Del Oro captures state spotlight for Saturday’s CIF bowl game

By: Mike Ray of the Auburn Journal
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The Del Oro High football program, which under coach Casey Taylor has had a penchant for finding itself in the spotlight, is back at center stage Saturday afternoon at Sacramento State’s Hornet Field when the Golden Eagles tangle with San Clemente’s Tritons to decide the CIF State 1-A championship.

And, while its well-documented that the road to Del Oro’s first CIF championship crown last season was marred with plenty of potholes, this year’s trek for the Black and Gold has also had its own hurdles and obstacles.

After suffering mid-season losses to Sierra Foothill League rivals Folsom and Oak Ridge, the Golden Eagles stayed on course and kept their noses to the grindstone. Del Oro finished its league season strong and has since turned the postseason into their own little playground, averaging more than 53 points a game in their last six outings.

And when Saturday’s 4 p.m. title game kicks off, Del Oro will be shooting for an opportunity to become the first Sacramento-area school with a shot to repeat as a state champion.

But it’s not going to be easy.

“They’re a very good team,” Taylor said of the Tritons. “But at this point in the season, there aren’t too many slouches.”

In San Clemente, the Golden Eagles will be facing a program that is the epitome of Southern California’s Orange County tradition of rich pass-happy offenses that are virtual training grounds for Division I quarterbacks.

Don’t believe it ? How about this: In the last six years, San Clemente’s program has produced three Pac-12 signal-callers.

Mission Viejo, which won San Clemente’s South Coast League championship this season, won last year’s CIF Division I-A title by shutting out Bellarmine of San Jose, 24-0. That’s the same Bellarmine team that had ended Folsom’s season the week before.

“They play in a tough league,” Taylor said of the Tritons. “We feel we match up well with them but it’s going to be a tough, tough game.”

That Del Oro is playing San Clemente this Saturday in a state title game is a story in itself. In fact, in wasn’t too many moons ago that the schools from the CIF Southern Section, which is the section that the Orange County schools belong to, wanted no part of a state-wide playoff system.

At the time, the thinking in Southern California was that a CIF Southern Section championship was the end-all. The section questioned why they should go and play Northern California schools that their second- and third-place teams could beat.

But the new bowl system has changed all of that. San Clemente is a second-place league team and Del Oro is a third-place league team. You win a section championship and you qualify.

In two years, the CIF has created 13 different division championship games from teams ranging from San Diego to the Oregon border.

“We feel it’s a great system,” Taylor said. “The new bowl games open opportunities up for both small and large schools. We feel grateful to be a part of it again.”