Saturday, December 26, 2015

A New Job: Sports Editor

My first real job was when I was 14. My brother and I had a paper route, delivering the New York Times and Newark News to residents of our small northern New Jersey village of Mendham.

Some 47 years later my career has come full circle. I am back in the newspaper business. On Jan. 1 I will officially become the sports editor of the Elk Grove Citizen

I have been a sportswriter for the Citizen since Dec. of 2007 (and have written this blog simultaneously for almost the same length of time).  But, last Friday Citizen sports editor Jon Gudel phoned me with news that he had accepted a job with the Governor's Office of Emergency Management as an information officer.

After a long discussion with Jon about the future of the sports pages in the Citizen and wanting to see good work continued, I sat down with publisher David Herburger. Last Tuesday we came to an agreement and I officially accepted the job on Wednesday.

For my colleagues and students at Luther Burbank High School, yes, I will still be teaching my Mass Media classes. But, many evenings will now be spent writing about our city's athletes and teams.

I petition all of you to send me tips, photos and ideas for stories at my email address, egsports@herburger. net. You can also leave me voicemails at 685-3945. Just ask for John.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cattolico Returns From Coaching Hiatus, Takes Sheldon Job

Joe Cattolico is familiar, very familiar with the Sheldon/Pleasant Grove Community Stadium. As head coach at Pleasant Grove High  School his football teams were dominant in home contests played at that facility, going 31-3 in Cattolico's final five seasons at the Eagles' helm, 2009-2013.

Now, Sheldon High School is hoping that home field magic will switch to their favor starting in the fall of 2016. That's because the Huskies have hired Cattolico to replace the retiring Herbie Berry as its next head varsity football coach.

"It's an outstanding school and has an outstanding athletic program and it competes in a outstanding, tough league," he said.

The announcement was made official Wednesday that the Princeton graduate who notched successful tenures at high schools in San Jose and over nine seasons at Pleasant Grove will take over a football program that has mired at the bottom of the Delta League for a while.

Though Cattolico had been contacted by many schools wanting him to join their staff the past couple years, he's always wanted to keep his family in Elk Grove.

"We like Elk Grove, we like the schools, the neighborhoods, "he explained. "Not that all the other places aren't nice too, but we're happy to professionally stay in this community because we like it."

Now instead of hurrying up the hill to the north of the Sheldon/Pleasant Grove stadium and onto the buses with his players, Cattolico can walk leisurely to the locker room at the top of that rise. That's something he always wanted as a football coach, to play home games on the school campus.

In Cattolico Sheldon hired a man who likes to run the ball out of an I-formation, passing only to keep a defense honest, play a tough defense and keep things fairly ordinary. But, ordinary seems to work, according to Cattolico, especially in the Delta League.

"We will be similar schematically to what we've been in the past," he promised. "It will be stuff that will look familiar. Some of the schools, Elk Grove and Grant, are similar and they are obviously outstanding. We will have our work cut out to execute to the caliber those guys do."

He resigned his football post at Pleasant Grove after the 2013 season when he was turned down for the job as the school's athletic director after Jeff Caton retired. Cattolico has continued to teach social sciences at PG and has spent his Friday nights visiting football stadiums throughout the area.

Alongside has been his father, Butch, a retired football coach who was successful for many years at Los Gatos High School. Now, the elder Cattolico will be on the sidelines again.  Joe has already hired Butch as his top assistant at Sheldon.

"He was an easy hire, so he can't say no," Joe laughed. "My mom won't let him."

Also adding approval to the return to coaching was Cattolico's wife, Natasha.

"She's excited about it," he said. "It wouldn't be happening if she wasn't."

He hasn't been assured a teaching position at Sheldon as of now. But, he is planning on making his presence known on that campus in the spring running off-season workouts after school.

"The first job will be for me getting to know the kids and for the kids to get to know me," Cattolico said. "Relationships and chemistry are critical, so those things are first and foremost before any of the football-specific things."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Dinwiddie Takes Coaching Job In Calgary

Former Elk Grove quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie has taken a job as the quarterback coach for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. He leaves the Montreal Allouettes after three seasons as an offensive assistant coach.

Dinwiddie will work for the Stamps' head coach Dan Dickenson.
Ryan Dinwiddie

“It’s a funny story,” Dinwiddie was quoted in a team news release. “When I first got to Boise, a lot of the fans around there were saying, ‘Hey, you need to be like Dave Dickenson — he’s been the best quarterback in the Northwest.’ So I looked him up and read about him. He’s a competitive guy who has obviously had a lot of success in college and the CFL. Personality-wise, he’s an even-keel, low-key guy but deep down, I don’t think there’s anybody who wants to win more than him.”

Dinwiddie set several offensive records at Boise State and after he couldn't break through in the NFL, went north and played five seasons for Saskatchewan and Winnipeg before he started coaching.

He got his first CFL start in the 2007 Grey Cup, Canada's version of the Super Bowl, with Winnipeg in a game against Calgary.

City College Takes State Wrestling Title

Sacramento City College easily outdistance Fresno City College and the rest of the field last weekend for the team championship at the California Community College Athletic Association's state championships in Fresno.

The Panthers had 158 points, 21 more than Fresno City College. Third was Cerritos College from Norwalk. Sierra College placed 12th.
Antonio Jimenez

Individually, former Franklin Wildcat Antonio Jimenez placed sixth at 141 pounds for City College. Isaac Pilgrim was fifth at 133 pounds. Chris Vaughan was seventh at 149 pounds. Taking a third place was Keleio Romero at 157 pounds.

Taking first at 165 pounds was Dylan Forzani. Teammate Derek Lee Loy was second at the same weight classification. Trevor Wright grabbed a second place medal at 174 pounds and Isaiah Smith placed fifth at the weight.

Placing third at 184 pounds was Nick Rohrer. At 197 pounds Jason Zecchini was fourth. In the heavyweight division, D'Juan Ewing-Smalls was fourth.

“It’s been a great season for our team," Panther head coach Dave Pacheco said. "Sure we had some ups and downs, but mostly ups.  Friday was an amazing day. There were some bumps in the road Saturday, but honestly this is the biggest team effort I can remember.”

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Herd Places Fourth At Mettler

It’s annually the tournament that officially marks the start of the high school wrestling season in Northern California. The Curt Mettler Invitational brought 21 of the top wrestling teams last weekend to Elk Grove High School.

The event was won by state power Buchanan with De LaSalle second and Del Oro third.
Host Elk Grove placed fourth on the strength of Jacob Seto’s third straight Mettler individual championship at 114 pounds. 
114-pounder Jacob Seto

“(Kalani) Tonge also had a good tournament,” Elk Grove wrestling coach Pat Coffing said. “I think we’ll be pretty decent this year. With Seto, Kalani, the twins (Lokahi and Nahale Tonge) and Terrell (Turner) I think we’ll be a team people will have to reckon with.”

The Herd graduated only heavyweight Tyler Yates, state qualifier Sai Ta’amu, and 145-pounder Carson Sperber. Ta’amu’s younger brother, Lau, along with 190-pounder Jake Bellecci and Jon Pochop coming off the football team will all be counted on to contribute this year once, as Coffing called it, “they get into wrestling shape.”

(see Photos from the Mettler on the Sports Corner's Facebook site)

This weekend the Herd will be tested as they compete at the 14th annual Zinkin Classic at Buchanan High School in Clovis. This tournament brings in some of the wrestling powers of the Central and South Sections.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pride Loses NorCal Playoff To Immanuel

Reedley - Two weeks ago the Bradshaw Christian Pride found a way to avoid defeat in the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division VI championship game despite turning the ball over five times.

Friday night, they weren't so lucky.

The Pride fumbled the ball twice, threw a pair of interceptions and turned the ball over on downs three times in losing the CIF Class 5AA NorCal Football Championship, 31-21, to Immanuel High School of Reedley. 
Phillip White grabs the pass on a 59-yard TD play.

The Eagles' quarterback Caleb Paulson completed 26 of 43 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns to lead Immanuel to the Class 5 AA State Championship game on Saturday.

"We thought we’d have to score with them, so we threw the football,” Eagles coach Matt Armstrong told the Fresno Bee. "Their defensive front is the best we’ve seen all year. We had to get the ball out quick and let our playmakers make plays."

(Photos of the Bradshaw/Immanuel Game on the Sports Corner's Facebook Site)

The Pride actually scored on its opening possession of the game played at Reedley High School. Jared Knipe, one of Bradshaw's 1,000-yard rushers this season, squeezed into the end zone from a yard out to give the Pride an early lead. 

Immanuel bounced right back with a score on the next possession. Kyle Dunigan scored from a yard out to tie the game at seven. The Eagles recovered a Bradshaw fumble on the next drive and Dunigan scored once again, this time from the 11 yardline to take a 14-7 lead.

The Pride opened the second quarter with its biggest play of the game, a Kyle Wilburn to Phillip White pass and run that covered 59 yards. The teams were tied at  14. 

But, Paulson came back with some magic of his own hitting Ryan Case on a 30-yard scoring strike. Immanuel led 21-14 at halftime.

Three times in the third quarter the Pride gave up the ball on downs and Immanuel took advantage of that. Paulson connected with Adrian Jump on a 13-yard pass play to take an insurmountable 28-14 lead. 

Bradshaw did pull to within a touchdown scoring early in the fourth quarter but Immanuel's defense stiffened the rest of the way. Case intercepted Wilburn with three minutes left in the game that resulted in Viktor Cooper's 26-yard field goal.

Cody King picked off another Wilburn pass in the final minute to seal the win. 

Immanuel will now face Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista, a 21-14 winner over Notre Dame of Riverside in the SoCal Regional game,  for the Class 5AA State Championship.

Hernandez Signs With The Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies signed right-handed reliever David Hernandez to a one-year, $3.9 million contract. The former Elk Grove H.S. and CRC pitcher will now join his third Major League Baseball organization.

Hernandez, 30, went 1-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 40 appearances last season with Arizona. He missed 2014 and the first two months of the '15 season following Tommy John surgery. Before that, Hernandez was Arizona's setup man, compiling a 3.42 ERA and picking up 17 saves over three seasons. He began his career with the Orioles, who drafted him in the 16th round in the 2005 Draft.
David Hernandez, now a Phillie

"It was a priority for us to add someone to the back of our bullpen who has pitched in high-level situations in the past," Phillies GM Matt Klentak said. "Throughout the last couple of months, we've been adding a lot of depth to our bullpen. Many of those players don't come with a lot of experience. So we wanted to make sure that we added at least one player who added a lot of experience who could help to pitch in the late part of the game."

Phillies president Andy MacPhail and Klentak were with the Orioles when Hernandez made his big league debut in 2009. Player development director Joe Jordan helped draft Hernandez in '05.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Just Who Is Immanuel High School?

We're now two weeks past Thanksgiving and opening the playoffs for the CIF State Football Championships. Just one local team is still alive - Bradshaw Christian.

They're in the 5AA State playoffs (there's going to be 13 state champions when this is all over) and Friday will travel a little more than three hours south to Reedley High School and play Immanuel. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.

Now, where's Reedley? According to the school website it is 19 miles southeast of Fresno and 19 miles north of Visalia. Plus, it's about a 15 minute drive east of Highway 99. Immanuel High School boasts 51 Central Section championships and three state championships, though none in football.

Much like Bradshaw, their current enrollment is 390 students. There are roughly 375 students at Bradshaw, located just east of Sheldon High School on Calvine Rd. Immanuel high school has been in its currently location since 1944 and they've been a K-12 school district since 2004.

The website tells very little else about its athletic program except for the fact "athletics" is misspelled a few times (atheltics).

They are the Eagles and Reedley was 10-2 this season. Bradshaw is 12-1 on the field, losing to Vista del Lago but also having to forfeit the season opener with Big Valley Christian because of playing an ineligible player.

This is Bradshaw's first time, though, they've won 12 games in a season (they beat Big Valley, 61-0). And, this year's team may rank right up there along or even above the talent the Pride have had in its nine seasons of football. Bradshaw's 28-18 Division VI win over Hilmar two weeks ago was its fifth Section title.

Immanuel head coach Matthew Armstrong will call upon the arm of quarterback Caleb Paulson who threw for 2405 yards, 29 TD's and only seven interceptions this season. The top rusher is Kyle Dunigan who has rushed for 804 yards.

Bradshaw is a run-happy team warrant the fact backs Jarred Knipe and Mateo Bromstead each have more than 1,000 yards - Knipe with 1106 and Bromstead with 1161. Quarterback Kyle Wilburn has thrown effectively, too: 926 yards and 12 TD's on just 95 attempts.

The winner of this game will take on the winner of Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista and Notre Dame of Riverside. That game will be played Dec. 19 at a site to be determined by the CIF. Several state championship games are slated for Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State University campus.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Macres Tourney Tips Off Thursday

The 9th Annual Mark Macres Memorial Basketball Tournament begins Thursday and runs through Saturday December 12th at Monterey Trail High School.

This year’s participants include; Pleasant Grove High School, Granite Bay High School, Yuba City High School, Merced High School, and Freedom High School. 

Tip off starts at 5:00 pm. on 12/10.  Games continue through Saturday, with the final game slated for 7:00 pm. 

Here at the Thursday games:
5:00—Freedom vs. Yuba City
6:30--- Granite Bay vs. Pleasant Grove
8:00---Merced vs. Monterey Trail

Tournament website;

Previous winners include;
2007—Monterey Trail
2008—Bella Vista
2009—Granite Bay
2010—Granite Bay
2011—Pleasant Grove
2012---Pleasant Grove
2013—Cosumnes Oaks
2014—Granite Bay

Carda On Team USA Softball

One of the top pitcher ever to come out of our area was Ally Carda. She was a star at Pleasant Grove, leading the Eagles to the 2009 Section championship. Then she went to UCLA and was a key part of several excellent clubs there. In 2014 she was a finalist for the top collegiate softball player in the entire country.

Carda is still playing, for Team USA. Here is a link to her page on the USA site.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Herd Comes Up Short, Again, In Section Final

Three times in the last four years the Elk Grove High School football team played at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State University campus in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s championship game.

Three times in the last four years the Herd has left the locker room in Broad Fieldhouse on the south end of the stadium with heads down, muttering what might have happened if one or two plays might have gone their way.

Each time head coach Chris Nixon, though very disappointed, has found the words to reflect back on the season and find the positives that got the Herd to the championship game.  Saturday he had those words after losing the Division I championship to Folsom, 35-27.

“There were a lot of tears shed and a lot of disappointment, but this was a tremendous season,” he said.

Elk Grove came into the game with a 13-0 record. With the same mark was their opponent, Folsom, marking this just the second time a pair of 13-0 teams faced off for a Sac-Joaquin Section championship. The other time came in 1989 when Merced and Nevada Union both were 13-0. Merced ended up the winner that day.

In the past few years Elk Grove has been in the Division II playoffs, but this year under a new rule, were brought up to Division I because of its Delta League championship.

“The Section has its reason for doing what they did, forcing us up to D-1, but to take two teams like this and play us off in Section, it does leave us with an empty feeling like we came away with nothing, “ Nixon said. 

For Folsom head coach Kris Richardson the early December games at Sac State is familiar territory. The Bulldogs have now won four straight Section titles, are the defending state champions in Division I and are riding a 30-game winning streak.

Richardson said this Section championship was particularly special because his son, Kooper, a starting offensive lineman, is a senior.

“I’ve watched a lot of these guys go through the youth program and watch them grow up with my own son and it was fun to watch,” Richardson said.

But, obtaining this Section title was a battle for the Bulldogs. Folsom quarterback Jake Jeffrey fumbled on the fourth play of the game, recovered by Lau Ta’amu a the Bulldogs’ 16.

Ryan Robards scored on the next play and then kicked the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Understanding The New Regional Football Championships

Looking a bit past tonight's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game between 13-0 clubs Folsom and Elk Grove is an interesting setup statewide for the CIF Football Championships.

For the first time, California will have 13 state champions and how they will seed the Section champions for a NorCal and a SoCal Regional Championship is a big confusing. A very good explanation along with a prediction where the Folsom/Elk Grove winner will play next Friday is on the Cal Hi Sports website. (click here to watch the video)

The site's writer/reporter, Mark Tennis, told me this morning he could see Elk Grove host Bellarmine of San Jose should the Herd win tonight. If Folsom pulls off its fourth straight Section title tonight at Hornet Stadium, Tennis believes the Bulldogs will have a re-match against Clayton Valley, a team Folsom defeated by one point in the season opener.

The CIF Board will convene Sunday to set up the NorCal and SoCal Regional games.

Tennis also thinks Division VI champion Bradshaw Christian could travel to Sierra of Manteca, the Division IV winner in the NorCal 4A game. Again, he explains how CIF will set the regional games on the video.

And what does he think about tonight's Section Division 1 battle?

"If (Folsom) can actually stack the box and stop Elk Grove's running attack and force them to throw, then they may win it," Tennis predicted. "But, no one has been able to do that this year."

He believes tonight contest, which kicks off at 6 p.m. at Hornet Stadium, is a real toss-up.

The game will be shown online on the NFHS Network.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Best Game Of The Year Coming Saturday

Most prep football fans thought Elk Grove would be good this year, but not 13-0 good.

Same thing goes for the defending Division I state champion Folsom Bulldogs. They had no starters returning this year, yet no one has beat them. They are now on something like a 38-game winning streak.

Only St. Mary's came close to ending that in last weekend's Sac-Joaquin Section semi-final contest. Folsom once again was lighting up the scoreboards around the Sierra Foothill League with its quick-snap, score-fast offense this fall.

Elk Grove had a few more returning starters in 2015, but no one dreamt Ryan Robards would be a 2,700-plus yardage man who would be at or near the top of the scoring charts in all of California. But, it is evident that success has come as a result of a big, strong, efficient offensive line. Offensive line coach Moe Loller has now a conveyer belt of big guys annually coming to play for him.

This may be his best overall group of "Hammerheads," the nickname given to the offensive linemen at EGHS, warrant how many times Robards and Fullah and the rest of the Herd backfield get to the "second level" virtually unnoticed.

The addition of Jeff Carlson as the defensive coordinator a year or so ago has really beefed up the Herd on that side of the ball. He had terrific defenses the years he and Dave Hoskins were co-head coaches.

Looking to Saturday's game, which will kick off at 6 p.m. at Hornet Stadium, Carlson may have the defensive scheme that could stop Folsom (or at least slow them down) and give Elk Grove its first Section football championship since 2001.

Folsom, on the other hand, is looking for its fourth straight Section championship. The last two were in Division I and the 2012 title came in Division II.

So what will be the difference in what is easily the most highly anticipated game of the year? What is likely to hand the blue championship banner to one school over the other?

I'm afraid it may be the referees.

Yes, I really believe the winner will be determined with how tight the officials will call this game. If they allow Elk Grove defenders to touch the Folsom receivers then I think the Herd has a chance to win it.

What shot down a very good Grant squad in the title game last year with Folsom were a few questionable defensive pass interference calls that came in the second quarter. Then the defenders were forced to back off and the flood gates opened for an easy Folsom win.

These kind of tight games always find a way to bring out one or two bad calls from the refs, too. I'll never forget how the Herd lost the D-II championship game two years ago against Del Oro. Right after the Golden Eagles scored a TD to come to within 12 points in the fourth quarter, they attempted an onside kick. It was clear the Eagles blocked Herd defenders away from the kicked ball prior to the ball passing the required ten yards so that a Del Oro player could recover.

The officials, when asked by Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon for an explanation, acted dumb. They later admitted a mistake and said the video Nixon sent them would be used for future instruction of officials (HERE is a link to that video posted here on the Sports Corner).

Del Oro went on to score on that drive.

Though we'd all like to think the officials will call an objective game Saturday night, it invariably happens that when two very even, very good team play in a big game like a Section championship, someone walks away muttering about a rotten call they got.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think this game could be one of those contests.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Champions! Bradshaw Takes D6 Crown

It’s typical that a football team that turns the ball over five times in a game loses. But, Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game wasn’t a typical football contest.

First, it was played in 38-degree weather, conditions more suited to football in the Midwest, not in California.

Despite the chill in the air, Bradshaw Christian’s four lost fumbles and intercepted pass were offset by a missed field goal and three unsuccessful two-point conversions by Hilmar. Plus, the Yellowjacket’s talented quarterback Daniel Texeira was picked off three times by Pride defenders, including a key pick by Trevounte Bobo in the fourth quarter.

It all resulted in the Pride winning, 28-18, at Lincoln High School’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton, the fifth small school Section championship in Bradshaw Christian’s nine seasons of varsity football.

All smiles following the Pride’s 11th win of the year was head coach Drew Rickert, this despite sporting a black eye from taking an elbow while playing scout team quarterback on Friday and shirking warm clothing, wearing shorts all night despite the nip in the air.

“I don’t wear pants coaching,” he grinned. “Besides that I have a couple sweatshirts on so I’m fine.”

It helps that his Pride team won because, as he’ll tell you, championships are warming to the heart. Rickert should know. He’s now 5-1 in Section championship games, winning Division VI banners in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and a Division VII title in 2008.

This time, the championship means a little more, Rickert said.

“Hilmar is an excellent program,” he said. “They’ve won seven Section titles in the bigger divisions. This (championship) came against an accomplished opponent.”

The Pride fans and parents, though, had quite a few moments of tenseness to overcome on Saturday before they could celebrate.  

“We didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball,” Rickert said. “That’s pretty weird because we did a good job of handling it this year. It showed our resilience because the kids just kept on battling. Sometimes when that happens you drop your head, but our kids didn’t. That was impressive.”

(Volleyball Flash: Pleasant Grove loses NorCal Regional semi-final game to Monte Vista, Saturday,
19-25, 25-18, 23-25, 30-28, 15-12)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Eagle Volleyball Wins NorCal Opener

Pleasant Grove defeated Foothill High School of Pleasanton three sets to one on Tuesday to advance in the CIF Northern California Regional Volleyball Tournament. The scores were 25-22, 25-18, 20-25 and 25-22.

This means the Eagles will travel to Monte Vista High School in Danville Saturday night for round two. Monte Vista is the top-seed in Division I. The Eagles are the fifth seed.

 ** Here are the brackets for the CIF State Volleyball Championships.

In Division V, Bradshaw Christian was defeated by Notre Dame High School in Salinas, 3-0. The scores were 25-16, 25-13 and 25-9.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

PG, BCHS Lose V-ball Championship Games

Brian Contreras had a big frown on his face. He just finished talking to a teary-eyed group of young ladies, downcast after losing a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I volleyball championship for the second year in a row.

“You can’t pass, uh, you can’t do, oh, I don’t know,” he mumbled.


He then spoke louder and tried to explain his scheme planned carefully for a very talented Pitman squad that he knew, if executed correctly, would earn a Section banner for the Eagles.

“They really didn’t move that much,” Contreras tried to explain. “We knew what they were going to do. It was stuff we practiced three days for. I don’t know, we didn’t show up tonight.”

But, the scores Saturday night at Tokay High School, site of the Section volleyball championships, were really quite close. The Pride took this year’s title, 19-23, 25-21, 25-16 and 25-23.

Last year, Pitman defeated Pleasant Grove in a tight five-game match and Saturday was much the same, especially during a fourth game that for the fans was worth the price of admission. 

Contreras, though, didn’t appear impressed even though 6-5 outside hitter Alexis Light was pelting the Pitman court with slam after slam. Equally impressive was he play of St. Mary’s-bound outside hitter Sienna Young and 5-11 senior Erika Sullivan.

“We couldn’t service well,” he said. “We couldn’t get the ball to our hitters. We need to take swings on the ball.”

The Eagles took the opening set playing quite like the Delta League champions that went 32-4 this season. But, something happened to open the second set that no one could explain. The re-directs and slams just didn’t seem to drop for the Eagles.

BCS Football Honored At Championship Dinner

It’s a place where weddings and fancy banquets are served. There’s an opulent spa for folks that, well, like that kind of body treatment.

In the front of this sprawling complex is a wine tasting bar and an eloquent hotel and all this in the middle of the vineyards that surround the City of  Lodi.

But, this night Wine and Roses was the host site of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s football finalists in divisions four through seven.

The head coaches brought a school administrator and six of his players to hear congratulatory words from Section Commissioner Mike Garrison, eat a terrific barbeque chicken dinner, topped off by creamy vanilla ice cream, and then hear an encouraging, motivational speech from Sacramento State’s football coach Jody Sears.

One would think Bradshaw Christian seniors Phillip White, Kyle Wilburn, Michael Sinclair, Nik Altamura and Zack Moody along with sophomore Mateo Bromstead would be used to such fanfare because these boys are all playing for the school’s fifth Section championship over the past eight years. But, no, they are all excited and looking forward to what they hope Saturday night will be another football championship for their school.

“It would be great to go out and win a championship in our last season at Bradshaw Christian,” Wilburn, the team quarterback, said. “This is the only sport I play, so for me it would wrap everything up for me. I’d say it’s pretty important for us to win.”

“It’s what we’ve been working for all four years,” Sinclair, a safety and wide receiver, said. “It’s something to leave a legacy so the underclassmen remember you.”

“To me it’s leaving a legacy, to go out on top,” White, a big defensive end and tight end, said.

This year the opponent is Hilmar, a club that was 9-3, 4-1 and co-champions in the Trans-Valley League. Two years ago when these Bradshaw seniors were sophomores when they beat Ripon Christian, 35-28, in an exciting game played at Lodi’s Grape Bowl.

Saturday, the Pride will take on the Yellowjackets at Lincoln High School’s Spanos Stadium in Stockton. Kick off is 6:30 p.m.

“They are a big team, real fast, very disciplined and well-coached,” Sinclair said. “They are in the championship for a reason, so we’ve got to go out and play our game.”

(from left) Michael Sinclair, Mateo Bromstead, Zack Moody, Nik Altamura, Phillip White, Jr. and Kyle Wilburn

In Hilmar, the Pride will have their hands full. The Yellowjackets are the number one seed in Division VI and are on a six-game winning streak. Head coach Frank Marques expects a big send-off by their small dairy farming community Saturday afternoon when the team loads the buses and heads north to Stockton.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Follow Playoff Action HERE

Live Blog Live coverage: Second round, high school football playoffs

Bradshaw, PG Play For V-ball Championships

There are two local volleyball teams vying for Sac-Joaquin Section championships beginning tonight.

In Division V, Bradshaw is taking on Vacaville Christian tonight. I'll be texting a score as soon as I get that @EGSportsCorner.

On Saturday, it's a rematch of last year's Division I championship as Pleasant Grove will try to unseat Pitman. The first slam will be at 7:30 p.m. at Tokay High School. Last year, PG took Pitman to five games before dropping the match.

I'll be on the sidelines with tweets from Saturday's championship match.

Congrats to Elk Grove, who lost to Rocklin Tuesday in the Division II semi-finals. EG was the runner-up in the Delta League this year to the Eagles.

A Dirty Team?

Because of a personal matter I won't be covering second round football action Friday night, but football fans may want to take on the Division VI showdown between Bradshaw and Gustine at BCHS.

The reason, some Pride fans say, is that Gustine plays some of the dirtiest football in the Section. In last year's playoff opener, won by Bradshaw, 47-6, coaches were constantly complaining that Gustine players were putting elbows into Pride players, poking them in the eyes and stomping on Bradshaw's guys even well after the play was over.

To further disgust the Pride coaches, officials acted like they didn't see anything. Section officials claim they haven't had any negative report this year about Gustine's play this year.

Friday's game at Bradshaw is the semi-final round in Div. 6 and football followers in the south Section say this may be one of Gustine's best teams in many years. The winner will take on the Hilmar/Ripon Christian victor for the Section championship on 11/28. That game could be played at Elk Grove H.S.

Last week the Pride easily dispatched Amador, 49-15, to open the post-season.

The only other local playoff game in town will be Merced at Elk Grove in Division I. Franklin is on the road to face Folsom, but Mike Johnson's squad is dealing with injuries. However, this could be a great opportunity for Lamar Jackson to really show his stuff for the Wildcats.

Also in Division I, Cosumnes Oaks will be at Oak Ridge. The winner of that game will face the Elk Grove/Merced victor next Friday in the Section semi-finals.

Basketball Opens Nov. 30

We are just over a week away from the season openers in high school basketball.

The annual "Foundation" games played that night won't count in the win-loss standings, but it is a good opportunity to see area teams. The money from the gate of those games go to the A. Dale Lacky Scholarship and Women in Sports Conference.

One game to see will be Franklin at home against Burbank.  It will be the debut of new Wildcats' boys coach Ken Manfredi. The girls play at 6 p.m. and the boys at 8 p.m.

Other foundations games will be: Bradshaw Christian at McClatchy, Laguna Creek at Enochs, Elk Grove at Tokay and Sheldon at Yuba City.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Berry Out At Sheldon

Another coaching casualty of the fall season has occurred. Sheldon's Herbie Berry is out as head football coach at Sheldon.

After four seasons at the helm, the former Elk Grove and Stanford quarterback was 10-30, 2-8 this season including a 0-7 record in the Delta League.
Herbie Berry (left)

Berry, one of the real gentlemen amongst the local coaching fraternity, has been at Sheldon for almost all the school's 19 years.

He joins Valley's Dave Filan and Laguna Creek's Dave Morton on the sidelines. Filan resigned at mid-season citing family issues. Morton announced his retirement last week.

With Berry now out at Sheldon, the question is who will be in? Here are three really good suggestions:

1. Joe Cattolico

The former Pleasant Grove coach who was the head guy for the "other" football team at the stadium on the Shelton campus, could easily slide right in and feel comfortable.

His success at Pleasant Grove that includes a Sac-Joaquin Section championship and two runner-up finishes would be enough, but he's the kind of coach that would bring real stability, discipline and leadership that the athletes at Sheldon need. Plus, he's a great social science teacher.

He would make Sheldon a threat once again on the gridiron.

2. Josh Crabtree

Because of wanting to be with his ailing father four years ago, Crabtree stepped down from coaching football at Sheldon and Berry stepped in. After a year away from the sidelines, he returned to coaching and since has been an assistant on the staff at American River College.

Bringing Crabtree out of his classroom in the back pasture at Sheldon and back to leading up the football program would be a good decision. But, he may be having too much fun on the JUCO level.

3. Ryan Gomes

His energy coaching football is contagious and his hard work with athletes, as shown at both Laguna Creek where he was an assistant, and at Cosumnes Oaks as its first head coach, is evident of what he could do at Sheldon.

He, like Crabtree, has been coaching the last couple seasons at American River, but has kept his teaching job at C.O. Don't know if "Scooter" would want the Sheldon job, but he definitely has the experience and would be a great motivator.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bradshaw, EG, Franklin, CO Win Playoff Openers/ PG, MT Is Done

Division I Playoffs - 

Elk Grove 55, Gregori 0
Franklin 41, Turlock 24
Cosumnes Oaks 62, Lincoln (Stockton) 27
Napa 26, Pleasant Grove 0
Oak Ridge 35, Monterey Trail 14

Division VI Playoffs -

Bradshaw Christian 49, Amador 15

This is an odd-numbered year and that means Bradshaw Christian is in line for another Division VI football championship in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Much like the San Francisco Giants who have won three World Series Championships every other season over the past five years, the Pride have taken the D-6 banner in similar succession, in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Their march to a prospective fourth championship in the last six years, and fifth title in the last seven seasons, got off to a good start Friday night with a big 49-15 win over No. 7-seeded Amador.

“Going in we knew this was going to be a football game and I thought they were one of the top four teams in our bracket,” head coach Drew Rickert said. “They were a good football team and they played in a tough league.” 
Kyle Wilburn takes advice from BCHS coach Drew Rickert

Traditionally a running team using a tight double-wing formation with the fullback directly behind the quarterback, Bradshaw kept the Buffaloes off balance with the accurate throwing of senior signal caller Kyle Wilburn. Rickert  said that may have been the first time any Bradshaw quarterback threw three TD passes in a game.

“Not that I remember,” he chuckled. “Maybe someone down the line, but that doesn’t happen very often. We knew all along we could do that, but all year we’ve been running the ball successfully and in our league games we got up quickly.”

The Pride ran out to a 35-7 halftime advantage.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Playoff Previews/MT Short-handed

A brawl at the end of Monterey Trail's win Friday night at Davis may have cost them at least four players for Friday's playoff opener at Oak Ridge. Coach T.J. Ewing commented Monday night he felt as though Davis players, officials and fans allowed on the sidelines "bullied" the Mustangs all night and the tension exploded into a big fight on the field at the conclusion.

Still, he didn't excuse his players for the fisticuffs nor did the school athletic director David Coronado.

"Unfortunately, we had a few athletes display poor sportsmanship," Coronado wrote in an email. "Players responded physically to members of the Davis team and others who rushed the field in the last seconds of the game."

However, Coronado likewise acknowledged there were issues with the way the game was run on Friday night.

"I can say that there were several incidents throughout the game that contributed to the tense atmosphere and that we will be working with our league and CIF to address our concerns," he wrote.

Neither Coronado nor Ewing would elaborate. Ewing did say four Mustang players were ejected by game officials which mean they are ineligible for Friday's game at Oak Ridge.

Coronado added in his email: "We at Monterey Trail under Head Coach TJ Ewing, have always prided ourselves in displaying high integrity, character, and positive sportsmanship which have always been pillars in the foundation of Monterey Trail Athletics. This incident does not reflect our high standards, school, community or how we represent Monterey Trail High School. "

This means the 14th seed Mustangs will play without some key boys on Friday at 3rd seeded Oak Ridge.

With the help of Sac-Joaquin Section Communication Director Will DeBoard, here are some previews of Friday's action with our local squads:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

National Letter-of-Intents Signed Around EG

It's the big day for many high school athletes. The NCAA National Letter-of-Intent “early signing” day across the country was Wednesday with several locals making their collegiate choices official.

The seven-day “early signing period,” which runs through Nov. 18, is called that because most of the student/athletes are committing prior to their senior season in high school. Hundreds of baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, track and field and volleyball players made their collegiate commitments nationwide this day.

Football players will sign beginning Feb. 3 and then there will be the official signing period for the other sports starting April 13. In recent years, though, many of the high-profile athletes have used this week in November to make their commitments.

Because of the Veterans' Day holiday; Elk Grove High School held its own signing ceremony Thursday evening in the school library. Topping the list of signees was senior baseball player Dylan Carlson, who has committed to play at Fullerton State. 
EGHS' Dylan Carlson signed with Fullerton State

The Titans made it to the College World Series last year, its eighth appearance since 1999. That was what attracted Carlson to the school.

“Fullerton is a baseball school, it reminds me of Elk Grove,” Carlson said. “Baseball is the thing everyone loves. They’ve got a great fan base. I love the coaches. It’s the place I’ve always wanted to play growing up.”

With no football program at Fullerton, the students come out in big numbers at the baseball games.

“That’s one thing that made me fall in love with it,” Carlson said. “The place is packed. Everyone knows who you are.”

He’ll follow former Herd players Raymond Hernandez, J.D. Davis and Jared Deacon who played at Fullerton.

Carlson is considered one of the top first basemen in the country coming out of high school. He is the oldest son of Herd baseball coach Jeff Carlson.

In Titan head coach Rich Vanderhook he sees some similarities between his dad and “Coach Hook.”

“They’re both tough, you’ve got to get the job done,” Carlson said. “They know what they are talking about. It’s a similar style.”

Teammate Josh Urps signed with Sacramento State on Thursday. Another EGHS baseball player, Alex Zalasky, signed with Concordia University.

Also making college commitments were softball players Miranda Miles (Texas A&M) and Kiana Evans (Holy Names), along with soccer players Jessy Santos and Skylar Houze, both going to Cal State - East Bay.

At Bradshaw Christian, there was a ceremony for softball player Kimmie Uher who inked with Truman State University in Missouri and for Ramia Griffin, a basketball player, who will play collegiately at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. 
Bradshaw's Kimmie Uher ( 2nd from left) and Ramia Griffin (right)

Griffin may become one of the very few athletes locally to win four Section championships in one sport in high school. The Pride has won three Section girls’ basketball titles and shape up to be one of the best teams in Division IV this winter.

Uher is a two-time All-Sierra Delta League selection and last year batted .555.

Wednesday morning, St. Francis had a large signing ceremony of its own. Thirteen girls simultaneously signed their letters. Included in that group was Elk Grove resident Mel Baccay, a softball player who committed to Michigan State University.

“They have a family aspect to the program,” said Baccay. “I’ve built a really strong relationship not only with the girls on the team but with my coaches.”

Baccay will play for Jacquie Joseph, who has led the Spartan program since 1994 and amassed over 700 career wins and made four NCAA regional appearances.

“I was looking for schools that met both my academics and athletics needs,” Baccay said. “Michigan State being part of the Big10 has great athletics with the resources to be successful academically.”

Baccay was named to the All-Delta League first team as a junior and was the team’s Most Inspirational Player. She hit .571 in league play (4th-best) and posted a .447 overall mark for the season with a team-best tying 30 RBI.

She verbally committed to Michigan State during her sophomore year at St. Francis.

“I am so excited to sign,” said Baccay. “It has been so long. First there was the wait to get recruited and make a commitment, finding a school that is eight for me. Now that I have found it, making it official will make all the hard work worth it.”

Sheldon hosted its signing ceremony Wednesday. Three softball players - Jordan Fines, Jessica Scott and Sarah Fukushima - and one baseball player, Matt Manning, signed their letters.

Fines has committed to Cal, Fukushima to Cal State - East Bay and Scott to Sacramento State.  In the 19 seasons that Mary Jo Truesdale has coached softball at Sheldon, this trio makes the 24th, 25th and 26th players to sign National Letters-of-Intent to play at a four-year school. 
(from left) Jessica Scott, Coach Mary Jo Truesdale, Sarah Fukushima and Jordan Fines

Fines actually committed to Cal’s long-time coach Diane Ninemeier her freshman year in high school.

“Coming from the Lady Magic (her tournament team), it was family-oriented and I got that same vibe at Cal,” she said.

She said she grew up around Jolene and Danielle Henderson, both former Sheldon Huskies and Cal Bears, and that also affected her decision to play in Berkeley.

“My dad grew up with Joe Henderson (the girls’ father) and I got to hang around with Jolene,” Fines said. “I got to see her personality and how Cal helped shape that.”

Fukushima, an outfielder, felt playing at East Bay in Hayward would let her play collegiately close to family.

“It was a good fit,” she said. “I loved the school environment and really like its diversity which is really important to me.”

Scott, the Huskies’ catcher, will join another former Sheldon player, Zamari Hinton, at Sacramento State.

“We played together for two years here at Sheldon,” she said. “It’s close to home and I like the environment at Sac State. It works for me.”

Manning, who is also a big major league baseball prospect as a pitcher, signed with Loyola-Marymount. Playing in several showcase tournaments the past few months he’s shown a fastball clocked at 95 mph and a wicked curveball.

“It’s been unbelievable the past few weeks,” he said.

But, college baseball is in Manning’s plans. 
Sheldon pitcher Matt Manning

“LMU, (pitching) Coach (Dan) Ricabal has been calling me every day,” he said. “It’s the right spot for me and the area is just perfect.”

The Lions were the runner-ups in the West Coast Conference last season.

Early Thursday morning Elk Grove Unified School District had one large ceremony with all these student/athletes present plus:

Pleasant Grove - Sienna Young, volleyball, St. Mary's University
Franklin - Riki DesJarlais, soccer, Dominican University
Franklin - Taylor Lemmond, soccer, Oregon State University
Franklin - Peyton Rawls, softball, Barry University
Cosumnes Oaks - Leanne Newell, volleyball, UC - Riverside
Cosumnes Oaks - Jennifer Palmares, softball, Cal State - East Bay
Cosumnes Oaks - Myan Oden, soccer, Cal State - Bakersfield