Placer Hillmen staying focused despite homecoming distractions

Pioneer Valley League play starts tonight vs. Foothill
By: Matthew Kimel / Journal sports editor
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There have been plenty of distractions this week. Powder puff. A U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection ceremony. Homecoming. But the song remains the same: The Hillmen (5-0) are focused on earning a win Friday night. “It’s always a great time at Placer High School with homecoming and different festivities,” said coach Joey Montoya, whose team hosts Foothill (1-4) at 7:30 p.m. in the Pioneer Valley League opener. “There’s distractions but we’ve done a great job keeping focusing. What we’re really after is the game.” The Hillmen are coming off a 54-14 romp at Woodcreek, which spoiled the Timberwolves’ homecoming. “We don’t want (our) homecoming to go the way Woodcreek’s did,” said Tony Suverkropp, Placer’s leading tackler. Suverkropp doesn’t think all of the past week’s celebrations will have any effect on the outcome of the league opener. “There’s always distractions during the week from all the rallies, but when game time comes, we’ll be ready to go,” he said. “It won’t have any bearing, we’ll play to our abilities.” The Foothill Mustangs have dealt with distractions of their own. Coach Scott Swartz recently left the team, then 0-4 at the time, for a job in Utah. The Mustangs, under assistant coaches who became interim co-head coaches, responded by earning their first victory, 33-27 over Natomas. “I was happy for them (in getting the win),” Montoya said. “You want kids to have a great experience regardless of what school they go to. … It’s not an easy situation, it was neat to see them get a win.” Montoya figures Foothill’s first victory will give the team confidence moving forward, and perhaps some momentum. “At this point we have the same record as they do,” the coach said. “We’re both 0-0. They’re going to be very hungry.” Foothill is led by running back Dillon Paris, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior who ran for 372 yards in the Mustangs’ first three games on just 29 carries. “(Paris) is quick and he can break a big one at any point,” Montoya said. “We’ve got to play assignment football and do our job.” Though Hillmen quarterback Peter Denham has thrown five touchdowns in the last two weeks, Montoya wouldn’t tip his hand as to whether Placer will continue to air it out. “Depends on the looks they give us,” he said. Thus far, Placer has been credited with 238 runs and only 62 passes, 32 of which have come in the past two contests. Denham has thrown eight touchdowns and just one interception. Montoya said the Hillmen will take whatever they can get and hope to come out with a victory. “That’s always the goal,” he said. Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel