State No. 15 ranked Pacers beat No. 18 Elk Grove 26-19 and will become a solid No. 2 in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section behind No. 1 Folsom.
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As Elk Grove’s football team was having a nightmarish first half in its Friday night showdown with Grant of Sacramento that matched two teams in the Cal-Hi Sports State 25, senior Trevor Reinwald did his best impersonation of the San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence with an impromptu speech designed to fire up his teammates.
At the time, midway through the second quarter, Elk Grove had fallen into a 16-0 hole against the Pacers and an ambulance was on the field tending to Thundering Herd senior Julian Brown with an apparent broken leg. At least it sure looked like a broken leg according to photographers who had pictures of the play.
Pence did a speech in the Giants’ locker room after they clinched a spot in the National League wild card game that went viral due to some of the F-bombs that were frequent and loud.
As Elk Grove players were kneeling to show support for Brown, Reinwald (a 6-foot-3, 215-pound starting junior in the offensive line) did his own F-bomb laced rant that was easily heard by anyone standing close by. Whether it was the speech or an attempt to show support for Brown by coming back, the Herd did come back.
Unfortunately, the hole that was dug against a very good Pacers’ squad was too much. Although Grant could only add a field goal in the second half, the Pacers hung on to a 26-19 win over Elk Grove.
With the win, Grant improved to 5-0 and could move up a spot or two from No. 15 in next week’s overall state rankings. Elk Grove (4-1) suffered its first loss and will drop from No. 18. Grant also will most surely move up to No. 2 in the Sacramento Bee’s rankings, which had Elk Grove at No. 2 and Grant at No. 3 coming into the night.
From the statewide perspective, Grant and Elk Grove also were seen heading into the contest to be the best bets for a team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section to emerge as a possible contender to No. 1 Folsom, which continued to roll on Friday with a 42-7 win over Del Oro of Loomis.
At least for the first half anyway, Grant showed it might have the pieces to be an extremely effective ball control team with either junior Deshawn Collins or junior Mike Green running the ball behind a mammoth offensive line.
That line, led by 6-foot-6, 300-pound senior Darrin Paulo (multiple D1 college offers) and 6-foot-4, 330-pound junior Sione Tupou (also will get multiple D1 offers) and including 6-foot-4, 308-pound sophomore Orlando Umana, helped Collins rush for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Green added 80 yards on 16 carries.
“The juniors did a great job running the ball tonight, but you also have to credit Elk Grove,” said Grant head coach Mike Alberghini. “They had a lot of good reasons to get down but they stayed with it. We had good reasons to get down in the second half but our kids stayed with it.”
Grant scored on its first series on a four-yard run by Collins and then set itself up for another quick score by blocking Elk Grove’s first punt. That TD came on a seven-yard pass from senior QB Donovan Brown to senior FB Dorrzel Hicks.
It then didn’t take long for the Pacers to extend their lead to 16-0 on a 32-yard field goal by Ruben Garza. That score was set up on by an interception of Elk Grove QB Tyler Vander Waal by Chris Atteberry.
Following Brown’s injury, Grant continued to add to its lead later in the second quarter on a 26-yard TD run by Collins.
It wasn’t until the Herd got the ball back following a missed field by Garza just before the end of the second quarter that the comeback began.
Vander Waal, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with a strong arm who unofficially finished 20 of 39 for 247 yards and two TDs, moved Elk Grove into the red zone on four completions. He then connected with Ryan Robards for a five-yard TD pass with just 17 seconds left in the half. Robards then kicked the extra point and on the ensuing kickoff ran down the field after booting the ball and recovered a pooch kick to give the ball right back to Elk Grove. The Herd couldn’t cut further into the lead, however, due to a 39-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by Atteberry.
In the second half, Grant had two chances to push its lead to 30-7 but both ended in fumbles. After the second fumble, Elk Grove drove 80 yards in 10 plays for its second TD of the game on a six-yard pass from Vander Waal to Kyle Van Lindt.
In the fourth quarter, the Pacers looked poised to once again take a more than two score lead but had settle for a 27-yard field by Garza with 6:32 remaining.
Elk Grove then gave itself a chance for what would have been an amazing win by scoring on a one-yard plunge with four minutes left by Sai Ta’amu. The Herd couldn’t get a two-point conversion, however, so the score remained 26-19.
Any realistic hope of a comeback for Elk Grove also was thwarted when the Pacers nearly killed the entire clock on their final series. Although the Herd eventually got the ball back and down by seven after a missed field goal, by that time they had used all of their timeouts and only had 32.5 seconds left. A final desperation Hail Mary pass into the Grant end zone was intercepted by Grant’s Ezell Grant.
“We did everything we could to hurt ourselves in that second half,” Alberghini said. “Still, we took a step closer tonight to being a good team. We’re still fighting to find our identity. We look so good at times and so unproductive at other times.”