They walked through the tunnel from the locker room and onto the playing surface of brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers and, in a couple years, the site of Super Bowl 50. Everyone paused to take on the impressive site.
|Elk Grove players take a moment to look at Levi's Stadium before taking the field Friday|
The dim South Bay evening skies were turned into a very bright setting in just this one spot as the lumins of the stadium lights pierced the environs below. The red seats, some 55,000 of them, were outlined by a band of brightly-lit advertising boards that rimmed the stadium oval at the mezadine level. The silver guard rails shone, reflecting the immensely-bright lighting above.
The Niners promoted this night, which included an earlier game between Wilcox and Santa Clara High Schools, as "Friday Night Lights". Underline the word "lights." These young men were playing on football's biggest - and newest - stage. Niner greats Jerry Rice and Roger Craig welcomed them via a video played on the stadium's huge high definition jumbotron.
The Herd's vegas-gold numerals reflected light like they were aluminum foil. The gold helmets had the glisten of the real mineral.
The whole stadium even smelled new ... and that controversy over the quality of the Levi's Stadium turf in late August is over. That's because Elk Grove and Jesuit chewed it up this night in a Delta League showdown.
The two squads ran up and down the field on each other's defense, but in the end Elk Grove's early turnovers were its downfall and the Herd dropped its second game in a row in a 42-38 loss to the Marauders.
It's the first time in three years Elk Grove (4-2, 1-2 Delta League) has lost more than one regular season game and much longer than that since the Herd has lost back-to-back contests.
A week ago, early mistakes got the Herd down 23-0 to Grant before making a game of it and they lost a 26-19 decision.
"The discussion we had after the game was we cannot spot teams 14 points and 23 points," Elk Grove head coach Chris Nixon said.
|Elk Grove huddle at midfield at Levi's Stadium Friday|
In Santa Clara, Elk Grove saw Jesuit, behind its stud running back Beau Bisharat, jam the ball down their throats in the opening drive to score first. After a bad snap sailed over the head of Herd punter Ryan Robards on the next Elk Grove possession, Jesuit had the ball on the Herd 14 yard line and scored its next TD four plays later.
"Somewhere we have to learn from what we are doing and from our mistakes and overcome that," Nixon commented.
He said the huge venue of Levi's Stadium wasn't to blame.
"After the beginning it was just another football game," he said. "You just focus on what is in between the sidelines I think it was a loss, one that hurt, but we have to come back Monday and work on some things that will give us a win."
Senior running back Eltoro Allen took the big stage seriously and sparked Elk Grove's offense into existence. He reeled off an 18-yard scoring romp near the end of the first period to get the Herd on the board, 14-7. He came back on Elk Grove's next possession with a 68-yard sprint to tie the score at 14.
Jesuit took a 21-14 lead to halftime with Marauder quarterback Cole Brownholtz using Bisharat as a throwing target out of the backfield and some key tosses to both Luke Bagley and Isaiah Bailey.
Brownholtz found Bagley from 13 yards out early in the third quarter to stretch the Marauder lead to 28-14.
Elk Grove rebounded with a strong seven-play, 66 yard drive and Spencer Sheff scored on a four-yard run. But Hunter Petracek struck the left upright and it was 28-20, Jesuit, midway through the third period.
Brownholtz led Jesuit right back with a couple key throws and strong runs after the catch by Bisharat. The 6-2, 215-pound junior not only finished with 178 yards rushing on 20 carries, but another 89 yards in receiving five passes.
"That's something we've got to work on this week - tackling," Nixon said. "It's very, very difficult to tackle an outstanding ball player."
Down 35-20 going into the final quarter, Elk Grove mounted a big charge that would have made even 49er legendary coach Bill Walsh proud. They scored the next 18 points in a row.
"I'm proud of the effort the kids gave," Nixon said.
|Chris Nixon poses for a shot for KCRA3 on the Levi's Stadium sideline|
Early in that final stanza Elk Grove went on a seven-play, 86-yard drive capped by a 15 yard Tyler Vander Waal to Robards pass. After the extra point, Elk Grove was within eight points at 35-27.
Moments later Bisharat was stripped of the football by Herd nose tackle Sai Ta 'amu and the ball was picked up by Allen who darted 20 yards into the end zone to bring Elk Grove to within two points. Nixon decided to try for the two-point conversion and Vander Waal hit Shaunard Harts on an out-route in the end zone and the game was tied at 35 with 11:03 remaining.
Elk Grove forced Jesuit into a punt and Robards returned the kick to the Marauder 13 yardline. Jesuit held there and Robards booted a 27-yard field goal to give Elk Grove its only lead of the game, 38-35 with 6:32 left in the game.
Jesuit was pinned deep in its own territory following a long kickoff by Robards and had a third-down-and-13 at its own 14 yardline. Brownholtz found Bailey for a 30-yard completion and then after Elk Grove was penalized five yards for offsdie, Bisharat broke through the middle of the Elk Grove defense and outran everyone for a 51-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.
There was a little more than five minutes remaining, but following the ensueing kickoff Vander Waal was picked off by Marauder linebacker Isaac Lessard and Jesuit burned off the remaining five minutes to grab its fifth win of the season (5-1 overall) and third straight league victory.
Next week Elk Grove hopes to return to the winning column when it takes on Pleasant Grove, a team without a Delta League win this year.
"We have to make a conscious decision to make this our turning point," Nixon said. "There are going to be some good football teams in this league that won't make the playoffs. We feel like we've got a good football team that can compete with anybody. We've just got to stop hurting ourselves and put together a complete game."
Box Score (Final)
Score by Qurters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
Elk Grove........... 7 7 6 18 - 38 Record: (4-2,1-2)
Jesuit.............. 14 7 14 7 - 42 Record: (5-1,3-0)
JS - Beau Bisharat 1 yd run (Lucas Thayer kick)07:45
JS - Denzel Perkins 3 yd run (Thayer kick)03:04
EG - Eltoro Allen 18 yd run (Hunter Pentracek kick)00:39
EG - Allen 68 yd run (Pentracek kick)10:32
JS - Luke Bagley 5 yd pass from Cole Brownholtz (Thayer kick) 03:33
JS - Bagley 13 yd pass from Brownholtz (Thayer kick)08:45
EG - Spencer Sheff 4 yd run (Pentracek kick failed)06:38
JS - Isaiah Bailey 18 yd pass from Brownholtz (Thayer kick)02:14
EG - Ryan Robards 15 yd pass from Tyler Vander Waal (Pentracek kick) 11:17
EG - Allen 20 yd fumble recovery (Shaunard Harts pass)11:03
EG - Robards 27 yd field goal 6:32
JS - Bisharat 51 yd run (Thayer kick)5:18
FIRST DOWNS................... 13 14
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 33-242 33-190
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 107 240
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 18-9-2 28-14-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 51-349 61-430
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 1-20 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 2-24 2-36
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 6-103 3-34
Interception Returns-Yards.... 0-0 2-23
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 4-20.0 4-34.3
Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 4-3
Penalties-Yards............... 11-70 11-56
Possession Time............... 24:51 22:35
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 0-0 1-8
RUSHING: Elk Grove-Spencer Sheff 21-129; Eltoro Allen 5-89; Manny Scott-Anderson 4-21; Ryan Robards 1-12; Tyler Vanderwaal 2-minus 9. Jesuit-Beau Bisharat 20-178; Denzel Perkins 6-20; Dalvin Jamal Milton 3-minus 1; Cole Brownholtz 4-minus 7.
PASSING: Elk Grove-Tyler Vanderwaal 9-18-2-107. Jesuit-Cole Brownholtz 14-28-0-240.
RECEIVING: Elk Grove-Ryan Robards 5-75; Manny Scott-Anderson 3-32; Kyle Van Lindt 1-0. Jesuit-Isaiah Bailey 5-134; Beau Bisharat 5-89; Luke Bagley 3-23; Sam Collins 1-minus 6.
INTERCEPTIONS: Elk Grove-None. Jesuit-Lucas Thayer 1-0; Isaac Lessard 1-23.
Stadium: Levi's Stadium Attendance: 4500
Kickoff time: 8:00 p.m End of Game:11:10 p.m.
Temperature: 63 Wind: nnw10 Weather: clear