Elk Grove FB History Highlights

Junior Jake Bellecci and senior Jacob Cornelio whoop it up while standing on a bench after Elk Grove win last season over Grant of Sacramento. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Junior Jake Bellecci and senior Jacob Cornelio whoop it up while standing on a bench after Elk Grove win last season over Grant of Sacramento. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Last summer and into September we presented historical highlights from various high schools in the state that ordered our service in which we compile their all-time football scores. We’re back with those posts once again this summer and we’ll be doing them for the next several months. Up first is Elk Grove of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, which has been one of the top teams in Northern California since 1989.

Up next in this series: Merced. The Bears were State Team of the Year in 1989, but their history goes back to the 1920s. For more on the Cal-Hi Sports football archives project and how we can help your school, CLICK HERE. Note: One doesn’t have to be the football coach or AD to order this work. It can be presented to any school as a gift.


If you’re looking for a school in California with a football history that includes a little bit of everything, Elk Grove is a great one to research.

The Thundering Herd have been fantastic in the last five years with a combined record of 59-9 that is, in fact, the best five-year stretch the school has had since the first reported result from 1926.

The main reason Elk Grove’s recent success isn’t more well known is simply that another school in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section – Folsom – has been even more fantastic. Last year’s team at Elk Grove was 13-0 heading into the SJS Division I final vs. Folsom, which also was 13-0, and it was the Bulldogs who prevailed 35-27.

Elk Grove head coach Chris Nixon has had five straight 10-win seasons. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Head coach Chris Nixon has had five straight 10-win seasons. Photo: Mark Tennis.

That first reported result from 1926 also is historical in Elk Grove history for another reason. That team’s 56-0 loss in that game to Christian Brothers of Sacramento still ranks as the most lopsided loss in school history.

According to the Elk Grove football card files that we at Cal-Hi Sports are using to give the school its all-time archive, the only loss in school history that comes close to that 56-0 one to Christian Brothers is a 61-7 win by Grant of Sacramento from the 2010 season.

Elk Grove football, of course, has had many more wins similar to 56-0 or 61-7 in its many years. A lot of those wins also happened to come in the same season, 1998, when the Thundering Herd not only went 14-0 but did it in a manner that caused some long-time observers from the SJS to say it was the best team they’d ever seen (alongside Cordova of Rancho Cordova 1975) until two years ago when Folsom went 16-0.

Elk Grove’s 1998 team, which was guided by co-head coaches Ed Lombardi and Dave Hoskins, scored 789 points. The stars of that team were future NFL linebacker Lance Briggs and future Canadian Football League quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie and it was already known it was a special squad after section playoff wins against Grant of Sacramento (39-8) and Jesuit of Carmichael (41-7).

In the 1998 team’s final game, however, it still was hard to believe when the Herd crushed Atwater 77-22 in the section championship. Briggs scored six touchdowns as a running back. We had always wondered if those 77 points was actually their school record. The card files revealed that it tied the record first set in 1989 and it was later tied again in 2011.

Elk Grove’s early years and even continuing in the 1960s and 1970s were actually not very successful. It wasn’t until the middle of the 1980s, in fact, until Elk Grove even got above .500 for its all-time win-loss record.

The school’s worst season and one that actually might be state record-setting came in 1967. In that season, Elk Grove was in a league alignment in which it played five opposing league members twice instead of once. At the time, however, the school also wanted to continue its rivalry with Galt and since there were no section playoffs in those years a very rare 11-game regular season was played. The Thundering Herd lost all 11 games. It’s hard to know for sure, but there may not be another 0-11 regular season total in the record books.

Although he was only at the school for three seasons, Steve Da Prato, who later became a very successful junior college coach, has to get a lot of credit for getting the Thundering Herd over the hump.

And to say Da Prato took over under difficult circumstances would be an understatement. The previous head coach, Bill Benton, had been arrested along with his wife, Sherri, for running a prostitution ring. Da Prato still went 7-4 in the following season, then in 1984 he was on the sidelines when Elk Grove won its first section title.

Lombardi came on board to replace Da Prato in 1986 and took the program to new heights. A former coach from Lassen High in Susanville, Lombardi’s 1989 team went 11-1, followed by 10-1-1 in 1990 and then a section title team (13-1) in 1991.

Hoskins, who previously had been head coach at Valley of Sacramento where he had some very talented teams, then came to Elk Grove to serve as a co-head coach with Lombardi, then as a co-head coach with Mike Clemons and then as head coach. Current head coach Chris Nixon has been in that role since 2008.

Our 2013 State Coach of the Year for baseball, Elk Grove’s Jeff Carlson, also has been a key member of the football coaching staff for many years.

So what’s next for the Thundering Herd? Running back/defensive back Ryan Robards, who rushed for 2,884 yards and scored 50 touchdowns last season in earning a finalist nod for our Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor, will be gone, but the program has found ways to remain among the best in the section and there’s no indication that is going to change.

Here are some other Elk Grove football records that the school will soon have in its possession courtesy of this archive initiative:

Elk Grove grad and longtime NFL player Lance Briggs was honored last season at a Sacramento Kings game. Photo: Elk Grove Thundering Herd on Facebook.com.

Elk Grove grad and longtime NFL player Lance Briggs was honored last season at a Sacramento Kings game. Photo: Elk Grove Thundering Herd on Facebook.com.


1920s: 12-15-4

1930s: 30-27-10 (plus one forfeit win, two forfeit losses)

1940s: 36-17-5

1950s: 42-41-1

1960s: 36-58-4

1970s: 31-62-6 (plus one forfeit win)

1980s: 71-39-1

1990s: 83-34-1

2000s: 83-33-0

2010s: 63-13-0


489 WINS, 339 LOSSES, 32 TIES*

*Note: Two forfeit wins and two forfeit losses not included. Including those results, 1930s record would be 31-29-10, 1970s record would be 32-62-6 and all-time would be 491-341-32.

(Based on half-win, half-loss for tie)

Best Records For Single Season
14-0 – 1998
14-0 – 2001
13-1 – 1997
13-1 – 2015
12-1 – 2007
12-1 – 2011

Worst Records For Single Season
0-11 – 1967
0-8-1 – 1959
0-7-2 – 1974
0-5-1 – 1926

Most Points Scored (Single Game)
77 – VS. Yuba City, 1989
77 – VS. Atwater, 1998*
77 – VS. Valley (Sacramento), 2011
75 – VS. Napa, 1999
70 – VS. Franklin (Elk Grove), 2003
69 – VS. Florin (Sacramento), 1997
69 – VS. Davis, 1998
69 – VS. Vintage (Napa), 2014
64 – VS. Sheldon (Sacramento), 1998
63 – VS. Laguna Creek (Elk Grove), 1998
63 – VS. Florin (Sacramento), 1999
63 – VS. Jesuit (Carmichael), 2015
63 – VS. Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove), 2015
*CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship; may be state record for most points scored in any major division section title game.

Most Lopsided Wins
77-0 – VS. Valley (Sacramento), 2011
64-0 – VS. Sheldon (Sacramento), 1998
69-7 – VS. Davis, 1998
69-7 – VS. Vintage (Napa), 2014
61-0 – VS. Bella Vista (Fair Oaks), 1998*
61-0 – VS. Sheldon (Sacramento), 1998*
67-7 – VS. Galt, 2007
63-6 – VS. Florin (Sacramento), 1999
56-0 – VS. El Dorado (Placerville), 1989
70-14 – VS. Franklin (Elk Grove), 2003
*Back-to-back games.

Most Points Allowed (Single Game)
61 – VS. Grant (Sacramento), 2010
56 – VS. Christian Brothers (Sacramento), 1926*
56 – VS. Cordova (Rancho Cordova), 1986
56 – VS. Nevada Union (Grass Valley), 2004
49 – VS. Grant (Sacramento), 1994
49 – VS. Vacaville, 2009
47 – VS. Woodland, 1970
*First reported score in school history.

Most Lopsided Losses
56-0 – VS. Christian Brothers (Sacramento), 1926*
61-7 – VS. Grant (Sacramento), 2010
56-12 – VS. Nevada Union (Grass Valley), 2004
43-0 – VS. Highlands (North Highlands), 1967
49-6 – VS. Grant (Sacramento), 1994

Records Against Notable Opponents
28-7 VS. Valley (Sacramento)
23-7-1 VS. Davis*
12-8 VS. Folsom
14-17 VS. Grant (Sacramento)
22-25-5 VS. Galt**
10-15 VS. Nevada Union (Grass Valley)
*One score not reported.
**Does not include forfeit loss, forfeit win plus one result likely unreported.

Longest Winning Streaks
28 – 1997-1999 (won last 12, then 14-0, then first two)
16 – 2001-2002 (14-0 season, then first two)
14 – 1949-1951 (won last three, then 8-0 season, then first three)
13 – 1988-1989 (won last two, then first 11)
13 – 1991 (won first 13, then lost 14th game)
13 – 2015 (won first 13, then lost 14th game)

Longest Losing Streaks
11 – 1967 (lost all 11 games played)*
8 – 1954-55 (lost last two, then lost first six)
*Team had a tie in first game 1968, then lost five more in a row for 0-16-1 winless streak. School also had 0-14-2 winless streak from 1973-1975.

Remember, any school in the state or a fan/supporter of any school in the state can have this research completed in a customized fashion in return for a reasonable fee. For details, CLICK HERE.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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One Comment

  1. John Petterson
    Posted January 12, 2024 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    Ed Lombardi was my Wrestling coach, when I was at Lassen Union High School, He is a guy that leave’s an impression on you, Someone I never forget. He used to tell us 2nd place was invented to make losers feel better. I sure he got that from his Mentor Vince Lombardi, “What it Takes to Be Number On” Speach. he may of modified the wording to fit a point he was making at the time a little summation I suppose.

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