Early season start not hindering local grid teams

By: Mike Ray
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You know it’s 2018 when the calendar has just flipped to September and most area high school football teams already have three games under their belts.


Believe it. And putting just how fast the new early-start prep grid season has jumped out on everyone involved into better perspective, get this: Del Oro is one week away from playing at Granite Bay in the Sierra Foothill League opener.

For Placer, Del Oro, Bear River and Colfax, the early start to the 2018 campaign hasn’t been anything too troubling. The group of four Foothills-area teams are a combined 11-0 and have teamed to outscore their opponents by an aggregate score of 498-153.

On the average, through three weeks, the margins of victory for the four squads are as follows: Bear River (50-3),  Del Oro (53-15), Placer (53-29) and Colfax (34-3).

Also, let’s not forget Foresthill.

Coach Steve Collier’s Wildfires are 2-1 with both wins coming on the road. It’s the first time that the Wildfires have won two games on the road since Jim Herlehy’s 2012 team – considered by many to be the best team in Foresthill annals – went 10-2.

Here’s how this weekend’s ’matchups shape up:


Vista del Lago (1-2) at Placer (3-0), 7:30 p.m.


The Eagles and Hillmen are 2-2 in their all-time series and have had a knack for putting up big-time points against each other. Vista’s two wins in the series included victories of  62-51 in 2014 and 56-14 in 2016. On the other side of the ledger, Placer was victorious 42-39 in 2015 and last season, 43-28.

While the Hillmen have flourished so far this season, things haven’t been the same for Vista, which has been a perennial playoff-level program. The Eagles are just 1-2 on the season with the lone win coming over winless Cordova. Two weeks ago, Vista shut down its JV program and moved the players to the varsity.

“We had about 21 healthy bodies, and a lot of those guys were two-way guys and we just felt that’s not a safe way to go about it,” Vista coach Mike Struebing told the Folsom Telegraph. “We had 17 JV guys suit up for Cordova, and if we pulled eight guys up from the JV team to fill the varsity roster, that would leave them with nine. We thought it was in best interest to disband the JVs.”

Despite being a bit shorthanded this season, as usual, Vista still has a potent air attack with quarterback Grant Patterson at the helm. Last season, Patterson went 12-for-20 for 245 yards and two scores against the Hillmen.


Colfax (2-0) at Colusa (2-0), 7:30 p.m.  


In this intersectional matchup of old Pioneer League foes, the Falcons will be trying to do something they haven’t done in 52 years – beat Colusa on the football field. This will mark the first time Colfax and Colusa have played since 1975, with Colusa leading the all-time series, 8-3-1. Colfax’s last win came when the Falcons outscored the then-named Redskins, 33-32, at the old Colusa County Fairgrounds’ field in 1966.

Now known politically correct as the Redhawks, Colusa opened the season with a 28-0 win at Clear Lake before coming home and routing Trinity, 60-0, last Friday. Thus far this season, Colusa has had 12 different runners pack the ball. Senior quarterback Connor Saso is a pass-run threat for the Redhawks.

“They run double tight ends with two backs,” said Colfax coach Tony Martello. “They’re going to try and knock us off the ball.”


Sacramento (0-3)  at Del Oro (3-0), 7 p.m.


Coming into the season the Sacramento-Del Oro game looked like a possible Division II playoff preview. But the Dragons’ 0-3 start has taken a little luster off the Golden Eagles’ second home game of the season.

“They lost their first two games by a total of three points,” said Del Oro coach Jeff Walters. “Other than the Inderkum game, they’ve played well. They’re very athletic.”

For Del Oro, it will be the final tune-up before the Golden Eagles open SFL play on Sept. 14 at Granite Bay.


Bear River (3-0) at Liberty Ranch (1-2), 7:30 p.m.


Some Bruins have their sights set on a huge Pioneer Valley League opening-night game Sept. 28 against Center, but co-coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie aren’t having anything of it.

“We have a long way to go until then,” said Savoie. “We’re just taking games one at a time. We’re off to a good start, but we aren’t looking ahead.”

Last week’s expected showdown with defending 2A Nevada state champion Pershing County in Lovelock never materialized in a 49-0 Bear River win against a shorthanded Mustangs squad.

“They had some guys out,” said Savoie. “We heard from as many as three to five. But I thought we still did an all-around good job.”

If  Bear River is looking for a comparative tally with Center, the Cougars defeated Liberty Ranch, 56-21, two weeks ago.


Foresthill (2-1) at Vacaville Christian (2-1), 7 p.m.


Speaking of comparative scores, both the Wildfires (36-24) and Vacaville Christian (39-0) have wins over Turlock Christian.

The Falcons, who are playing football for the first time since 2015, are led by running back Tamari Williams (478 yards, seven TDs) and freshman quarterback Malakai Martinez.