Golden Eagles travel to Vegas

Del Oro begins season, builds camraderie, with a three-day trip to Las Vegas
By: Joshua Ansley Journal Sports Writer
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The sun still slept as the Del Oro High football team boarded two buses for an 11-hour ride to Las Vegas last week to take on Bishop Gorman High, which is currently ranked No. 21 in the nation by USA Today. While the three-day trip would end with a loss, the team got a rare chance to travel to one of the most popular cities in the world and represent Del Oro High School. With offense on one bus and defense on the other, noise and testosterone were never in short supply. As the ride lingered on, the bus with the team’s offense reviewed last season’s inconceivable 43-42 come-from-behind playoff win over Folsom High, which catapulted Del Oro into the Div. II Sac-Joaquin section championship game against Rocklin. Arriving at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino around 5 p.m., the team debriefed before getting some rest. The next day’s practice session took place at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Two-year starting quarterback Max Magleby said being able to walk through and practice at UNLV was inspiring. “It was cool,” Magleby said. “Going to a college facility and playing on their field, it makes you wonder, ‘could I play there?’ It definitely makes me want to play college football.” Following a morning run-through at UNLV, the players returned to the hotel to get ready for a quick trip to an Ultimate Fighting Championship training facility where undefeated Mixed Martial Arts lightweight fighter Evan Dunham greeted them. He spoke to the team for about 10 minutes with advice on the value of getting an education. “I didn’t start fighting until after I earned my college degree,” Dunham said. “Get your degree, first and foremost.” Dunham then tweeted about his experience later that day. “Talked to a football team at the gym today,” he wrote. “They were great kids and I had a good time.” The facility was state of the art, full of auxiliary and lifting equipment rarely seen at your local family gym. It was a football player’s playground. Naturally, some of the players wrestled around a bit. Soon enough, everyone had gathered around an extended pull-up bar to see who could lift their waist completely above the bar. Few succeeded with any grace. One of Del Oro’s captains, senior tight end and linebacker Shoichi Martinson, was grateful for the opportunity to see the training facility. “It was crazy,” he said. “(It) was something special.” The team traveled straight to Bishop Gorman High School to get in a light afternoon practice at Fertitta Field. After going over some final Xs and Os before Saturday night’s big game, the players and coaches were joined by their respective families at a local restaurant to take in the ESPN2 Grant vs. Folsom game. The next morning the families joined the players and coaches for breakfast. After checking out of the hotel, the players shifted to a private banquet room where they completed homework, caught up on sleep, and listened to some pre-game tunes. By 4 p.m. on Saturday it was all business. The team went over its pre-game routine and left the hotel eagerly awaiting the challenge soon at hand. Despite Fertitta Field making most other high school stadiums look like a patch of grass on the wrong side of town, the visiting locker room could not have been any larger than the average American kitchen. But it did not deter the Golden Eagles from psyching themselves up as coach Casey Taylor addressed the team. “I am so proud of our focus this week,” Taylor said. “In 17 years of coaching I’ve always had to yell at somebody. You guys are ready to go. Play with some heart and play physical. We know they’re bigger, we know they’re whatever. I don’t (care). We’ve got to worry about us.” With that, Del Oro took to the field and played a first half unlike any Bishop Gorman may see again for the entire year. Down 10-0 early, Del Oro came storming back with 13 unanswered points to take the lead. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles did not prevail. After the game the team sang the fight song to show their appreciation to the 125-plus parents, girlfriends, fans, and teachers that came to support Del Oro. From there, the players and coaches boarded the buses once more for the journey back home. It was a trip that will be talked about for years to come and one that Del Oro should be proud of. No other team in the Sierra Foothill League traveled half as far for a first game, or faced nearly as difficult an opponent. Magleby said it really brought the team together. “I felt like the trip bonded us a lot better,” he said. “And (it) really showed the juniors how to deal with that caliber of a game.”