New heights for foothills athletes
The 2011-12 prep sports year was memorable from the opening kickoff last August to the final putt just last week.
A slew of championships, a bunch of star athletes and a handful of heartbreaking defeats made it an epic year for high school sports in the foothills. Here were some of the highlights, by season:
Football in the foothills seems to get bigger and better every fall and 2011 was a breakthrough year, particularly in Loomis.
Del Oro High began the year with an epic overtime loss to Westlake at the Battle at the Capital. The Golden Eagles didn’t lose again until December in the CIF State Division II Bowl Game in Carson. Del Oro roared to Sierra Foothill League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championships before falling to Helix in its first state title game appearance.
The Golden Eagles did it all with a true team effort. Linebacker Alex Bertrando was the lone Division I scholarship recipient. Phenomenal line play, heady quarterbacking from Bobby Heatherington and the speedy running of Nick O’Sullivan and Brandon Monroe keyed Del Oro’s run.
While Placer was considered the favorite for the Pioneer Valley League title, the Hillmen were denied by a gutsy Colfax team. The Falcons stunned Placer 41-28 at Le Febvre Stadium and went 10-0 in the regular season.
The Hillmen finished the year 9-3, falling to Del Oro in the second round of the playoffs. Junior Eddie Vanderdoes put together a monster year, becoming a national recruit. The 6-4, 295-pound defensive lineman now has scholarship offers from more than 30 schools – the latest coming last week from Florida.
On the volleyball court, Placer made history. Senior Michaela Leonard guided the Hillgals to the third round of the section playoffs for the first time. After placing second in the PVL with an 8-2 record, Placer lost to eventual Division III champion Vista Del Lago in five games in its season finale.
Bear River broke through for its first PVL title. Led by junior star Sara Schell, the Bruins cruised to the Division IV section title game, where they lost to Union Mine in four games.
Placer soccer also turned in an historic 2011 campaign. The Hillmen won the Pioneer Valley League title for their first championship since 1994. They advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game before falling to Natomas 1-0.
Chilean foreign exchange student Benjamin De La Barra had a phenomenal season with 22 goals while senior Ulises Arellano surrendered less than .5 goals per game at goalkeeper.
Expect Placer to be very tough again in 2012 as the bulk of the team returns.
On the trail, the Placer boys cross country continued its tradition of excellence, claiming the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title. Senior Christian Finkbeiner led the way with a third place finish. Gama Gomez, Viktor Dorofeyev, Felix Oliveros and Jose Rodriguez contributed to the title.
Del Oro senior Trevor Stephens placed second individually in the Div. III race.
The Golden Eagles’ girls placed second as a team in the Division III race, led by junior Megan Gentes’ seventh place showing.
The Placer girls golf team won the PVL title and took second in the Division III tourney.
Del Oro’s girls tennis squad was the runner-up in the Division II tournament to SFL rival Granite Bay.
The Del Oro girls captured their first Sac-Joaquin Section championship in water polo, defeating Oakdale 10-7 in the Division II title match.
It wasn’t easy, but the Del Oro High girls basketball team retained its spot atop the Sierra Foothill League over the winter. The Golden Eagles saw their amazing SFL win streak come to an end, but they finished 9-1 to win the championship for an eighth straight season.
Junior Brianna Ruiz was terrific for the Eagles along with classmate Stephanie Geyer.
The Pioneer Valley League girls title race was a wild one. Colfax emerged on top as coach Dave Campbell’s squad outlasted contenders Bear River, Placer and Foothill.
Bear River senior Jennifer Meylor was the PVL’s Most Valuable Player.
The Del Oro boys put together a remarkable run in the SFL, matching the Golden Eagles girls with a 9-1 record and a league banner. The Jordan Broyles-led Del Oro squad lost to Lodi in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
The Placer boys returned to the playoffs as Cody Riggs led the way, averaging 15.6 points per game on the season. Bear River was up and down all season, but pulled off a major upset to open the playoffs, stunning Sonora on the road before barely losing to Calaveras in the second round.
Del Oro dominated the wrestling mat in the Sierra Foothill League as senior Austin Branum led the way. Bear River upset its way to the Pioneer Valley League crown.
On the snow, the Colfax girls sped to the state championship, led by individual champion Teagan Santin. Stephanie Scott and Nicola also earned all-state honors for the Falcons. Placer’s Lanae Rothe was an all-state performer. Senior Julian Faulkner placed third in the state to lead the Hillmen.
Placer’s snowboarders carved out a state title of their own, led by all-state award winners Jacob Peek, Colton Davenport and Andrew Carrier.
Colfax junior Nelly Steinhoff capped a phenomenal season with an individual state title on the girls side.
Bear River’s softball program capped a tremendous run with a section championship. Placer served notice that it may unseat Bear River as the team to beat in the PVL.
Led by nine seniors, the Bruins held off the upstart Hillgals to win the PVL. They went on to win their fifth section title in six seasons – this one at the Division III level. Coach Duane Zauner retired after the season, which saw Texas-bound Stephanie Ceo and North Dakota State-bound Alyssa Reina shine throughout the year.
Freshman Kaelin Amrein sparked the Hillgals, who finished with a 16-4 record. Seniors Haley Tupen, Taylor Hill, Abby Kendall, Jenna Knox and Kailey Gaffney were key contributors.
The Del Oro softball team won the Sierra Foothill League title, led by seniors Jordan Courage and Whitney Smith. But the Eagles were knocked off by Christian Brothers in the second round of the Division II playoffs.
The Placer baseball team started miserably in the PVL, but the Hillmen were the last ones standing by the end, winning the league title. A tremendous senior class led Placer to a 20-9 overall record. The Hillmen fell to Rodriguez in the Division III semifinal series.
Colfax baseball had an impressive season, finishing second in the PVL and making the section Division III quarterfinals.
The Del Oro track and field team grabbed headlines with boys and girls wins at the Division II-III meet. Seniors Casey Wheeler (Sacramento State-bound) and Brie Simmons (signed with BYU) shined in the hurdles. Simmons advanced to the CIF State Championships in four events and Wheeler qualified in three.
Bear River star Kendal Nielsen was a state finalist in the long jump and the triple jump. She is headed to Cal Poly next year.
The Del Oro girls soccer team had a banner season, winning the SFL title to end a long drought. The Golden Eagles did not lose until the Division II title game, when they lost to league rival Woodcreek.
Colfax soccer was phenomenal as well, posting a 16-2-2 record on the season and winning the PVL. The Falcons lost to Rodriguez in a penalty kick shootout in the first round of the Division III playoffs. Forest Lake Christian’s young team made it to the Division VI championship game before falling to Bradshaw Christian.
Placer and Del Oro tennis were the class of the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Hillmen and Hillgals teamed up to win the co-ed section championship. The Golden Eagles held off rival Granite Bay to win the Division II boys title.
In swimming, Bear River won the PVL crown and the Del Oro boys had a huge season, led by Alabama-bound star Brian Westlake.
The Placer boys golf team went 9-1 to win the PVL title before going on to win the Division III crown at Yolo Fliers Club in Woodland.
Austin Smotherman was the final foothills athlete to win a championship this year and he claimed the biggest prize of all. The Del Oro senior won the CIF State golf championship on Wednesday, shooting a 4-under par 67 at San Gabriel Country Club.