Hard to believe it’s been 12 seasons since the last Sac-Joaquin Section championship in football, but head coach Chris Nixon hopes that drought will end Friday night.
In its second straight Division II championship game, the Herd will take on the top-seeded Del Oro squad at Hornet Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
|The EG football players in attendance Sunday at the annual pre-championship|
game dinner at Sacramento State Univ., site of Friday's game vs. Del Oro
Last season Elk Grove lost to Folsom, 44-18, in a torrential downpour of rain. This time, the weather looks more favorable, but cool.
Nixon, at the Section’s media dinner for all the football championship game contenders on Sunday, said this year’s preparation actually began the day after losing big to Folsom last December.
“We set one goal at a time. One was to win league championship and the second was to win the Section,” Nixon said.
Elk Grove ended up tying both Grant and Franklin for the Delta Valley Conference championship and will go into Friday’s game with a 12-1 mark.
“We always took it one game at a time this year,” Nixon said. “We went into Franklin after a tough win over Grant and probably didn’t play our best game. We made corrections and did very well the next two weeks against Monterey Trail and Davis.”
But, in Del Oro, Nixon and his team will take on a squad they are very familiar with. They’ve actually played each other three times over the past year. The teams scrimmaged against each other the weekend prior to the start of the past two seasons. Plus, Elk Grove eliminated Del Oro in last year’s Div-II semi-finals.
“They are a bunch of high character guys,” Nixon said of the Golden Eagles. “It’s an extremely special game and we need to be on our A-game Friday night.”
Long-time Golden Eagle head coach Casey Taylor said he is looking forward to a fourth meeting with Elk Grove.
“Elk Grove likes to hit, so do we,” he said.
Even with two losses this season (one to De LaSalle and the other to Sherman Oaks), the Golden Eagles earned the top seed in Division II, something Taylor appreciated.
“I’m glad the Section saw the fact we beat all area teams this season,” he said. “That really helped us because we had all home games in the playoffs and we’ve never lost a playoff game at home.”
Del Oro won the Section’s Div. III championship in both 2010 and 2011. They were Division II titlists in 2005 and runner-ups in that division in 2004, 2007 and 2009.
Nixon Reflects On His Sixth Season As EG Head Coach
Nixon now can look back and almost chuckle at all the turmoil surrounding his hiring as the head varsity coach in 2008. Another coach was initially hired to replace co-head coaches Dave Hoskins and Jeff Carlson, but in late spring that year the Elk Grove Unified School District revoked the hiring of Carlos Meraz and offered the coaching position to Carlson.
He turned them down and Nixon took the job. In his first two years the Herd was 4-6 and 5-5. The heat was turned on under Nixon, but he persevered.
Every year since 2010 his teams have qualified for the playoffs or won the conference championship or both.
“It goes back to a January, one day after school, a group of seniors – Josh Letuligasenoa, Steven Moore, Watson Tatiuaki, Deon Ransom – all sat in the room and we had a talk. They were all kind of tired of mediocrity, “ he said. “They really wanted to put together something special. From that day forward it’s transitioned forward itself. They set that bar and set that level for these guys to follow.”
One guy ready for a big game Friday is senior defensive end B’won Canada. A year ago in the playoff win over Del Oro he fractured his arm and couldn’t play in the championship game the next week.
“I was devastated,” Canada recalled.
The break was so bad that it required six screws to place the bones back in place.
Friday’s game for the Section title will be not just for him and the several Elk Grove seniors who, like him, have started each of the past three years, but also for the memory of a grandmother.
“She was diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer and while she was living at my home she was always saying she wanted to see me play football,” he said.
He was 11 when she passed away and now he dedicates each season to her.
“I play for her, for my (teammates) and for the tradition of Elk Grove High School – that Herd spirit,” Canada said.