hawks played the most difficult schedule in the state, too, having faced all the top five ranked teams in California.

“I do that purposely trying to prepare my team for the playoff run,” Plasencia added.

CRC has been impressive in the regional games. They started off with a 1-0 win over No. 6 Folsom Lake College on Nov. 22. In the second round, the Hawks beat No. 14 Taft College, 3-1, on Nov. 25.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

St. Francis Takes Third In State X-Country

by Steven Shaff
St. Francis recorded a top-five finish for the third time in the last four seasons Saturday at the CIF State Cross Country Meet in Fresno.

The Troubadours finished among the Top 10 for the fourth straight season and became the third Nor Cal team to earn a podium finish at the Division I state meet (St. Francis, 2012; Davis, 2013) and second in school history.

“I am in shock,” said senior Peyton Bilo. “I don’t even know what to say I am so happy. We did not think we were barely going to crack the top 10. When we saw we were third, it was a great feeling.”

Senior Miranda Myers, a Northern Arizona signee, led the Troubadours in 26th overall in a time of 18:43. She was one of three student-athletes to run under 19:00. 
St. Francis Cross Country team placed third at state meet

“We had a really good run out at two miles,” said Head Coach DuCray. “Miranda was going after it and Peyton was close. Ariane Ardnt had the race of the day coming in under 19 minutes. Having three girls within 10 seconds and the two freshmen stayed within 30 seconds was key. It is not always who has the fast runner but a group of runners.”

DuCray preached the pack mentality with his team all season. 

“Running in a pack is the key to our success,” said Bilo, who was 30th overall in 18:53. “We did not have any standouts like we did last year. We are all close together and hung in there. The pack is what pulled us through. Without each other, we could have not done it.”

Arndt, who was a member of the St. Francis 4x400 meter relay that finished third in the state last spring, had her best race of the season to cross the line 38th (18:55).

“We did not expect it but we ran together and stayed positive,” said Myers.

Freshmen Ava Nkadi and Sydney Vandegrift put together good races in their first state meet. Nkadi was 60th overall and the seventh-fastest freshman in the field, while Vandegrift was 93rd overall to round out the scoring five.

“It feels amazing,” said Vandegrift. “I could have done better but I am happy with the overall result as a team. I could not have asked for a better team to be with.”

Davis Junior Fiona O’Keeffe was the individual title for the second consecutive season. Great Oak won the team title with 45 points followed by Sac-Joaquin section runner-up Bella Vista in second with 141 points.

Team results: 1. Great Oak 45; 2. Bella Vista 141; 3. St. Francis 186; 4. Clovis North 198; 5. Trabuco Hills 203; 6. Arcadia 225; 7. Vista Murrieta 235; 8. Yucaipa 239; 9. Poly (Long Beach) 243; 10. Homestead 251; 11. Davis Sr. 284; 12. Buchanan 321; 13. E. Roosevelt 330; 14. Monta Vista 360; 15. Monte Vista 381; 16. San Marcos 384; 17. Torrey Pines 402; 18. Palisades Charter 416; 19. San Ramon Valley 427; 20. Lowell 472; 21. San Pedro 553; 22. El Camino 556; 23. Skyline 719.

St. Francis results: 26. Miranda Myers, 18:43; 30. Peyton Bilo, 18:53; 38. Ariane Arndt, 18:55; 60. Ava Nkadi, 19:12; 93. Sydney Vandegrift, 19:36; 127. Chase Worthen, 20:15; 154. Gabrielle Dyer, 20:41. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

St. Mary's Ends EG's Hope For 3 Section Championship Games

The rain was pouring down, Elk Grove fullback Spencer Sheff was tearfully saying goodbye to his high school football teammates as the Thundering Herd was huddled up for one last time in the south end zone of Thunder Stadium.

Elk Grove’s hopes to play in a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game were just dashed moments before by the St. Mary’s Rams, 23-15. 

Sheff had scored both of the Herd’s touchdowns Friday night before the rain started pouring down on the artificial turf. While teammates and coaches all listened to the senior’s comments, no one seemed bothered by the fact they were getting soaking wet.

The 2014 season was over. Elk Grove finished at 10-3. For the first time in school history, they not only won ten or more games four years in a row, but they also had made the semi-finals, the final four of Division II football, in four consecutive years.

With the stands now empty and a few volunteers cleaning up the stadium hurriedly in the downpour,  head coach Chris Nixon took a moment to rejoice at the fact the Elk Grove football program had progressed to this point, even in the midst of gloom that St. Mary’s had put an end to their season.

“This is truly a legacy these seniors will leave for this group, “ Nixon said. “This is a tremendous group. A lot of them played as sophomores. They’ve been a part of three Thanksgiving Day practices.”

Had the Herd overcome three first half fumbles and found a way to come back against a talented Rams defense, Elk Grove would have been in rare company in the Section championship this weekend at Hornet Stadium. The last Division II team to make the championship round in more than two consecutive seasons was the 2002-2004 Oak Ridge Trojans when they won three titles in a row.

In 1996-1998 Atwater made it to three straight Division I championship games, losing all of them, including the last two to Lance Briggs and the Elk Grove Herd.

Del Oro won three D-II titles in a row between 1992 and 1994 and then lost the 1995 championship in trying for a fourth. Going further back Ponderosa was in four straight title games between 1977 and 1980, winning two of them.

You have to go to the early days of the Sac-Joaquin Section to 1976 through 1979 when Cordova won four consecutive Division I football championships.

“Elk Grove has never been in more than two straight semis from what I’ve found,” Nixon said.

Friday, November 28, 2014

SJS Football Semis TONIGHT!

I will be texting from the St. Mary's/Elk Grove Division II semi-final game, as the Herd tries to become the first team since Oak Ridge in 2002-2004 to make it to a Section championship game three years in a row.
Live chat: High school football playoffs

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Visit With MT's Trey Nahhas

He's a class act who is re-setting football rushing record books at Monterey Trail High School. Going into Friday's Division I semi-final showdown running back Trey Nahhas is confident the 13th-seeded Mustangs will do well against the top-seeded and defending Section champion Folsom Bulldogs.

His numbers this season are incredible: Coming off a 398 yards, 5 TD performance last week at Merced, Nahhas now has 2,534 yards rushing on 322 attempts - that's about 211 yards per game - and he's scored 33 TD's. The big running back talked with me after practice Wednesday:

Larson Wraps Up 2014 NASCAR Season With ROY Honors

Kyle Larson said it all in a tweet following the final NASCAR race of the 2014 season: “If there was a book to describe my first two years of NASCAR racing, it would be ‘Almost’.”

But, his first year on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit wasn’t an almost. He was selected the “Sunoco Rookie of the Year.” That award not only was based upon how he finished each race this season, his first year on NASCAR’s major league circuit, but also how he carried himself with race officials, the media and the fans.

Seventeen times this year he finished in the top ten. Three times he was second. However, he never took a checkered flag, thus the self-bestowed “Almost” title. 
NASCAR's Sprint Cup rookie-of-the-year, Kyle Larson

"The best feeling I had this year was probably when I finished fourth at Watkins Glen, (New York)," Larson told NASCAR’s Holly Cain. "I didn't grow up racing on road courses and I struggled really bad the whole practice and qualifying that weekend. So then to end up fourth, which was way, way better than I thought I was going to be -- I was super pumped up about that."

Writers and other drivers call him an up-and-coming star, one that will certainly cruise into the winners’ circle one day soon.

"Really to start the year everyone thought I was going to fail,'' Larson said. "At least three-quarters of the people sitting in the media center probably did. Then I think they realized after the first handful of races that our team was capable of running well and the bar got raised and raised more throughout the year.”

"My expectations going into the start of the season were top-15 every week would be great and that quickly turned into wanting top-10s every week and lately top-fives and wins are the goal."

He did win a couple Nationwide races driving for Turner Scott Motorsports, though. One of them came this past May in the History 300 in Charlotte. The other was at Auto Club Speedway in March. Most Nationwide races are held on Saturdays at the same track of the Sunday Sprint Cup events.

The 22-year-old grew up in Elk Grove, a graduate of Pleasant Grove High School (though he finished 11th and 12th grade via independent study so he can race professionally), is now Target’s top spokesman.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where Are All The Fans?

Two weeks of football playoff games are now in the book and in the Sac-Joaquin Section the semi-final games will be played this weekend in Divisions I, II and III.

In D-2 action Elk Grove will host St. Mary's Friday. If the Herd wins that means they'll be in the Section championship game for the third year in a row. They lost to Folsom two years ago and to Del Oro last season.

In Div.I, 13th seeded Monterey Trail will travel to top-seed Folsom. Monterey Trail hopes to be back in the big game for the first time in four years. 

But, this past week the social media was ablaze with reports that the crowds were quite small, virtually void of students, in stadiums where the second round games were played.

The home bleachers at EGHS Friday during its playoff game vs. Wood

Fox 40’s Mark Demsky posted a photo of a mostly-empty bleacher at Elk Grove High School during the Herd’s second round win over Will C. Wood High School.

Lots of fans and coaches weighed in via Facebook, even the head coach of Division I’s top-seed, Folsom, who had been packing the stands with fans at their Prairie City Stadium most of the past five years.

“We went from a packed student section to nobody in the student section,” Kris Richardson wrote. “Let the kids in free with a student body card!!”

The same kind of reports came in from the Tracy-Jesuit game on Saturday along with the Vacaville/Del Oro playoff contest Friday.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Monterey Trail Outruns The Bears, 51-45

A text from Monterey Trail’s offensive coordinator Rick Arcuri to the Citizen moments after the 12th –seeded Mustangs defeated the 4th-seeded Merced Bears on Friday night in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs: “Monterey Trail 51-45, football heaven, practice on Thanksgiving.”

A few moments later while riding on a joyous team bus, Mustangs’ head coach T.J. Ewing echoed over the phone his assistant coach’s sentiments that a sign of success in the high school game is that your team is practicing at school rather sitting at home eating turkey and watching the pros play on TV.

“That’s a hundred percent correct,” Ewing said. “To play and to practice into Thanksgiving week is the best thing to ask your players.”

Arcuri’s next text was one that told the story of why the Mustangs, a fifth-place finisher in the Delta League, are still alive this season.

“Trey Nahhas, 33 carries, 391 yards, 5 TD’s.”

Just two weeks removed from a school record 346 yards rushing in the season finale against Davis, the Monterey Trail senior halfback once again was a load to take down while erasing his own record.

“I keep telling scouts he’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player,” Ewing remarked. “I’d sure offer him. The guys around him are inspired by the way he plays.”

SJS Playoffs - Second Round Scores

Monterey Trail 51, Merced 45
Folsom 56, Franklin 13
Elk Grove 59, Wood 34 (Div II)
Grant 63, Downey 21 (Div II)
Modesto Christian 42, Bradshaw Christian 14 (Div VI)

Nahhas also completed a 40-yard halfback pass to Andre Flury to add to his memorable performance.

Now with road playoff wins over Cosumnes Oaks and Merced, the Mustangs, now 8-4, have the biggest obstacle in front of them. This Friday they take on number-one seed, and undefeated, Folsom, who destroyed Franklin, 56-13.

“It’s an honor for our school and our players to be in the Section semi-finals,” Ewing said. “To win two road games says a lot about the character of our team, their willingness to sacrifice for each other.”

Throughout the game Monterey Trail maintained a lead. The Mustangs ran out to a 21-7 advantage after the first quarter thanks to an E.J. Viacrusis to Jermaine Bell touchdown pass, an interception by Andre Flury and a quick TD run by Nahhas.

“Then it got a bit helter-skelter and Merced threw the ball a bunch and kept it close,” Arcuri said. “After they made it 51-45 with about four minutes left, we got the ball at our 20 and drove down the field, running the clock and we ended up taking a knee at their three yardline to end the game.”

Interceptions by Bell and Myles Pruitt in the first half allowed the Mustangs to get the ball back for their veer offense to steer out to a lead. Plus, the Mustangs earned a safety when a snap to the Bears quarterback went over his head and he was forced to land on the ball in the end zone.

Viacrusis had a good night throwing completing eight of 11 passes for 139 yards.

“Our guys went out there tonight purposing not to lose, they never waivered from that,” Ewing summarized.

With Grant’s 63-21 win over Downey and Elk Grove’s 59-34 victory over Wood in Division II, to go with Jesuit’s and Monterey Trail’s wins in the second round means four Delta League teams are still alive. That’s something that doesn’t surprise Ewing.

“Our league is no joke, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We play in the toughest league in the Section. Every team has great players on it. Every week we play like it is a playoff game.”

But, the Bulldogs stand between the Mustangs and their first return to the Section championship game in four seasons. A year ago in a non-league game, Folsom won easily, 49-21.

“Folsom is a truly outstanding team, coached by an outstanding man,” Ewing said. “We’ve known their coaches for years. They know how to run that spread (offense) and we have to be able to stop that. It ought to be a very good game and our kids are excited. The road to the championship runs through them, so we have to play them sometime.”