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.

4    4.   Derek Hill Drafted By Tigers in MLB’s First Round

MLB Network commentator Harold Reynolds called Hill the best centerfield prospect to come out of high school since Torrii Hunter.

The Detroit Tigers selected Hill in the first round of the MLB Draft in June.
He was a young man who showed athleticism beyond his years with his play in the outfield. 
EGHS Outfielder Derek Hill, now in the Tigers' organization

Hill is the first Elk Grove-area baseball player to be selected in the opening round of the draft right out of high school. He’s making progress through the minor league teams in the Tiger organization.

5    5.    Trey Nahhas Sets Section Playoffs Rushing Record

Monterey Trail High School’s football team was the surprise club of the year. Not many people thought the Mustangs would make the playoffs, but they did, finishing fifth in a tough Delta League.

Most of that was because of the efforts of halfback Trey Nahhas. He ran for 346 yards and six touchdowns on only 2o carries in the regular season finale against Davis, a school record. That win put the Mustangs into the playoffs.

Nahhas wasn’t done.

His 398 yards rushing in a second-round playoff win over Merced set a Sac-Joaquin Section single-game rushing record.

He finished the year with 2,599 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns.

6    6.   Pleasant Grove Girls Win NorCal Division I Basketball Championship

They were second in the Delta River League this past year and bounced out of the Section playoffs in the semi-finals. The Eagles were then the 11th seed in the NorCal Basketball playoffs and proceeded to win three road games by two points each.

They went to Sleep Train Arena for the NorCal Division I girls’ championship to take on three-time defending titlist Berkeley. The Eagles played really well once again and defeated Berkeley, 51-42.

The next week, though, they lost to Canyon Springs, 56-30, in the Division I CIF championship game.

7    7.   Deondre Batson Wins NCAA Indoor Championship In 200 Meters

He was due.

Deondre Batson had the best times in the 100 meters and the 200 meters in the entire state of California during his senior year at Laguna Creek High School. But, a hamstring pull during the Delta Valley Conference meet ended a real chance at a state gold medal.

Batson went on to American River College where he not only played football, but also set a couple records for the Beavers’ track and field team. 
Alabama's Deondre Batson

So now in the limelight of  “Roll Tide” at Alabama, Batson made national headlines last spring when he sprinted to an NCAA Division I championship in the 200 meters at the Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Ready to claim more gold in the outdoor season, the hamstring injury bug crept up on Batson and he wasn’t as fast.

Though he didn’t grab a championship in the outdoor competition, Batson did record some of the best times ever for Alabama in the 100 meters during the spring.

8    8.   Brian Detrick Becomes A Top Professional Waterskiier

The 2007 graduate of Elk Grove High School emerged this summer as one of the nation’s top waterskiiers. He competed in eight events, finishing in the finals six times. He is currently ranked number seven in the world amongst Men’s Slalom Elite skiiers.

9    9.   Coaching Changes At Pleasant Grove H.S.

When Pleasant Grove athletic director Jeff Caton resigned his post in the spring, football coach Joe Cattolico applied for the job. When he wasn’t selected, he resigned the football head coaching job and sat out this past fall.

He was replaced by Jason Rossow. But, on the first day of fall practices Rossow told the team he had a medical condition that required extensive treatment so handed over direction of the team to former Elk Grove star Russ Gardner on an interim basis. 
Russ Garder (right) and sons, who coached PG football this fall

But Cattolico wasn’t the only PG coach quitting in the spring. Boys basketball coach John DePonte, who led the Eagles to a Division I state championship in 2013, resigned following the 2014 season.

Also quitting was the school’s varsity baseball coach, Rob Rinaldi. However, he’s now coaching the school’s freshman team.

Rinaldi’s JV coach Nolan Dunkley accepted the varsity job, but one week later resigned the post citing disagreement with the school administration on how the baseball program should be run. Long-time area coach Rusty McClain has taken over the varsity program.

1     10.                   EG Football Plays In 4th Straight Section Semi-final Game

With the storied history of Thundering Herd football it’s hard to imagine that this fall the football team for the first time played in a Section semi-final game four years in a row.

Under Chris Nixon Elk Grove has won 46 games over the past four years, also a school record.

            Honorable Mention:

Spencer Levin returns to the PGA Tour after a thumb injury and does quite well in his first three tournaments of the 2014-2015 season.

Cosumnes River College’s women’s soccer team made it to the State Community College’s final four.

Franklin wrestler Joey Banks goes undefeated until the State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield.

Valley’s football team qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Franklin golfer Gurman Kaur fired a 62 during a Delta League girls’ golf event in October, a course record at Wildhawk Golf Club.

Larson video:

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