With the high school football season underway, see how these three Sacramento area high school teams are gearing up for the competition. Joe Davidson The Sacramento Bee
With the high school football season underway, see how these three Sacramento area high school teams are gearing up for the competition. Joe Davidson The Sacramento Bee

Joe Davidson

A unique perspective on sports in the Sacramento region, from high schools to the pros

Joe Davidson

Traditional powers highlighted in next wave of The Bee’s prep football rankings

By Joe Davidson

jdavidson@sacbee.com

August 14, 2017 08:33 PM

UPDATED August 15, 2017 03:17 PM

Tradition, results and desire capture the mood of these five regional high school football programs as The Bee unveils the next installment of the preseason Top 20 rankings.

Elk Grove and Grant have combined to reach the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs 67 times, winning 11 section championships since 1991, sometimes going through each other with intensely physical contests to win a league or section title.

Grant has been steady with coach Mike Alberghini, seeking his 27th consecutive playoff berth. His current streak is already a section record.

Elk Grove has sustained power since the 1980s despite the opening of so many surrounding schools in the last 20 years, and with a changeover of coaches. Now it’s the dawn of the John Heffernan era as he takes over for Chris Nixon, a tremendous coach who kept the machine rolling in recent years.

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Inderkum, which opened in 2004, has 11 consecutive double-digit winning seasons under coach Terry Stark. Rocklin, opened in 1993, went 14-1 in 2009 with a CIF State Bowl team and remains formidable under coaches Greg Benzel and Jason Adams.

And there’s Capital Christian, which is fast shedding the small-school label with the addition of big-time coach Casey Taylor. He won six section championships, two Northern California banners and a CIF State crown at Del Oro, but he yearned for new challenges. He’ll get that chance at a school with 429 students, but enormous otherwise in potential.

And to test his young team, Taylor invited Grant for a visit on Sept. 8. That’s the ultimate program-defining contest for the Cougars, who could score perhaps the region’s greatest regular-season upset here.

• Breaking down The Bee’s 16-20: Christian Brothers, Whitney, Del Campo, Placer, Vista del Lago.

• Breaking down The Bee’s 11-15: Franklin, Sheldon, Sacramento, Antelope, Cosumnes Oaks.

See how we rank teams here with each playing one closely ranked in an opener or early in the season:

The Bee’s Top 20 countdown (Nos. 6-10)

6. Elk Grove (11-2 in 2016)

Coach: John Heffernan

League: Delta

Enrollment: 1,811

Division: II

School opened: 1893

Opener: Inderkum, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Thirty-one playoff teams since 1984 and five section titles in nine title-game appearances.

The skinny: Heffernan arrives after elevating Burbank into a playoff regular over 15 seasons, replacing the hugely successful Chris Nixon, who won 12 or more games four times in six seasons. Quarterback Jake Jordan and running backs Jaden Burns and Zion Thomas will run the triple-option, and tackle/linebacker George Spithorst is one of the most dominant players in the section.

Isaah Crocker of Inderkum is one of the fastest players in the section, and he has the recruiting interest of Alabama, among others.
Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com

7. Inderkum (11-3 in 2016)

Coach: Terry Stark

League: Tri-County

Enrollment: 1,984

Division: II

School opened: 2004

Opener: Elk Grove, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Eleven consecutive double-digit winning seasons, nine league championships and three section-title game appearances.

The skinny: Stark has built a powerhouse on the foundation of speed, effort and quite a few college recruits, though a section title has eluded the Tigers. Division I recruits include receiver Isaah Crocker, running back Hamilton Grigsby and linebacker Leevi Lafaele.

The Grant Pacers are a jovial lot before games, and then they turn it up a notch. They seek their 27th consecutive playoff appearance.
Andrew Seng aseng@sacbee.com

8. Grant (8-4 in 2016)

Coach: Mike Alberghini

League: Delta

Enrollment: 1,921

Division: I

School opened: 1932

Opener: Rocklin, Aug. 25

Pedigree: A Sac-Joaquin Section record 26 consecutive playoff appearances, seven section and 16 league titles since 1991 under Alberghini.

The skinny: The Pacers are forever big, fast and skilled. The lines are strong with 6-foot-2, 300-plus pounders Niti Liu (committed to UCLA), Oscar Umana and Daryell Abraham. Nate Thomas takes over at quarterback.

The Rocklin Thunder seek their eighth playoff berth since 2009 under coach Greg Benzel.
Brian Baer Special to The Bee

9. Rocklin (4-6 in 2016)

Coach: Greg Benzel

League: Sierra Foothill

Enrollment: 1,921

Division: I

School opened: 1993

Opener: Grant. Aug. 25

Pedigree: Seven playoff teams since 2009, including a 14-1 CIF State Bowl team in 2009.

The skinny: The Thunder return 11 starters to a team that suffered a lot of close losses, with scoring often an issue. Cade Wyant returns after passing for 1,081 yards in seven games, as does leading tackler linebacker Blayden Brown (126 stops) and two-way linemen Tyler Geide and Preston Manley.

Casey Taylor led a championship program at Del Oro and expects to elevate Capital Christian into a Northern California powerhouse.
Brian Baer Special to The Bee

10. Capital Christian (11-3 in 2016)

Coach: Casey Taylor

League: Golden Empire

Enrollment: 429

Division: V

School opened: 1977

Opener: Service-Alaska, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Eight playoff berths since 2007 with five league and three section championships under coaches Karl Zierhut, Ron Gerringer and Phil Grams.

The skinny: The hiring of coach Taylor from Del Oro, where he won six section championships and had four CIF State bowl teams, is proof that the Cougars want to rise from small-school power to any-sized-school power. A Sept. 8 game against Grant will be telling as Capital Christian will be realigned into a Division III league next season. D’Marcus Ross and Christian Simmons are being recruited to play running back or linebackers. Defensive back Maurice Gaines and lineman Evan Bennett, one-time Folsom starters, are also big recruits.

Coming Tuesday: The top five

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD, JoeDavidsonMedia on Instragram, sacbeepreps on Facebook.