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Del Oro bolsters playoff reputation with 35-13 win in the Sac-Joaquin Section D2 football finals

By: Ike Dodson of the Auburn Journal
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SACRAMENTO — The formula for postseason success in the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs can be found between the lines of Del Oro High’s Golden Eagles playbook.

The program beat Inderkum 35-13 Friday to award the school a second straight D2 SJS banner and trek to the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal State Championships.

It’s the fifth section title in seven years for Coach Casey Taylor and his staff, and the 11th in school history. Only Central Catholic (19) has more.

“I’m just real proud of the effort,” Taylor said inside Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State University campus. “It’s hard going back to back.

“I just love these boys and I’m looking forward to another week with them.”

Del Oro has now won 10 consecutive postseason games, essentially providing the Golden Eagles faithful with three football seasons in two years.

The penchant for postseason pennants is no coincidence.

Del Oro deploys situational drilling in preparation for tense playoff snaps, and quarterback Stone Smartt and receiver Mason Hurst made the biggest moments in Friday’s game look routine.

Up just 21-13 in the fourth quarter, Smartt rolled to his right on third-and-18 and stepped into a bullet pass that Hurst snatched at the 4-yard line before diving into the end zone.

The play gave Del Oro a 15-point lead with 7:30 to play. When the Golden Eagles forced a quick Inderkum punt moments later, Smartt put the game out of reach by plowing for a four-yard score.

Smartt finished 10 of 12 for 133 yards passing with 46 yards rushing.

“That was just how we practiced it,” Smartt said afterwards. “Coach Taylor had us drilling our two-minute and four-minute offense with music blaring so we could get used to the crowd noise and the pressure.

“It worked to our advantage.”

Hurst landed the first touchdown of the game on Friday’s fourth snap, even though the Tigers received the opening kickoff. Camrion Davis intercepted Inderkum’s Trajon Cotton just two plays in, and Smartt found Hurst open for a score at the 1:20 mark.

Del Oro’s cagey wide out seems to attract big moments with ease. Hurst went viral with outrageous catches in last year’s state title season, and last week he scored a two-point conversion against Antelope that became a nationwide sensation thanks to a pre-snap “Mannequin Challenge” that aided in Antelope’s confusion.

Friday’s touchdown catches were certainly within his means, and his fourth-quarter grab clearly deflated Inderkum’s comeback hopes, forcing a fifth Tigers’ title defeat in nine years.

“We knew that if we got up and got another score, that they would fold,” Hurst said. “They’ve done it before.

“We had it right in our fingertips and we got a hold of it.”

Dalton Gee (82 yards) gave Del Oro a 14-0 lead with a one-yard jaunt in the opening quarter. When Inderkum drove the field in response, defensive lineman Hunter Halverson scooped a Cotton fumble and rumbled 71-yards for a touchdown.

Exhausted after the long return, Halverson emptied his lunch on the Golden Eagles sideline, before rejoining the action.

The win came in frigid temps, with a biting wind, and Del Oro players didn’t shy from dousing Coach Taylor with an icy shower via the Gatorade bucket.”

“It was a little cold right there,” Taylor said with a laugh. “But I’ll take that every night.

“I’m just proud of these guys, real excited about another section championship at Del Oro. We have great fans, a great community and are so lucky to be where we are at.”

The NorCal matchups will be announced today at cifstate.org.