Saturday, August 30, 2014

PG Loses Opener, Easy Night For EG

The post-Joe Catollico era of Pleasant Grove football got underway Friday on a bit of a sour note. The new-look spread offense couldn't do much against Rocklin, losing to the Thunder, 34-10.

Two offensive turnovers resulted in Thunder scores: a fumble in the end zone in the second quarter and a 33-yard interception return for a TD in the fourth period.

Highlights of Rocklin vs. PG from Access:Sacramento's Game of the Week.

Meanwhile, at the Honor Bowl at Del Oro High School, Elk Grove flexed its muscles against Devonte Ranch of Nevada, 55-7.

In other games of local interest, Franklin shut out Atwater, 29-0. Monterey Trail beat Antelope, 27-20. Cosumnes Oaks began the coach Derrick Milgrim era with a 23-10 victory over Marin Catholic. Sheldon won its opener, 30-18, over Beyer.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Edmiston Takes EGUSD A.D. Job

With the dawning of the new academic year at the Elk Grove Unified School District came a change in leadership in the District’s athletic and facilities management department.

Retiring is Jim Smrekar, a former coach and teacher at Florin and Valley High Schools who has been EGUSD’s athletic director the past 12 years. And, entering the second-floor office at the Trigg Building is Rod Edmiston, who since 2008 has been Valley’s athletic director, wrestling coach and special education teacher.

Edmiston moved to Elk Grove in 2007 after teaching 25 years in his native Pennsylvania. A graduate of the University of Pittsburg, he brings a long teaching and coaching background into the District’s A.D. job, a position that, at times, can be very volatile and difficult. 
Jim Smrekar (left) retiring athletic director with Rod Edmiston, new

He’s the guy who has to police the school district sports programs for compliance with CIF rules and regulations, control the part of the budget that pays for athletics and also oversees the use of the schools’ facilities.

On Tuesday, I sat down with both Edmiston and Smrekar, together in the superintendent’s conference room. Edmiston started on the job Aug. 4 and Smrekar’s last day is today. They talked about their transition period while Edmiston shared his vision for managing sports throughout EGUSD and Smrekar reflected on his long career and plans for retirement.

EGUSD Director of Communications Elizabeth Graswich joined us in our discussion.

Citizen: Now that you are replacing Mr. Smrekar, do you have any goals for the job? Why did you apply for the job?

Edmiston: I applied for the job because athletics has been very good to me my whole life. Without athletics I probably wouldn’t be where I am at. This position came open and obviously in your career you want to advance.

The athletic director at Elk Grove (school district) is about as high as you can get in athletics, so I applied for the position and was fortunate enough to get it.

What I want to do is maintain what Jim has done as these years. Replacing Jim is like replacing John Wooden or Bear Bryant. Jim has been the A.D. since the inception of the position, so I’m following in the legend’s footsteps, so to speak.

I want to keep Elk Grove athletics in the position Jim has had them in all these years and keep the district strong in athletics and build from what Jim has built in all these years.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friday Night Live Chat

Join me and other sportswriters from around the area live right here on our Friday Night Live Chat.
I'll be covering Pleasant Grove's home opener with Rocklin. Keep your Internet dial tuned right here for live updates, not only from PG's game, but also the top games around on opening night.

Live Blog Live chat: Prep football season openers, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29

Monday, August 25, 2014

Delta League Prediction: It's Grant's To Lose

The high school football season kicks off Friday with a string of non-conference battles including Rocklin at Pleasant Grove and Jesuit at De LaSalle.

Grant will be playing its crosstown rival Burbank (special kickoff time of 5:30 p.m. at Titan Stadium) with a mission to start the season in a big way, showing fans this year they are the team to beat.

Coach Michael Alberghini begins his 46th season as a teacher/coach at the school, his 23rd as head football coach. He's had eight Section championship teams in that tenure and a State Bowl Game title. The 2014 Pacers could rank right up there with some of his elite squads.

They have the size (average 300 pounds on the line), the speed and the varsity experience to go 10-0. Plus, there's depth on the bench. They could easily be the class of the Delta League, which returns after an eight year absence.

That said, here is my predicted order-of-finish of the newly-revived Delta:

1. Grant - Alberghini admits the one question mark is whether there are enough footballs for everyone who wants to be "the man" on the Pacers this season. If he can encourage a bit of humility out of those guys, Grant will be unbeatable.
2. Jesuit - Outstanding talent, good size on the line as Marlon Blanton has the Marauders back to the status of being feared once again.
3. Elk Grove - Chris Nixon lost some talent to graduation, but has the Delta's best football player in Spencer Sheff. Plus, the Herd will once again find a passing game which should take the attention off a solid running attack.
4. Franklin - The Wildcats should be really good, make the playoffs, but they are in the Delta League and end up fourth. Mike Johnson has a really talented quarterback in junior Lamar Jackson.
5. Pleasant Grove - Interim head coach Russ Gardner will have to put together all the pieces on the heels of Joe Cattolico's resignation and replacement Jason Rossow's sudden medical leave-of-absence. The lack of size on the line will be an issue this season for the Eagles.
6. Monterey Trail - T.J. Ewing says he has his best senior class in quite a while, but the question is whether these guys have the talent to match up with any of the five teams above. They'll certain play with great desire.
7. Sheldon - Too many question marks for coach Herbie Berry. His son Nathan will quarterback the Huskies this season.
8. Davis - Likely won't win any games in the Delta. John Wiley, a former star cornerback at Auburn and with the Chicago Bears, is the Blue Devils' third coach in as many years.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tellez Promoted To Class-A Lansing

Toronto Blue Jays' farmhand Rowdy Tellez has been promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts of the Class-A Midwest League. This comes after Tellez helped his Bluefield (W.Va.) Blue Jays (Appalachian League) win the Mercer Cup in a dramatic fashion.

Tellez drilled a three-run homer late in the game that was the difference as Bluefield went on to defeat the Princeton Rays, 5-3.
Rowdy Tellez, promoted to Class A Lansing

"It was a great feeling," Tellez told WVVA-TV. "I can't say it was all me. We started off with our nine-hitter, our eight-hitter. They did their jobs. They got on for me and they got it to me. I got the opportunity to do what I do."

"The game's made to make heroes every night," Blue Jays' manager Dennis Holmberg told WVVA. "[Tellez] is a highly touted ball player and he's the guy you want up in that situation."

In Lansing he's joining another Elk Grove resident, Brady Dragmire, a relief pitcher for the Lugnuts who attended Bradshaw Christian H.S. 

In his 53 games in Bluefield this summer, Tellez batted .293 with four homers and 19 RBI's.

The minor league season will wind down this week across all of professional baseball.

Access:Sacramento's Game-of-the-Week Schedule Announced

Access Sacramento's live coverage of Friday night football opens Aug. 29 with Rocklin vs. Pleasant Grove at Sheldon High School.  A total of 18 schools will be seen over the 10 game football TV schedule.  

Mid-Season Game of the Week switches to girl's volleyball for a week, covering Grant at Sheldon.

Veteran announcer Will James will handle the play by play broadcasts again this season after originating the Game of the Week on Access Sacramento in 1996.

James is joined again this season for football by former Del Campo coach Jim Dimino, who will provide analysis of the games. 

The third member of the broadcast team this season will be Rick Stewart, who will handle halftime coaches' and post-game player-of-the-game interviews.

Ten high school football games and one girls' Volleyball game will be presented from Aug. 29 to Nov. 7. Playoff football coverage has not been determined.

Games are presented live on Friday's at 7 p.m. on Comcast and Consolidated Communications (SureWest) cable channel 17 and AT&T U-Verse channel 14. Games are also streamed live from the "Watch TV 17" button.

Previews of the upcoming contests and video highlights after the games will be provided from Access Sacramento's news blog website AccessLocal.TV.

Same day and in-broadcast instant updates are available from Game of the Week on Twitter @SacGOTW. 

Aug. 29 Rocklin vs. Pleasant Grove at Sheldon; Sept. 5 Sacramento at El Camino; Sat. Sept. 13 Jesuit vs. Christian Brothers at Sac City College; Sept. 19 Burbank at Folsom; Sept. 26 Granite Bay at Folsom; Oct. 3 Girl's Volleyball Grant at Sheldon (taped from Oct. 2); Oct. 10 Casa Roble vs. Vista del Lago at Folsom; Oct. 17 Grant at Monterey Trail; Oct. 24 Del Campo at Antelope; Oct. 31 Rio Linda at Inderkum; Nov. 7 Pleasant Grove vs. Franklin at Cosumnes Oaks.

EG To Play At Levi's Stadium/What's Wrong With Saunders?

One of the big stories of the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium has been the issue of it's natural grass turf. Crews pulled out most of the new turf this week and replaced it, hopefully in time for the Sunday pre-season game with San Diego. But, Thursday they told the Jesuit Marauders that their Aug. 29 season opener in the stadium against perennial power De LaSalle must move elsewhere.

To make things good with the Jesuit folks, the Niners will now allow the Marauders to play one of their traditional Saturday home games there later in the season. Jesuit selected its Oct. 11 game with Elk Grove. However, the contest in Santa Clara will be played on Friday, Oct. 10, part of a four-games-over-two-nights high school football special.

PG Alum Saunders Sidelined

Rookie New York Jets' wideout Jalen Saunders remained sidelined during practice this week, and there is no timetable for his return to the field following his single-car accident near the Jets’ facility last Friday.

“I’m not trying to relive that moment,” Saunders told the New York Daily News. “It was a shocking situation, but I’m alive and happy.”

Saunders declined to elaborate on what the Jets have referred to as a “medical event." He's awaiting word on a series of neurological tests. 

“I’m doing better today,” Saunders said. “We’re taking a precautionary route, step by step.”

According to ESPN, Saunders was in the left turning lane when he apparently lost control of the vehicle, striking a curb. His vehicle, a 2014 Toyota Corolla, continued forward, leaving the roadway and stopping in high grass. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

McClain Hired At PG/Fiery End To Larson's Day

A former Elk Grove High School and Sacramento State baseball coach, Rusty McClain was hired Friday as the new baseball coach at Pleasant Grove High School.

He replaces Nolan Dunkly who resigned last week after barely a week on the job. Dunkly cited differences of opinion between him and school administration on how the Eagles' baseball program should be run as the reason for quitting.

Long-time Eagles' coach Rob Rinaldi resigned the post in June after a 21-5 season and five straight years of at least 21 wins.

McClain was Elk Grove's head coach after the sudden death of Gary Dreher. McClain led the Herd to the Section championship in 1997 with a team made up of Mike Tonis, Mike Ford and Kevin Marzion.

He resigned after the 1999 season and Jeff Carlson took over the reigns. McClain spent time as an assistant under John Smith at Sacramento State and one year coached the freshmen at Pleasant Grove under Rob Rinaldi.

In recent years he's been directing the Senior Men's Baseball League in Sacramento.

In a text message Sunday Rinaldi told me he would remain the school's freshmen baseball coach, a post he accepted a week ago when offered by Dunkly. He hadn't talked to either Dunkly nor McClain since Dunkly's announcement.

Larson's Day Ends In Fiery Crash

With the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular racing season winding down, Elk Grove driver Kyle Larson had a disappointing set-back Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400.

His car blew a front tire on the 97th lap, crashed into the wall and caught fire. Despite recently-implimented rules that drivers remain in their cars after wrecks until track crews arrive, the cockpit was full of smoke and Larson got out as quickly as he could.
Kyle Larson's #42 Target Chevrolet caught fire after colliding with the wall

Fire consumed the #42 Chevrolet and left it a blackened, mangled pile of steel.

Larson also had a collision in pit row after pitting in lap 22. While leaving his stall, Larson collided with the #88 car driven by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with damage sustained to both vehicles.

"Everybody was on pit road," Larson said. "I was leaving my box and looked in my mirror and saw the 27 (driven by Paul Menard) and somebody else coming to my outside, so I was leaving them room. Then the 88 came out, and we just kind of met right there. It happened really quick."

This week NASCAR races at Bristol, Conn., in the Irwin Tools 200 Night Race. Larson is currently 14th in the point standings and must finish in the top 16 to qualify for NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

UPDATE: Dunkly Resigns PG Baseball

Barely a week after he was hired to coach varsity baseball at Pleasant Grove, Nolan Dunkly Thursday resigned the post.

He explained his reason for quitting on Friday.

“My idea of how the program should be run and the way the administration thinks it should be run were two different things,” he said. “I didn’t want this to linger so I thought it best to quit now.”

Dunkly didn’t want to get into the specifics of the disagreement.

“I was really looking forward to coaching this group of boys,” he said. “They are a great group of guys. I coached them two years ago on the junior varsity squad.”

The Eagles' athletic director Bruce Belden confirmed the resignation Thursday evening saying Dunkly felt as though he couldn't devote the time necessary to the baseball program.

"Like any good teacher his number one priority is his classroom, and I completely understand this, he felt as though he couldn't give the energy necessary to both programs," Belden said. "I truly respect him because he's a great teacher."

Dunkly has been a history teacher at Pleasant Grove for seven years. He graduated from UC-San Diego in 2004 where he played baseball, as well.

Dunkly didn’t say whether he might do any coaching in the spring.

“This week has been such a whirlwind, I haven’t even thought about that,” he said.

The Eagles are the defending Delta River League champions after a 21-5 season. Under Rinaldi Pleasant Grove has won 21 or more games five years in a row.

Dunkly is a 2000 graduate of Elk Grove High School where he played football, soccer and baseball.

On Monday Dunkly announced that former varsity head coach Rob Rinaldi would now coach the freshman team and long-time varsity assistant Tom Alston would be the junior varsity coach. It's unknown whether they will continue in those assignments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Football Previews/Valley, Monterey Trail Improved

This time of year at the Elk Grove Citizen Jon Gudel and I are busy interviewing our area football coaches and writing previews of the upcoming season. Below are links to the previews we've published thus far.

Monterey Trail
Bradshaw Christian
Cosumnes Oaks

Coming up Friday (Thursday online at will be the Jesuit and Franklin previews.

In a week we will be making our fearless predictions of how we think the season will go.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rinaldi Will Coach PG Frosh Baseball; Reed Transfers To Tokay

In his first move on the job, Nolan Dunkly hired his former boss, Rob Rinaldi, to become the freshman baseball coach at PGHS.

Rinaldi had resigned the varsity post July 6 citing burn-out as the reason for stepping down. He has coached at Pleasant Grove since 2004 when the school opened and prior to that was the head man at Woodland High School.

“It’s going to be difficult to replace a man like Rob,” Dunkly admitted. “Being around him the last seven years I think the players won’t see things a whole lot differently.”

Dunkly also has hired long-time Rinaldi assistant Tom Alston as the junior varsity coach. 
Rob Rinaldi, now PG's Freshman baseball coach

Dunkly was a pitcher at Elk Grove High School where he also played football and soccer.

“I played football my freshman and sophomore years and then went out for soccer,” Dunkly explained. “Ed Lombardi talked me into coming back and doing the placekicking. (Ryan) Dinwiddie did the points-after my junior year and I did the kick-offs. I did both the placekicking and the kick-offs my senior year.”

He was one of the Herd’s top pitchers in 2000, his senior year and Jeff Carlson’s first season as varsity head coach at Elk Grove.

“I went through teacher credentialing with (Franklin head coach Bryan) Kilby,” Dunkly said. “I played against (Laguna Creek head coach Josh) Lex and we were teammates on some little league teams. So, I think I’ll be familiar with a few people.”

He attended UC-San Diego where he was a pitcher and graduated in 2004 with a history major and a communications minor. The past seven years Dunkly has been a world and U.S. History teacher at Pleasant Grove.

“Being a teacher on campus is a big advantage,” he added.

The Eagles were 21-5 last season and have won 21 or more games for five seasons in a row.

Reed Transfers To Tokay

Talented football wide receiver and basketball player L.J. Reed has reportedly transferred to Tokay High School.

This comes following his dismissal from the Cosumnes Oaks football squad this summer.

Media reports say the 6-4, 210-pound Reed, who has verbally committed to attend UCLA as a wide receiver, enrolled in the Lodi-area school last Wednesday.

However, CIF rules state any player dismissed from a team for disciplinary reasons is not eligible to play for another school in the same sport. Section official Will DeBoard said Monday they have not received any transfer paperwork from Tokay.

At minimum Reed will have to sit out the first 30 days of the basketball season, if he is deemed eligible by Sac-Joaquin Section officials.

Last season Reed averaged almost 12 points and 9 rebounds a game for the Wolfpack, the Division II Section and NorCal runner-ups. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dunkly Named PG's Baseball Coach

Pleasant Grove High School has named Nolan Dunkly as its new varsity baseball coach.

Dunkly, a former football and baseball player at Elk Grove High School, has been involved in the baseball program at Pleasant Grove for the past seven years, coaching the Junior Varsity teams. 

He has been teaching Social Studies at PGHS since 2006 and will continue in that role.

"We are excited and confident that Nolan will continue the great baseball traditions established by Rob Rinaldi over the years," the school's athletic director, Bruce Belden, said. "Coach Dunkly is excited to meet with the student/athletes on day one of school and begin preparing for fall baseball."

Rinaldi resigned a month ago citing burn-out. He had been the school's only varsity baseball coach, coming on board when the school opened nine years ago.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Advice For New EGUSD Superintendent: End Open Enrollment For Athletes

Elk Grove Unified School District is searching for a new superintendent. Steven Ladd is retiring next month.

During his tenure open enrollment was the case at most schools - that is, schools with enrollment numbers less than capacity would accept students living outside its attendance boundaries. The system was pretty well organized, with an application window, guidelines, etc. well spelled out.  The rules prevented a mass exodus from any particular school.

But, parents could enroll their students at the school of their choice particularly if that school offered something the neighborhood school didn't. A nice perk for families living within the boundaries served by EGUSD so they didn't have to move residences.

But, it was and is currently being abused by parents of athletes.

This past week the school district had public meetings asking for input on what they'd like to see in a superintendent. Here is my input: Hire a superintendent that will stress neighborhood schooling, building community at each school.... and end open enrollment for athletes.

It isn't so much a case that there is an imbalance of talent in several sports at some of our local high schools. It's the fact that several athletes are robbed of a big part of the high school experience because they sit the bench behind teammates who live across town.

The dream of playing for the neighborhood high school varsity squad is diluted by the presence of kids who are there because of the notion this particular school's athletic program will offer them a better chance at a college scholarship than their neighborhood school.

That is so far from the truth.

If a young person has a talent in one or even two sports they will be discovered no matter where they attend school. This is particularly true because of the presence of so many "club" teams in most sports, where most of the athletes are really seen nowadays.

Elk Grove Unified has excellent coaches at all of their high schools - trained men and women with lots of experience playing and coaching their sport. For a parent to send their student/athlete to a school outside their attendance area is saying their local school's coach isn't good, which we all know isn't the case.

Our next superintendent needs to draw attendance boundaries that are firm, building community in each neighborhood because each school's culture will take on that of its locals. 

If a parent doesn't like the closest school, get involved to help change the culture of the school. Don't be running away from an issue.

There are some high schools with unique academies or curriculum: Elk Grove and Pleasant Grove have the agriculture/FFA program, Cosumnes Oaks has a nice culinary program, Sheldon has an outstanding digital arts academy. Students with those interests should be able to enroll at those schools, particularly if the neighborhood high school doesn't offer something like this.

But, don't use it as a cover in order to play for a "more successful" sports program.

Friday, August 08, 2014

H.S. Sports Participation At All-Time High

High school sports participation continues to increase in California and is at an all-time high for the second consecutive year according to the 2014 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Sports Participation Survey.  Up by 0.64% since the previous survey in 2013, 763,306 student-athletes are competing in California high school athletic programs.

“With CIF celebrating its 100th anniversary it seems only appropriate that education based athletics participation in California is at an all-time high,” stated CIF Executive Director Roger L. Blake.  “The high school athletic experience continues to serve as an extension of the classroom creating additional learning opportunities for all involved.”

Along with the overall participation increase in high school athletics there were a few sports that saw noticeable increases across both genders. Lacrosse saw the largest percentage increase, a combined 3.9% or 580 more participants (5.3% or 303 increase for girls; 3.2% or 277 increase for boys), followed by cross country with a 2.3% increase or 1,234 more participants (3.4% or 830 increase for girls; 1.4% or 404 increase for boys). Soccer also increased participation by 1.4% or 1,241 student-athletes (1.2% or 538 increase for girls; 1.5% or 703 increase for boys).

Football continues to lead the top 10 boys’ sports with 103,464 participants, which increased by 0.93% since 2013. Track and field (54,062) is the second most popular sport followed by soccer (48,564), which increased participation by 1.47% since 2013; basketball (44,097) and baseball (43,482) round out the top five boys’ sports.

For girls, track and field continues reign as the top 10 sport with 44,567 participants, which increased by 0.83% since 2013. Soccer still trails a close second (43,820), which increased participation by 1.24% since 2013, followed by volleyball (40,751), basketball (33,443) and softball (32,238).

The CIF’s 1,540 member schools participated in the survey as part of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) nationwide survey that measures the number of students competing in sports in the country.