Friday, October 30, 2015

PG Turns Sheldon Turnovers Into Points/EG Shuts Out Franklin

Week Nine Scores:

Pleasant Grove 35, Sheldon 14
Elk Grove 35, Franklin 0
Monterey Trail 28, Jesuit 3
Grant 33, Davis 28
Cosumnes Oaks 35, Whitney 32
Bradshaw 49, Highlands 28
Kennedy 67, Florin 0 
Valley 38, Johnson 6
Laguna Creek 40, McClatchy 0

Darren Chism was the last Pleasant Grove Eagle to leave the field Friday night. He was sitting on the turf, legs spread out, ready to ice a knee that he dinged the week previous. It still bothers him some, he tells a trainer. A bruised hand was heavy taped and the trainer was cutting away the tape from his hands while he was all grins talking to his first football coach from when he was just seven, playing Mighty Mites for the Elk Grove Junior Thundering Herd.

He was learning the game then, played a lot at defensive tackle, but showed some great skill and a nose for the football.

See photos from this game on the Sports Corner's Facebook page

Fast forward 11 years and he's now the starting running back for the Eagles. His inspired play this night boosted Pleasant Grove not only to a 35-14 win over rival Sheldon, but also cemented a spot in the playoffs for the Eagles, now 4-2 in Delta League play because of the big win.

Several times running the ball Chism refused to go down, keeping his legs churning and breaking tackles. It frequently took three or four Sheldon Huskies to haul him down.

"A straight line is the best route to go," he chuckled.
PG receiver Vita Latapu (#27) gets ready to catch ball

The senior scored Pleasant Grove's first two TD's on runs of 18 and 11 yards. He was about the only guy running the ball for the Eagles in this game.
Latapu has the ball

"We ran him a lot because we liked the match-up and the looks we were getting on offense," head coach Jason Rossow said. "We are 100 percent in love with our O-line and we'll ride them right to the end of the season. Chism ran hard but it starts with those guys up front."

Now 5-4 overall, the Eagles can double its win total from a year ago if they can beat Franklin in the regular season finale Friday.

"That's going to be a tough game, but if we power through it, we'll win," Chism said.

His coach didn't want to discuss the prospects of the post-season very much afterwards.

"Our focus is next week," he said. "We don't want to take anything for granted. This program is about seizing the opportunity and we're going to come out next week and secure that playoff spot regardless. That's out mentality."
Sheldon's Alex Cook nails Latapu

The real star, though, for Pleasant Grove was wide receiver and safety Dawson Weber. He caught two touchdown passes (for 35 and 38 yards) and picked off Sheldon quarterback Nathan Berry twice. The second pick he returned for a 53-yard touchdown.

"Dawson has been playing great football for us this year," Rossow said. "He had an awesome game for us last week (in a 34-29 win over Davis) and he did it once again tonight when we needed it. But, as I said all year long, I don't like to focus on any one guy. It's a team effort. We preach family in this program. Without the other guys on the field it just doesn't happen."

Latapu drops the ball. The hit is so severe, he is knocked out of game
So, with Elk Grove at 6-0 atop the Delta League and Grant at 5-1 pretty much sewing up first and second place, respectively, with one more game to go, the Eagles with a win over the Wildcats this week will slide into third place and secure one of the four playoff spots given to the Delta clubs.

Meanwhile, Sheldon, who dropped to 0-6 in league play, is almost doomed to the basement of the Delta standings because they host the undefeated Herd Friday. The Huskies turned the ball over three times killing good opportunities to stay in the game.

The first came on a fumble on the Huskies' opening drive of the game at the Pleasant Grove 23.

"Self-inflicted wounds," Sheldon head coach Herbie Berry said.

The Huskies also had a long pass to a wide open receiver dropped in the second quarter and had a field goal attempt blocked right before halftime.
PG coach Jason Rossow shows QB Jake Ford a play.

"Self-inflicted wounds," he repeated. "We just have to execute. We cannot continue to make mistakes and expect to win football games."

A week ago, Sheldon had two golden opportunities late in the game to upset Grant, but ended up losing 21-20 to the Pacers. Once again, a field goal attempt was blocked.

"No one we've played has been so remarkably better than us that they just beat us," Berry said. "A lot of what has happened to us has been our own fault."

The loss dropped the Huskies to 2-7 overall. Sheldon has won just five games over the past three years.

"We just keep getting in our own way," Berry said. "That's something I've got to figure out over the course of the off-season. What steps do we have to take in order to get out of our own way?"

He claims that the winless record in the Delta League in 2015 doesn't define the kind of football program he has, now in his fourth year at the Sheldon helm.

"I don't think it defines the kind of talent we have as a football team," Berry said. "But, I think our kids have not gotten used to winning so they struggle with knowing how. Once we can get over that hump, win a big game, maybe that makes us turn a corner and we turn this thing around."

Inequality In EGUSD Practice Facilities

When looking at success on the football field over the past six years, it’s evident that those Elk Grove Unified School District teams who have had the best records during that period of time are the ones who have an artificial turf stadium on their campus where they practice virtually every day after school.

And, it’s evident that those without a stadium, who practice on grass (or in the case of this year’s drought, what’s left of the grass) and only see artificial turf when it’s game time are the ones who do the most poorly in the won/loss columns.

Even though all EGUSD football teams play games at school district stadiums which have artificial turf, installed by the Mondo Corporation during the spring and summer of 2009, a look at the winning percentage of those who still practice on grass at their school sites versus those who have a turf field either at or next to their campus on which to practice is a stark contrast of those with and those without.

In the six seasons since the new turf was put in the local stadiums, plus the first eight weeks of the 2015 schedule, the teams who have a stadium or facility with artificial turf at or next to their site, like Franklin High School, have a .621 winning percentage (115-70) in their home games.

Those who don’t are 62-91 (.405 winning percentage) in home games played during that same time span.

“We practice on rock hard dirt,” Laguna Creek head coach Dave Morton remarked recently when asked about the practice facility behind his high school. “The drought has really cut back on watering and there isn’t much grass.”

The other issue Morton and his counterparts at Valley, Florin and Pleasant Grove high schools must deal with is the height of the grass they do have, plus the need to keep the fields lined for practice purposes.

“They cut the grass at three-and-a half inches and cleats don’t work with grass that tall,” Morton said. “That becomes a safety issue.”
Valley's team practicing on a chewed up field while most EGUSD clubs are on artificial turf

He says he and his assistants come out on their own time to cut the grass closer and they also line the fields themselves.

Of those four schools, though, Pleasant Grove has done relatively well traveling two miles to the north and playing home football games at Sheldon High School.
Since turf was installed at Sheldon/Pleasant Grove Community Stadium, the Eagles were an EGUSD-best 31-3 at home from 2009 through 2013 under coach Joe Cattolico. They have dropped to a 3-6 since Cattolico’s departure.

Cattolico says despite his team’s excellent home record, not having the football stadium on campus or an artificial turf facility on which to practice on site was still a challenge.

“It’s difficult to practice on a different surface than one you play on,” Cattolico said. “Footballs, as we know, do interesting things. It’s different recovering fumbles and fielding kickoffs. Plus, it’s a different bounce on a turf field as opposed to a grass field. Significantly different.”

Cattolico likens it to a basketball team practicing on blacktop outside, then playing indoors on a wooden court.

“With grass you’re going to wear it down after 15 minutes on it,” he continued. “When it rains, you’re practicing on mud where with a turf field, it’s not near as bad.”

Morton says unless each high school gets the same or similar facilities as the other schools in the district, things won’t be getting better for the schools suffering on the gridiron.

“With open enrollment and you’re an incoming ninth grader are you going to play at a school that practices in a pasture, isn’t winning many games and doesn’t have a stadium?” he asked. “No, you’re going to a school that’s winning games and has a field.”

This issue isn’t just with football.

Lots Of Must Wins Tonight

As we get ready to kick off Week Nine of High School football, there are several must wins. Franklin and Pleasant Grove are the two clubs locally that find themselves in a position where a loss tonight might mean being left out of the post-season.

PG will be at Sheldon, a club that almost beat Grant last week, while the Wildcats face Elk Grove, the Delta League leader.

The Eagles and Wildcats are both 3-2 in the Delta, tied with Jesuit for third place. Four Delta League clubs are assured the playoffs which means a loss could sink any one of these three into fifth place with one week left.

In the Capital Valley Conference Cosumnes Oaks has a tough date with Whitney. This is basically a battle for that conference's third and final playoff spot.

Follow all the area football action here:

Live Blog Live coverage: Sacramento-area prep football Week 9

Monday, October 26, 2015

Knox, Cervellin and Curtis Qualify For Masters Golf

Three Elk Grove-area golfers will compete next Monday at the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Girls Masters Championship.

Elk Grove sophomore Jillian Knox fired an 83 at Silverado Country Club in Napa Monday while Franklin’s Courtney Cervellin, a freshman, shot an 86 at the Section’s Division I-North Championship.

Franklin's Courtney Cervellin
Allison Curtis of Pleasant Grove will also advance on the strength of her 86 on Monday. She played with her entire team in Napa, but the Eagles finished with a 491 team total, which was in fifth place in the team standings. The top four teams will advance to the Masters.

Granite Bay won the team title with a score of 415. Oak Ridge was second with a 423, third was Rocklin at 449 and fourth was St. Francis with a 468.

The medalist was Davis’ Marie Dean who fired an 81. Knox was third, Cervellin fourth and Curtis, fifth.

They finished in the top six in the individual standings so they play next Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park, site of the Section Masters.

Other locals who played Monday at Silverado were Ashley Cho of Franklin (91), Arriana Custodio of Elk Grove (92), Riley Krum of Elk Grove (109) and Angelina Reyes of Sheldon (117).

None of the EGUSD golfers competing at the Division II championships at Teal Bend Golf Club Monday advanced to Masters.

Cosumnes Oaks golfers were Kaylene Lui, who fired a 95, and Mega Mawson, who shot a 102.

Laguna Creek golfers were Katie Dunn (108), Sarah Foulk (110) and Sophie Ross (148).

McClatchy and Roseville were one and two in the team standings at the Division II match. Antelope’s Katie Harris and the Lion’s Katie Low tied for medalist honors with a 76.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Girls' Golf Hits Divisional Rounds Monday

The top local high school female golfers will hit area links early Monday in the Sac-Joaquin Section's Divisional rounds.

The entire Pleasant Grove team (Emily Avila, Kendall Doty, Allison Curtis, Ari Samuel, Lexi Martin and Brie Sheehy) will compete against the top three teams from the Delta League, the Sierra Foothill League and the Monticello Empire Conference for the right to advance to the Section Masters' championship on Nov. 2 at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.

Division I - North teams will play Monday at Silverado Country Club in Napa. The top four teams and best six individuals (not a member of one of those teams) will advance to the Masters.
All six Pleasant Grove golfers will compete Monday 

Davis and league champion St. Francis will bring their entire squads to Napa. Granite Bay is said to be the team favorite despite a strong club this year at St. Francis.

Area individuals competing Monday in Napa are Courtney Cervellin and Ashley Cho of Franklin, Arriana Custodio, Riley Krum and Jillian Knox of Elk Grove and Angelina Reyes of Sheldon.

The top six individuals at Silverado will also advance to the Masters.

Division II golfers will play Monday at Teal Bend Golf Club. Competing there will be Kaylene Lui and Megan Mawson of Cosumnes Oaks and Sofia Ross, Katie Dunn and Sarah Foulk of Laguna Creek.

The top two teams from Division II and the top three individuals will advance to the Masters.

Friday, October 23, 2015

C.Oaks Takes It Out On Bella Vista, EG Goes To 8-0

 Week Eight Scores:

Cosumnes Oaks 70, Bella Vista 8
Elk Grove 31, Monterey Trail 20
Kennedy 28, Laguna Creek 6
Pleasant Grove 34, Davis 29
Valley 24, McClatchy 14
Grant 21, Sheldon 20
Burbank 75,  Florin 0
Saturday: Jesuit 27, Franklin 20

There is an old football joke that a team was beaten so badly in a game that they should have never gotten off the bus.

Bella Vista was that team Friday night. Cosumnes Oaks, stinging from back-to-back Capital Valley Conference losses the previous pair of games, took their frustrations out on the Broncos to end their losing streak, 70-8.

“I knew we’d have some success against (Bella Vista),” head coach Derick Milgrim said. “We needed this game to get our offense going and back on track.”

Last week his Wolfpack lost a 42-41 overtime heartbreakers to conference leader Antelope, Cosumnes Oaks’ second loss in a row.

The evening was Christian McFarland’s. He became a threat to go the distance each time he touched the ball. He did that exact thing twice in the first half when Cosumnes Oaks totaled 56 points.
Christian McFarland on his way to a 55-yard catch-and-run in the 2nd quarter

“I knew we would come out hard after those two losses,” he said. “I knew we would destroy the next team in front of us. Every time I touched the ball I knew I needed to make a big play.”

McFarland scored from a yard out near the end of the first quarter to make it 21-0, Wolfpack. His thrilling 51-yard punt return to the Bronco four -yard line led to Jarrod Green’s TD run on the next play.

On Cosumnes Oaks’ next possession, McFarland grabbed a swing pass from  quarterback Maurice Hayden, Jr., fooled a couple Bella Vista defenders with a terrific move, then cut across the field and scored on a stellar 55-yard catch-and run to bring the score to 49-0, Wolfpack.

“I kinda set him up for it,” McFarland described an impressive move on a Bronco defensive back during the run. “ I slowed down and then when I was ready, I made my move.”

Dante Davis scored on runs of one and 50 yards and was on the receiving end of a Hayden pass for a 25-yard score just 4.3 seconds before halftime. Hayden also had a third TD pass, a 59-yard connection with Hunter Lunsford.

“I felt like anytime (McFarland) would touch it , he would go,” Milgrim said. “I felt like anytime Dante Davis touched it, he would go. And we had a few other kids who when they touched it, I felt like they could go and they almost did.”

And, the Wolfpack defense made a statement not allowing Bella Vista across the 50-yard line until the Broncos scored their lone touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Follow Week Eight Football HERE

I'll be at Cosumnes Oaks for the Wolfpack vs. Bella Vista. If you want to follow all the rest of the local football action Friday do so here:

Live Blog Live coverage: Sacramento-area high school football coverage, week 8

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cox Retires From Pro Soccer

Stephanie Lopez-Cox has announced her retirement from professional soccer, according to her former coach at Elk Grove High School, Seth Boyle.

Boyle says Cox is expecting her second child soon and has told her current professional club, Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League, she is hanging it up.

“She was such an excellent role model to my children and to so many,” Boyle said of Cox. Boyle is now the athletic director at EGHS. 
Stephanie Cox, playing with her daughter prior to a Seattle Reign game recently

Cox will become the coach of the Gig Harbor High School’s girls team in Washington.

"On the field, [Cox] is by far the best left back that I have ever worked with and had the privilege of watching play," coach Laura Harvey said in a Reign FC press release. "A lot of the credit for how successful the team has been over these last two seasons comes down to her."

Since graduating from Elk Grove in 2003, Cox has been a part of two U.S. World Cup women’s soccer teams and one U.S. Olympic squad. She was a part of the Gold Medal-winning team in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

She has played professionally with clubs in Los Angeles and Boston, along with two different teams based in Seattle.

While attending the University of Portland, Cox helped lead the Pilots to the NCAA Championships in 2005. It was while at Portland she met her husband, Brian. They also have a girl.

Watch her teammates tribute to her:

St. Francis, Dean Win Delta Golf Honors

With 15-year-olds Marie Dean, Courtney Cervellin and Jillian Knox leading the way, high school golf in the Delta League was certainly an exhibition of excellent young talent on the links this fall.

In an age of video games and reality television occupying much of a teenagers’ mind and time, Dean, a sophomore at Davis High School, Cervellin, a freshman at Franklin, and Knox, a sophomore at Elk Grove, became vivid examples that days spent outdoors crafting a golf game - as opposed to staring at a cellphone or a televison - can be richly rewarding.

Dean wrapped up the league’s Most Valuable Player honors Monday by firing a three-over-par 75 at Haggin Oaks’ Arcade Creek Golf Course in the third and final Delta League center match. Her efforts helped put her school’s team into next Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I North championships at Napa’s Silverado Country Club. Also, qualifying for the divisionals were St. Francis, who wrapped up the Delta’s team championship Monday, and Pleasant Grove.

All six Troubies shot in the 80’s Monday and had a team total of 411. Pleasant Grove was second with 448 while Elk Grove was third with a team total of 472.

Because of points gathered over all three Delta League matches this fall, Davis qualified as the third and final team for the divisionals just narrowing out Elk Grove.

Davis’ Dean looked the role as a veteran on the links despite the fact she’s been playing golf for just two years. 

“I just love to practice,” she smiled. “I started playing in the Bay Area. Now, I practice every day.”

 All-Delta League Girls’ Golf Team – 2015

Marie Dean (Davis ) – Most Valuable Golfer Award
Courtney Cervellin (Franklin)
Jillian Knox (Elk Grove)
Madison Green (Davis)
Kate Swanson (St. Francis)
Olivia Alcora (St. Francis)
Ashley Cho (Franklin)
Emily Avila (Pleasant Grove)
Arriana Custodio (Elk Grove)
Patricia Sweeney (St. Francis)

Team champions – St. Francis

It showed in Monday’s 18-hole contest with her very long drives and accurate irons. She outdistanced easily St. Francis’ top two golfers Kate Swanson and Mikia Fang, who both fashioned an 80.

Elk Grove’s Knox and St. Francis’ Olivia Alcora both fired an 82.

Cervellin was in sixth place at Arcade Creek with an 84. She admitted afterwards her short game could use some work.

“I did okay, it was a rough day, didn’t sink too many putts, but still grinded through the round,” she said. 

See Photos of Delta League Center Match #3 on the EG SportsCorner Facebook site

She said the bumpy greens at Arcade Creek gave her some issues.

“I hit a long ball, but I need to work around the greens,” Cervellin said.
Courtney Cervellin, on Arcade Creek's 18th fairway

The top six individuals not on one of the three Delta League qualifiers also will advance to next week’s 18-hole tournament. Cervellin tops that list along with teammate Ashley Cho, Knox, Arriana Custodio and Riley Krum from Elk Grove, and Angelina Reyes of Sheldon. Franklin’s Lauren Lopes will be an alternate.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Laguna Bounces Back With Win at Florin

Week Seven Scores:

Laguna Creek 49, Florin 6
Elk Grove 63, Pleasant Grove 13
Bradshaw 34, Golden Sierra 6
Jesuit 36, Sheldon 0 
Grant 21, Monterey Trail 6
Antelope 42, Cosumnes Oaks 41
Franklin 60, Davis 21
Sacramento 67, Valley 0
Burbank 69, McClatchy 0

Friday’s Laguna Creek/Florin High School football was a game of contrasting coaching styles.

On the visiting sidelines at Mark Macres Memorial Stadium was fiery veteran coach Dave Morton of Laguna Creek whose bombastic style has been his trademark especially since his return to the Cardinal sidelines a couple years back.

Morton isn’t afraid to let a player here his displeasure with their performance, or lack thereof. He even will give an assistant coach an earful if they make a poor decision.  He’s cut from the traditional mold of what most folks think a football coach is made from.

On the home sidelines is William Burandt of Florin, a first-year head coach, who picks words of encouragement whenever he can in a mellower, quieter manner. Though his disability has put him in a motorized wheelchair, Burandt is wheeling up and down the sidelines constantly, making quick spins to say something to someone, rolls back to the line of scrimmage, observant of everything going on.
William Burandt watches his Florin team's offense line up

“Come on, you’re looking good, keep going,” he says more than once during Friday’s loss.

His undermanned Panthers got behind too early this night, trailed 35-6 at halftime before losing to Laguna Creek, 49-6. Yet, Burandt was constantly reaching up for high-fives, calling his players by name. His final words to his players Friday before sending them home summarized the attitude with which he is coaching a program that was 1-9 and reeling badly last season:

“Remember, a bad day on a football field is better than most places elsewhere in life,” he tells his Panthers.

Meanwhile, the colorful Morton watched his team play perhaps its best game of the season to date to move its record to 3-4, 2-2 in the Metro Conference. His team scored 21 points in the opening quarter to quickly grab command of the game.

We had plans both offensively and defensively to get on them quick and we did,” Morton said. “On our opening drive we scripted our first three plays and the third one was a touchdown.”

Laguna Creek's Dave Morton (center)
The win comes on the heels of back-to-back one-sided losses to the Metro’s two frontrunners in Sacramento and Burbank. In both games, the Cardinals gave up more than 60 points to their opponent. It felt good that Morton’s squad could return the favor to a league foe on Friday.

The Cardinals have three games left, at Kennedy this Friday, then home games with McClatchy and Johnson. If Laguna Creek wins all three, they’ll end up with six wins and, very likely, find themselves in the playoffs for the first time in six years. But, Morton dismissed that idea quickly.

“That’s a great thought,” he said. “I’d rather be good than lucky. But, I want my team to progress – on the sidelines, in practice and in their lives. That’s the idea. We win, great. If we don’t and we play hard, it’s not great, but we played hard. Playoffs, I don’t know that stuff. I know next week we have Kennedy and that’s a big one.”

AT 2-5 currently, 1-3 in the Metro, Burandt’s squad won’t go the playoffs, even if they win their next three games, at Burbank, at Kennedy and at home versus Valley. Yet, Burandt is already calling his first season as a head coach a success.

“They’ve already won more games than they did all last year,” Burandt said. “Got to remind them of that. I feel like we’re going in the right direction. The guys for the most part have bought into what we’re selling, come to practice, work hard every week and I feel like we’ve improved.

And, he believes he’s beginning to build something positive over the long haul in the football office at Florin.

“We’re playing better now than at the beginning of the year which is an indication they have bought into what we’re doing,” Burandt said. “Tonight was not a great example of that, but I think we did compete hard.”
Thomas Bible scores Laguna Creek's final TD of the night Friday

Morton paid his counterpart a compliment for the way his kids played Friday.

“That’s a small team number-wise, but I tell you those kids play their butts off, “ Morton observed. “It was clean. It was a good football game. My hats off to them.”

Yet, Burandt knows there’s more work ahead for him and his Panther staff.

“We have lots of good football players on this team,” he said. “We are resilent. They are staying together, not sniping at each other, which we were doing early in the season. We’re growing closer to each other.”