GRANITE BAY– This one has been marked on the calendar since last December – for one team a reminder for celebration and for the other, a reminder for retribution.
As Sierra Foothill League play begins Friday at Granite Bay High with its rivalry week coming in the opening grind, a rematch of last year’s Division II Sac-Joaquin Section final between Granite Bay and Del Oro highlights the Placer County slate.
The Grizzlies were 22-0 victors over the Golden Eagles last December in the section finals before losing to Pittsburg in the NorCal final. Del Oro finished its season at 8-6 and went back to work to be able to once again reach that plateau this season.
Some hail this series perhaps the best and most evenly balanced in the Sac-Joaquin Section since the turn of the century. Since 2001, Del Oro holds a 9-6 advantage during the regular season, but Granite Bay is 2-1 against the Golden Eagles in the playoffs.
“You forget the records,” said second-year Del Oro head coach Jeff Walters. “You forget everything. You just play it out. Both programs will have their ups and downs, but it’s always a battle between us and Granite Bay.”
Walters knows the rivalry firsthand. A Del Oro grad in 2004, Walters played under then-coach Casey Taylor during a span where the Golden Eagles and Grizzlies often flip-flopped on who played in the section title game each year. Either Granite Bay or Del Oro has fought – twice against each other – to claim that distinction in a total of 22 of the past 29 years.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for the rivalry,” said Walters. “Obviously, it goes way back, playing in it myself… It’s definitely something where I think the mutual respect is there.”
Granite Bay head coach Jeff Evans said that the two teams have contrasting styles this year. They have also each gotten off to contrasting starts to 2018 with the Grizzlies grinding through a 2-2 mark while Del Oro is at 4-0 and averaging more than 50 points per game.
“This might be (Del Oro’s) best team ever” said Evans. “We’ve got to find a way to win a game. They’re coming in flying high. Their skill guys are some of the best in the section. They’re playing well, taking it to teams on all three phases, but we feel OK about our guys. If we can out-physical them, it still comes down to that.”
With a combined 17 section titles between them, the Grizzlies will try to remember what brought them their sixth last December, and the Golden Eagles will remind themselves why they have 11 to their name.
“We’re just playing for one another, and we’re just having fun,” said Del Oro quarterback Carson Jarratt. “From last year, (Del Oro is) night and day. We haven’t even come close to our full potential. That just shows how scary good we could be.”
Friday night’s version of Del Oro-Granite Bay should be scary good too.