Honor Bowl Saturday in El Dorado Hills

Erick Orme Jr. (left) & Ethan Dasmann (center) from Oak Ridge were presented awards at the finish of their game vs Clayton Valley. At right, Rocklin head coach Jason Adams talks to his team and holds Honor Bowl trophy after win vs Manteca. Photos: Mark Tennis.

We were able to catch all three games played at Oak Ridge High School. The host Trojans, ranked in the top 25 of our State TOP 50, won in their game over Clayton Valley of Concord. In the other games, Rocklin topped Manteca and Clovis East rolled in the second half for triumph vs Provo of Utah. The Honor Bowl as usual more than lived up to its goals of providing inspiration and patriotic feelings about the men and women who have sacrificed everything in service of their nation.

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One of the founders of the annual Honor Bowl series of games in the state that honors the military in conjunction with top-notch high school football matchups was Casey Taylor when he was head coach in 2011 at Del Oro of Loomis. He and Granite Bay High assistant coach (at the time) Mark Soto wanted to do something with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and Soto took the concept and ran with it.

Taylor is now the head coach at Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) so it was only appropriate that his team on Saturday became the first one in the history of the Honor Bowl to win games on back-to-back weekends. One week after the Trojans traveled to San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High to win in a game, 22-20, over San Diego Madison, they won in their game this week, 28-0, over Clayton Valley of Concord.

“It means a lot,” Taylor said when asked about his team making some history in the event. “This event reminds us of what people like my dad (Vietnam War) and my grandpa (World War II) did for us. We’ve had a couple of these back-to-back weeks before and were not able to do it. We always feel proud and humbled to be playing in it.”

Oak Ridge head coach Casey Taylor has been told he needs just two more wins after Saturday to reach 200 for his career, which has included stops at Del Oro, Capital Christian and Inderkum. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Clayton Valley has been in the Honor Bowl several times over the years and that has continued under first year head coach Nick Tisa, who took over for former Ugly Eagles’ head coach Tim Murphy this season. The team began the season as the No. 4 team in the Bay Area News Group preseason rankings, won its first game 17-0 over Salinas and then lost last week 37-27 to Higley of Gilbert, Ariz.

Oak Ridge, which improved to 4-0 with the win and was No. 23 in last week’s State TOP 50 overall rankings, looked the part as being capable of going to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 championship game as the Trojans did last season (loss to Folsom).

A 22-yard touchdown run by junior Erick Orme Jr. put the Trojans on the board on their second series of the game. They scored again after another three-and-out forced by the defense on a 22-yard pass from Joaquin Graves-Mercado to Joshua Feuerbach, who at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds gives the team another option at tight end/receiver to go with 6-foot-6, 230-pound highly recruited junior Kaleb Edwards.

Clayton Valley QB Mason Lovett completed four of five passes on a drive late in the first half but it didn’t result in any points. The Ugly Eagles also had some hope in the third quarter after a blocked field goal and a 26-yard run by Roman Phillips, but that series was stopped on a fourth down at the 2-yard line.

Oak Ridge got out of the shadow of the end zone on a 14-yard pass from Mercado-Graves to Edwards and then on the next play sophomore Jasen Womack broke loose for a 53-yard run. A series of runs by Womack and Orme Jr. netted two more first downs before Orme Jr. snuck it into the end zone.

Oak Ridge put the game away with 5:17 left on an interception return for a touchdown by Womack. He could have been MVP for the Trojans as well as Orme Jr., but he already had gotten the same honor from the game in San Diego.

“It was just a great team effort,” Orme Jr. said. “It was definitely a great experience and I will remember it for a long time as will the rest of the team.”

So how hard was it for the Trojans to travel down to San Diego and then travel back the next week to play two games against two highly ranked opponents?

“It was actually pretty easy,” Orme Jr. said. “It was just fun and we did a lot of team bonding on the bus on the way down.”

Oak Ridge plays next at Pleasant Valley of Chico next Friday and then has a bye before opening up the Sierra Foothill League schedule on Sept. 29 with a daunting task playing at state No. 13 Folsom.

Rocklin 35, Manteca 14

This was a rematch of last year’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 semifinals when the Buffaloes eliminated the Thunder, 34-28, on their way to the section title.

Game MVP awards at the Honor Bowl are named in honor of late CIF Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner Pete Saco. Here is Pete’s wife, Barbara, visiting with San Francisco 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Just don’t mention anything that this win was a matter of revenge. First, Manteca’s all-time best player, Blake Nichelson, is now at Florida State and senior running back Bryson Davis was still out with an elbow injury after he rushed for more than 300 yards in the season opener. Second, Rocklin head coach Jason Adams was just looking for a great chance for his team to get better.

“We’re just very thankful for this game and that we got to play them,” Adams said. “We got better for sure.”

It was difficult in choosing an MVP for the victorious Thunder, which we were asked to help with. Quarterback Reeve Slone threw for four touchdowns, but senior Mavrik Collins had an interception return touchdown to go with two of the TD catches. QBs get all the love, right, so Collins got the nod.

Manteca, which had lost last week 44-7 to state No. 15 St. Mary’s of Stockton, had some positive moments in the second quarter. The Buffaloes cut the lead to 14-7 on a 5-yard run by Kaden MacDannald after a 53-yard run by impressive sophomore Jhadis Luckey put them on the 10-yard line. Their defense also had a sack and an interception that halted two possessions by Rocklin and it was only a 14-7 deficit at the half.

Rocklin’s defense was dominant in the third quarter, however, and helped to quickly put the game out of reach for the Buffaloes. After the second of four straight Manteca possessions with no first downs, Slone threw a sideline pass to Collins, who broke a tackle and sailed down the sidelines for a 65-yard touchdown. Slone hit on another big play to Nate Martin for 55-yard touchdown on the next series and then just a few minutes later Collins stepped in front of a pass and streaked for his pick six touchdown.

MacDannald and junior linebacker Ruben Moreno were the Manteca award winners after the game — MacDannald for MVP and Moreno for the Character Award. Collins was joined as an honoree for Rocklin by junior Henry Hatada, a 6-foot-2, 265-pound lineman.

“Yes, this was a great experience,” Hatada said as he was signing a series a footballs with his name joining all of the others from this week’s games and last week’s games in San Diego. “It’s great because it lets us know that we are playing for something bigger than ourselves.”

Rocklin will be on a bye next week and then plays at Tracy on Sept. 22 before starting in the Sierra Foothill League on Sept. 29 at home against Whitney. Manteca also has a bye next week and hopes to have Bryson Davis back for the game on Sept. 22 vs Lodi.

Clovis East (Clovis) 41,
Provo (Utah) 24

We’ve seen a lot of smaller quarterbacks over the years from Visalia Mt. Whitney’s Robert Dougherty to Folsom’s Dano Graves, a State Player of the Year in 2010. Tyus Miller, the junior from Clovis East, has many of the qualities of those quarterbacks: quick feet to avoid the pass rush, can throw on the run and very accurate.

Tyus Miller of Clovis East signs a ball after team collected win against Provo, Utah. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Miller was at his best in this game with four touchdown passes and one touchdown run.

The game was very much in doubt in the third quarter when Provo drove inside the 10-yard line and facing just a 21-14 deficit. The Timberwolves held on defense, forcing the Bulldogs to go for a field goal, which was made from 25 yards by Jonah Loosli.

It didn’t take long for Clovis East to answer. A scramble run by Miller and a completed pass put the ball at the 45-yard line when he went deep and connected with Harold Duvall for a 55-yard touchdown. Provo then suffered a high punt snap on the first play of the fourth quarter that set up the Timberwolves for another touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Miller to Tony Nix. Just like that the 21-17 score had ballooned to 35-17.

Later in the fourth quarter, Miller floated a perfectly thrown ball to Aidan Wilson for a 55-yard touchdown. An 83-yard TD pass from a backup quarterback against Clovis East’s reserve defenders accounted for the final score.

“I was in the Honor Bowl in my freshman year and it is a cool experience,” said Miller, who also had 92-yard TD pass to Nix in the first half. “It’s different from other games, but the speeches before the game gets me going. It’s a great opportunity to play in the best showcase in the nation.”

With the win, Clovis East improved to 4-0 and is looking to join the conversation with CIF Central Section top teams such as Liberty (Bakersfield) and Clovis West.

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:

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