The Saturday afternoon contest at Jesuit becomes more significant due to Friday results in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section that push the Pacers from the Division I section playoffs into Division II. The big win, though, shows that a possible future matchup with No. 3 Folsom could be in the cards.
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In watching the Grant of Sacramento football team earlier in the season at Elk Grove, the Pacers resembled a statewide elite team in the first half but had to hold on in the second half for a 27-21 triumph.On Saturday at Jesuit of Carmichael, which entered the day at 8-1 with its only loss to state No. 2 De La Salle of Concord, the Pacers displayed all their strengths for a complete game and rolled over the Marauders 52-14.
Grant improved to 10-0 and later in the day earned the top seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. That is not the same division where state No. 3 Folsom resides and the Pacers frankly would rather play the Bulldogs sooner than perhaps later, but being D1 or D2 for the section playoffs was not in their hands.
That was based on the section’s format of breaking teams into divisions based on enrollment and on Friday night there were just too many schools with higher enrollments that clinched playoff berths, especially Turlock with an upset win over Pitman of Turlock. Grant therefore was placed on Saturday in the Division II section bracket.
“If we had our druthers, we’d prefer to be D1,” said Grant head coach Mike Alberghini. “ But if today proved anything is that we can go out and compete with anybody.”
Indeed. Alberghini himself told his team after the win that the only team to “take apart” the Marauders quite like 52-14 was De La Salle, which beat them 63-0 in the first game. Among Jesuit’s wins since then was a 41-38 triumph over Elk Grove at Levi’s Stadium.
“Wherever we are going to play, we’re going to be excited to be there,” Alberghini said. “Against most teams in our league, Jesuit had to have a big size advantage, but against us we had the advantage.”
Grant actually would have that kind of advantage against 95 percent of the top teams in California and while there are teams believe it or not who are bigger up front than even Grant (example: Milpitas) the difference is that the Pacers’ linemen get down the field for their blocks and have superior footwork and athleticism for their size.
With 6-foot-6, 300-pound senior Darrin Paulo, 6-foot-4, 330-pound junior Soape Tupou and 6-foot-4, 308-pound sophomore Orlando Umana leading the way, junior running back DeShawn Collins had a banner day dipping in and out of major holes in the Jesuit defense.
Collins carried five straight times for 75 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, on Grant’s first series and never slowed down. He had a three-yard TD run on the second series, then a 42-yard weave down the visiting team sidelines to make 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
“This was about preparation and we worked hard all week,” said Collins, who finished with 28 carries for 252 yards and four touchdowns. “It’s great running behind this line. I just kind of hide behind them and just pop out where I need to go.”
Senior quarterback Donovan Brown got high marks from Alberghini as well for completing all of his passes except one that wasn’t an intentional spike to stop the clock. Brown had a 62-yard TD pass to Xavier Cox just before halftime, then got the Pacers downfield in time for a 36-yard field goal by Ruben Garza. At that point, it was 38-7.
“When he makes great decisions out there like he did today, we become very hard to beat,” Alberghini said of Brown, who passed for 126 yards.
Jesuit, which still earned the No. 2 seed in the D1 section bracket behind Folsom despite the loss, showed some life in the second quarter after junior Beau Bisharat scored on a 26-yard touchdown. But the Pacers converted on a couple of third plays on the following drive and the dominance continued. Jesuit’s only other TD came on the last play of the game on a one-yard sneak by senior QB Cole Brownholtz.
Mike Green, another talented junior running back for the Pacers, also had a solid game with touchdown runs of 11 and six yards.
Grant going to the D2 bracket of the SJS playoffs could eventually put the CIF section commissioners in a very uncomfortable position. If the Pacers were to win that section title – no guarantee with defending champion Del Oro of Loomis getting better each week – and then go onto the bowl selection board at 14-0, there could be another unbeaten team (possibly Milpitas) on the board as well in a vote to see which of the two plays Folsom in the NorCal D1 bowl game. Grant would appear to have the edge if such a vote were to take place, but it’s a long way to go before diving into the details of that.