Private schools do not rule the football roost in the Sacramento region, and a hearty amen and thank goodness to that.
Public schools tend to make things fun and unpredictable, collectively determined to prevent private schools from taking over. In other parts of the state, private schools overwhelmingly dominate the sporting landscape, making playoff brackets entirely too predictable.
In Southern California, private heavies such as Mater Dei of Santa Ana and St. John Bosco of Bellflower devour all comers as elite-level national programs. These are not homegrown rosters with kids from the neighborhood. They’re often rosters chock full of transfers.
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In the Bay Area, the West Catholic Athletic League entries thunder to championships at various levels with Bellarmine of San Jose, Saint Francis of Mountain View, Serra of San Mateo and Valley Christian of San Jose while public schools often scramble to compete for a piece of the action.
And there’s De La Salle, the renowned juggernaut from Concord that continues to cast a considerable shadow. Since 1982, the Spartans have produced 21 unbeaten seasons with 26 consecutive North Coast Section championships and 30 overall and a record 11 consecutive CIF State Bowl appearances. In other words, each year there has been a CIF state final, De La Salle has been a headliner. The Spartans have gone a numbing 440-23-3 in that stretch, including a 288-game unbeaten streak against Northern California competition. Not much joy for anyone but the Spartans over that time.
All of this pedigree is impressive, and in the case of De La Salle, quite admirable, even through the nonstop rumblings of how private schools have unfair advantages.
The majority of state programs are public schools, so that alone eliminates any realistic shot of having separate postseason tournaments for private and public. In the Sac-Joaquin Section, 78 teams made the playoffs over seven divisions, and three of those are in D-VII.
Folsom fuel – Public programs have stood tall in this region decades, as evidenced by what Folsom has done. The Bulldogs are in a Sac-Joaquin Section championship game for a record eighth consecutive season, more than Central Catholic of Modesto, which has won more banners than anyone (19), though all in the smaller-school ranks.
Not that a public-vs.-private affair cannot resonate and rev things up a bit. We’ll have that vibe again in the D-I final when Folsom meets St. Mary’s of Stockton on Saturday at Sacramento State, a year after the Rams derailed the Bulldogs’ quest for a fifth consecutive title. Folsom beat Jesuit 27-14 in one semifinal and St. Mary’s downed Oak Ridge 38-31 in the other.
As for the concept of Folsom taking on De La Salle? Didn’t work. The CIF experimented with a NorCal Open final in pitting the teams against each other in 2012 and 2013, and Folsom had 14-0 seasons squashed like a boot to a bug.
Public staying power – The southern part of the section has long been dominated by St. Mary’s, Central Catholic and Modesto Christian, though old-school public programs such as Escalon have basked in many a championship moment.
And just when it appeared that Central Catholic was about to muscle its way into the D-II final to face Granite Bay, Del Oro flexed some familiar muscle. The two-time defending champion Golden Eagles beat the favored Raiders 23-12 in a semifinal behind Johnny Guzman’s 99-yard kickoff return for a score and a 97-yard touchdown reception on Carson Jarratt’s pass to set up an All-Sierra Foothill League championship on Saturday at Sac State.
Del Oro seeks its 12th title since 1989 and eighth since 2008 in a remarkable show of staying power under different coaches (Bob Christiansen and John Fletcher to Larry Wyatt to Casey Taylor to Jeff Walters now). Granite Bay seeks its sixth title since 2001, and Del Oro and Granite Bay this decade have combined to reach five CIF finals, each winning a title, and each knocking out Bay Area private programs along the way.
Knocking down perceptions – Christian Brothers and Jesuit had stretches of sheer dominance but neither has been able to sustain it.
Jesuit has won two section D-I titles, the last in 2002. Christian Brothers last season reached a section final for the first time in 30 years. The Falcons won section D-I banners in 1981 and ’83. Christian Brothers lost to Manteca 43-38 in a D-III semifinal on Friday, setting up an all-public D-III finale against powerhouse Oakdale, a defending CIF State champion.
Capital Christian expected to repeat in D-V but was bounced out in an opener by Bear River, which played fellow public Colfax on Saturday for the title. Capital Christian will be realigned into a D-III league starting in the fall and will be lumped with Christian Brothers, Del Campo, Rio Americano, Sacramento and Vista del Lago with a nice blend of public and private.
The private schools have not dominated the regional landscape because the public schools simply won’t allow it. And any notion that a student must attend a private school to have a shot at a scholarship is completely absurd and false, no matter what boosters and parents suggest otherwise.
A player is a player, and the better the body size, skill set and transcripts, the better chance they have to play in college. Recruiters have long raved about how strong the public programs are in the Sacramento region.
And yes, private schools do add an allure with their collection of terrific coaches and athletes in a classic and endless, “Us against Them” mantra.