FVL football race opens Friday

By: Mike Ray
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If the preseason was any indication, the maiden voyage of the inaugural Foothill Valley League football race should be thrill-packed for players, coaches and fans alike.

As shown by the FVL’s combined preseason 19-7 mark and with three of the league’s squads finding themselves in the Sacramento-area Top 20, the FVL more than acquitted itself in non-league action.

Here’s a quick capsule look at how the FVL race should shape up this season:


Placer (5-0) Best win: Bishop Manogue, 69-40

  • Did you know? In 1967, while LeFebvre Stadium was being constructed, Placer played eight of its nine games that season on the road. The lone Hillmen “home game” was a Saturday afternoon clash against Bishop Armstrong (now Christian Brothers) at Sierra College. Placer’s homecoming that season was celebrated at an away game against Roseville.

  • Alumni Flashback: Playing his first year of football in 1972, Bob Cunningham was tagged the Sierra Foothill League’s Offensive MVP in helping the Hillmen win the league title. Cunningham’s grandsons, Jaden and Noah Gravatt, now play at Del Oro.

  • The skinny: The sky’s the limit for this year’s Hillmen team which is blessed with size, speed and experience.


Lincoln (2-3) Best Win: Antelope, 35-27

  • Did you know? Last week’s 600-mile round-trip trek to Eureka is the longest football road trip in Zebras’ history.

  • Alumni Flashback: In his playing days, Lincoln coach Chris Bean was an All-League quarterback at Colfax High. A three-sport standout, Bean played his JV season under current Falcons coach Tony Martello.  

  • The Skinny: Despite an up-and-down preseason, the Zebras have the tools to contend in the FVL this season. A whale of a FVL regular-season curtain-closer looms when Placer calls Oct. 27.


Ponderosa (5-0) Best win: Vista Del Lago, 49-18.

  • Did You Know? From 1975 to 1981, Ponderosa and Placer won every CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football championship. Placer captured five crowns (’75,’76. 77, ’80, ’81) while Ponderosa took a pair (’78, ’79). In the two teams’ last playoff meeting, Placer defeated the Bruins in OT, 17-14, in a 1981 semifinal in Shingle Springs.

  • Alumni Flashback: James Campen, a standout for Ponderosa in 1979 and 1980, played at Tulane University and five seasons for the Green Bay Packers. Campen, who was Ponderosa’s head coach for four seasons, is currently the Packers’ offensive line coach.

  • The skinny: In his third season at “Pondo”, coach Davey Johnson has the Bruins poised for its first winning season since 2012.


Rio Linda (4-1) Best win: Roseville, 64-25.

  • Did You Know? In 2014, the Knights defeated Placer in a high-scoring, first-round playoff game, 62-51. Rio Linda’s Marcel Brown rushed for 349 yards and scored five TDs.

  • Alumni Flashback: Byron Gums, a three-sport standout at Rio Linda in the 1970s, is the father of former Placer tight end and current Long Beach State pitcher Tyler Gums.

  • The skinny: The Knights have one of the top backs in the league in junior Cameron Skattebo, who is averaging 12 yards per carry and has scored 10 touchdowns.


Nevada Union (3-2) Best Win: Napa, 59-34

  • Did You Know? In a 20-year span from 1989 to 2009, Nevada Union played in seven CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D- I championship games, winning four (1993, ’94, ’05, ’09).

  • Alumni Flashback: Current Hillmen head coach Joey Montoya was an assistant at NU in the early 2000s under legendary coach Dave Humpers, now the co-coach at River Valley.

  • The skinny: The Miners have a shot to have their best season since their last playoff team in 2012, Humphers’ final year at NU.


Oakmont  (3-2) Best win: El Camino, 45-0  

  • Did You Know? Since opening in 1965, the Vikings are playing in the school’s fifth league. Landing spots for the Vikings have been the Sierra Foothill League, Capital Valley Conference (twice), Pioneer Valley League and now Foothill Valley League.

  • Alumni Flashback: Ryan Perry-Smith, a ’92 Oakmont grad, threw for 1,896 yards playing at Oregon in 1996. Perry-Smith played in Cotton and Rose Bowls for the Ducks.

  • The Skinny: The Vikings are seeking their first winning season since 2005 when they were a member of the PVL.