Saturday, July 21, 2018

What? Summer's Over? It is for Prep Football

Hard to believe Monday, July 23 will mark the end of summer for some high school students, coaches and administrators. Because of a decision by CIF to avoid pushing its 13 State Bowl games into Christmas vacation, the entire prep football season has been moved up a week. That means the first games will be played this season on Friday, Aug. 17 and the initial opening practice sessions start this Monday.

"We will have half our season played before the end of summer," Sheldon third-year head coach Joe Cattolico laughed.

He's right. Week Six games are scheduled for Sept. 21, two days prior to the autumnal equinox - the first day of fall in 2018.
Joe Cattolico begins his third season at Sheldon on Monday
with the first day of football practice

The Huskies' head mentor appears to be ready, though. His veteran coaching staff will once again include his father, Butch, along with others who together have brought the word "winning" and "playoffs" to Sheldon from the day they arrived in 2016. In those two seasons since, the Huskies finished second in the Delta League and both years made it as far as the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division I playoffs. Last year, they dropped a close 31-28 decision to St. Mary's. The year before that the Huskies were knocked off 41-14 at Folsom.

Cattolico, once again, thinks his team will compete at or near the top of the Delta.

"It's hard to say how good we'll be until we get to pads," he said Saturday. "Like most teams we'll be about 50-50 returning starters to new kids coming in. But, those new kids are pretty good football players."

The Huskies' offense will be led by talented running back Tyrell Smith (5-11, 170) and quarterback Francisco Salinas (5-9, 160). There's also plenty of size up front with guys such as juniors Reggie Brooks (6-2, 310) and Elijah Taulani (6-1, 295) along with seniors Nick Garcia (6-1, 297) and Ben Sutherland (6-2, 300).

The level of football at Sheldon grew a notch when Cattolico brought his reign of success in high school coaching from Pleasant Grove, and before that, in San Jose. Though the Huskies should be one of the teams to beat in the Delta this year, Cattolico knows Jesuit, the defending Delta League champion, will have the squad with plenty of talent, and thus, the team to beat once again.

"Jesuit, at least on paper, is in its own league with what they have coming back," Cattolico said. "They have perhaps the best five to six kids in the league."

Another factor that comes into consideration, especially over the past ten seasons with the rise of quality football programs through the Sierra Foothill League, led by Folsom, Del Oro and Oak Ridge, is depth. All the Elk Grove Unified teams during that span have been met with major opposition from those schools.

"I don't think (the SFL teams) have better players, necessarily," Cattolico said. "I think they just have more good players."

The typical EGUSD football squad over the past few years have dressed about 35-45 guys. Look across to the other sideline and teams such as Folsom will be suiting up 60-plus players.

"If we have an injury to a key guy, we may be in trouble," Cattolico said.

The Huskies open with a scrimmage at Folsom on Aug. 11 so they will have a great idea exactly how good the defending state champions are - along with going through a great self-litmus test. The regular season opens Aug. 17 at Monterey Trail. The Mustangs are now in the Metro Conference with Cosumnes Oaks taking their spot in the Delta League.

Other league re-alignments this season will have Grant football competing in the SFL and the other Pacer sports playing in the Metro Conference. Valley and Florin have have left the Metro and joined Johnson, West Campus, Natomas and Cordova in the brand new Greater Sacramento League. The new Metro Conference includes Monterey Trail, Laguna Creek, Burbank, Kennedy, McClatchy and River City.

Cervellin replaces Sanchez at Franklin

Longtime area softball coach Ron Cervellin will take over for recently-departed coach Jill Sanchez at Franklin. Sanchez coached Wildcat softball for 15 seasons and her 2006 team won the Section Division I championship.

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