’Tis the season to kick off under the lights.
For the vast majority of Sacramento-area high school football teams, this has been a sure thing for decades. But not for Jesuit or Johnson.
On Friday night, those programs will have rare night games on their home campuses. Both have done so before, years ago, with wheeled-in portable lights in an effort to capture a night vibe. Saturday day game can be hot, sweaty, dusty and apathetic with student rooting sections generally avoiding the place as if there will be SAT testing.
Johnson will play host to Bella Vista under permanent lights to show off a field that’s only a couple of years old, all the benefit of school-bonded funds from the Sacramento City Unified School District. Jesuit, on its Carmichael campus, will host Bishop Manogue of Reno with portable lights, and then again on Sept. 1 against St. Ignatius of San Francisco.
Jesuit will continue its quest to get permanent lights. That’s easier said than done, certainly.
Despite living near a high school where activity is part of the game, neighborhoods often vigorously resist the idea of night games, fearing the glare of those lights and the noise and traffic that come with it. It took Kennedy more than 30 years to get permanent lights installed on its Greenhaven campus in Sacramento. The same struggles confronted Del Campo for decades in Fair Oaks. In October, Mesa Verde will toast its new on-campus field in Citrus Heights with lights, a long time coming.
Previewing the action
On the topic of bright lights, our crackpot crew of four had mixed results in predicting opening-night games. Matthew Bessette of ABC Jam Productions and the NFHS Network and I both went 4-1. Bee correspondent Nick Pecoraro went 3-2 and is kicking himself for not knowing better, and the retired basketball coach, Scott Tedmon, went a badly beaten 2-3. That’s why we invited Tedmon to join the fun, sort of like having the worst poker player sit at your table and telling him, “I have no idea how to play this game.”
We predict, project and guess some more with another full slate of games to be played Friday night, unless otherwise noted.
No. 2 Grant (1-0) at No. 3 Oak Ridge (2-0)
JoeD: What a showdown of physicality, skill, bulk and coaches with championship pedigrees. How does Oak Ridge slow Grant QB Luke Alexander (four TD passes in a 52-12 win at McQueen) and the Oregon-bound two-way star Kingston Lopa? And how does Grant deal with blue chip TE Kaleb Edwards and the stout lines? Grant wins a thriller, 30-28.
MatthewB: It’s difficult to take much away from blowout wins against out of state opponents, but still ... Grant’s Wayshawn Parker with the lion’s share of touches is scary. Pacers gonna pace, 34-31.
NickP: What an interesting season this would have been if Grant were still in the Sierra Foothill League. A loaded Pacers team stays unbeaten at Oak Ridge, 28-25.
CoachT: Grant surged back to the top last season and will be tested by a superb Oak Ridge crew. Trojans are tough, physical and at home, but Pacers pass the test, 24-17.
Bishop Manogue (0-0) at Jesuit (0-0)
JoeD: Manogue’s opener at Las Vegas High last week was canceled due to flood concerns, and Jesuit had an opening bye. The Marauders will unleash QB star-in-the making CJ Lee and their tough lines with a spirited student section backdrop to prevail 28-20.
MatthewB: Jesuit won last year in Reno, 30-23. Bishop Manogue has to replace nearly 4,000 yards of offense from QB Logan Howren. Jesuit will be physical up front led by Caleb Hall and the Marauders will shine under the lights, 36-24.
NickP: Residents near American River Drive and Piccadilly Circle should gear up for an unusually loud Friday night in Carmichael as the Marauders take down the Miners, 24-17.
CoachT: It will be rocking for a special Friday Night Lights edition of Jesuit football at Marauder Stadium. Jesuit’s men upfront will control the line of scrimmage and senior QB CJ Lee will lead Big Red to a 21-10 win.
No. 12 Christian Brothers (1-0) vs. No. 24 Pleasant Grove (1-0)
JoeD: In a game played at Sheldon, this could be a high-scoring fun one with skill guys and speed galore. PG coach Josh Crabtree has seen big strides in his program and he will have to make sure someone blocks CB lineman ace Mason Vicari, who had four sacks last week. CB wins 28-21.
MatthewB: The Falcons got big production from three juniors last week in Ezekiel Castex, Josiah Campbell and Isaiah Jordan. That figures to continue. CB beats a much improved PG team, 27-21.
NickP: Lots of returners from the reigning Capital Athletic League champion Falcons, including the two-headed QB beast of William Littlejohn and Deakon Holden. CB wins, 35-20.
CoachT: CB dominated Reno on the road in its opener and will do more of the same here to win 34-14.
No. 23 Whitney (1-0) at No. 15 Woodcreek (1-0)
JoeD: I’m so old (and old school) that I remember when there were wide-open fields where these Placer County schools now reside. This feels like a high-scoring affair with Whitney QB Logan Sindelar matching wits with Woodcreek’s option-leading QB Austin Katapodis. Whitney wins, 35-30.
MatthewB: I’ve flipped a coin so much on this one that I’ve forgotten who’s heads or tails. I love this matchup between fantastic head coaches. The Timberwolves are so hard to prepare for. Woodcreek gets it done, 31-28.
NickP: There’s been a Krupp on every Woodcreek roster since 2015. First Carter, then Garrett, now Brody, a junior do-it-all leader who will help the Timberwolves win 21-20.
CoachT: In the battle of W’s, each look to put another “W” on the board. Whitney’s Sindelar passed for 205 yards and three TDs and do-everything Lorenzo Young had 226 all-purpose yards and three scores. Whitney spoils Woodcreek’s home opener, 28-20.
Bella Vista (0-1) at Johnson (0-0)
JoeD: BV has experience and an unsung star in do-all Damian Ricketts. The Warriors have more team speed, but they also have new coaches and new skill players. BV wins 20-17.
MatthewB: Coming off a playoff appearance, it will be hard for Johnson to replace QB Marino Fragata. Bella Vista has the advantage of having a game played already and wins this one, 31-23.
NickP: Head coach Jim Gray is doing a great job of turning around a program once perceived as a perennial doormat. Bella Vista wins, 28-14.
CoachT: Bella Vista came back from a decade-long abyss last year, restoring Bronco Pride with a 5-5 season. Johnson was a DI playoff team. The Warriors have a new and untested group of skill players, but they still win a nail-biter, 28-27.
No. 1 Folsom (1-0) at Serra-San Mateo (0-0)
JoeD: What a Saturday noon-time showdown as the Bulldogs take on the top-ranked team in Northern California, a team that beat Folsom 17-12 a year ago and returns a ton of dudes. Expect another defensive tussle with Serra holding on, 21-20.
MatthewB: Serra coaches told me they were just one play better than Folsom last year. The Bulldogs are still incredibly talented, but they lost a lot from last year while Serra has a lot of guys back. Serra wins another close one, 27-23.
NickP: Folsom gets tested early in the schedule and puts up a fight, but Serra opens with a win on its home turf, 24-21.
CoachT: It doesn’t get any better than this, a Goliath vs. Goliath showdown in San Mateo with college prospects flying all over the field. Coaches relish a challenge with Folsom’s Paul Doherty and Serra’s Patrick Walsh matching wits. Serra justifies its ranking, besting the Bulldogs 17-14.
JoeD (4-1): I didn’t lose, Bradshaw Christian did.
MatthewB (4-1): Telling Placer to hold onto the ball!
NickP (3-2): His heart was in the right place, if not his logic.
CoachT (2-3): Wondering if a return to hoops might be wise.