by Will James
Hometown Sports Game-of-the-Week
The rich get richer and the strong get stronger; a phrase that characterizes the outcome of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s consolidation and league re-alignment beginning in 2014, that ensured the prominence of an elite league that rivals the image of invincibility worn by the Sierra Foothill League for the past 15 years.
A prime example of conferences that benefited most from the re-alignment is the Delta League. Following the merger between the already powerful Delta River League and the Delta Valley League, the result is an imposing collection of 8-teams, six of which are currently ranked among the 16 teams in the area.
Two of these stellar squads are the focal points on Access Sacramento’s sports coverage this week when the 5th-ranked Grant Pacers travel to Elk Grove where they’ll engage the 10-rated Monterey Trail Mustangs, Friday evening, October 14th at 7:00 pm on the Hometown Sports Game-of-the-Week.
The live telecast of this intense Delta League match-up may be seen on Comcast Cable channel 17, Consolidated Comunications channel 17, and on AT&T U-Verse channel 14. The game will re-played Saturday, October 15th at 11:00 am and Tuesday, October 18th at 7:00 pm on the same channels. The game will also be streamed on accesssacramento.org and the NFHS Network.
The overall strength of the Delta League is more than impressive. Grant (2-1, 5-1) and Monterey Trail (2-1, 5-1) are two of the five teams currently tied with Elk Grove, Jesuit, and Davis for first place in the Delta League, and represent two of the six teams presently ranked among the top-16 teams in the area.
Mike Alberghini’s Pacers are as tough, and entertaining as ever, boasting huge advantages in line play, and another corps of speedy, big-play backs and receivers.
Senior QB Cam Davis calls signals for the Pacers’ traditional run-dominated offense. Senior RB Tyree Marcelle leads the rushing attack, averaging better than nine yards per carry with 8 TD. Davis has complimented the running game and balanced the offense, passing for more than 600 yards and connecting on 7 TD passes but has thrown 4 interceptions. Davis also serves as Grant’s kicker and punter.
Standout WR/DB Lawrence Hardy has been a special force for the Pacers on both sides of the football. He averages nearly 30 yards per catch and has 7 TD receptions. Hardy is perhaps the premiere kickoff and punt returners in the area, and poses a serious threat to go the distance on any return.
On defense, Hardy is equally dynamic and ranks among the elite in thievery. In six games he has registered 4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries to compliment nearly 40 tackles.
Hardy has plenty of help. The Pacers’ rampaging defense is fortified by a hard hitting brigade of linebackers including Uasilaa Malimali, Angel Novey, Sauimoana Sotoa, Villiami Niupalau, James Fotofili, and Tre Banks. This relentless group has accounted for 16 sacks and more than 250 tackles.
T.J. Ewing’s Mustangs are playing excellent football, fueled by a deceptive, often explosive Veer offense and a stingy, opportunistic defense.
Versatile senior QB Robert Holt is a proven leader and double threat who engineers the Veer with precision as a big-play running back and a competent passer with 50% accuracy. Holt has thrown for nearly 500 yards with 7 TD and just one interception, and holds a QB rating of 113.
In addition to Holt, the Mustangs have solid depth at the running back position, with Aztlan Lopez, Jehiel Budgett, Pedro Pantoja, and Sam Williams sharing a balanced load and collectively producing more than 1000 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
On defense, the Mustangs have accumulated 8 sacks and 16 takeaways. Senior RB/DB standout, Bishop Brown, has been a dynamic game-breaker for the Mustangs. Brown is Holt’s favorite target, averaging 23 yards per reception and 5 TD.
On defense, Brown and Holt patrol the secondary with extreme efficiency, having combined for seven interceptions. The Mustangs also possesses a deep linebacking corps. Pedro Pantoja, Aztlan Lopez, Diego Rodriguez, Sam Williams, and Holt, along with DL anchors Wayne Doroen and William Madsen are quality run-stoppers.
Be advised, the area around Monterey Trail’s Mark Macres Stadium Friday afternoon will be heavily congested with fans en route to this premium game. Better leave early for the stadium.