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Del Oro turns it around to top Placer

Four second-half turnovers hurt Hillmen's upset plans
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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LOOMIS — Coach Joey Montoya winced as he thought about the handful of miscues and bobbles that cost his Placer High football team a shot at perhaps the biggest win in school history Friday night. After consoling players and shaking hands with dozens of parents, Montoya reflected on a tremendous effort from his Hillmen. It was spoiled as Del Oro took advantage of four second-half turnovers on its way to a 41-12 win in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. “I’m very proud. We had things working, but you can’t turn the ball over against a great team,” Montoya said. “The score is not indicative of how close the game was, but Del Oro is a great team.” Placer out-gained Del Oro in total yardage. The Hillmen cranked out 326 yards on the ground despite losing leading rusher Brad Spangler to a concussion in the first quarter. And Placer held a 12-7 halftime lead after a touchdown by Peter Denham, a safety and a 34-yard field goal from Dominic Granieri. Del Oro (11-1) showed championship grit on an 80-yard drive to open the third quarter. Quarterback Bobby Heatherington completed three third-down passes and the Golden Eagles took the lead for good on Nick O’Sullivan’s one-yard dive. Placer (9-3) answered with an impressive drive of its own, but on third down and 1 at Del Oro’s 19-yard line the Hillmen fumbled and Brandon Monroe recovered for the Eagles. Two plays later, Monroe took off up the Placer sideline on an 80-yard TD run. Down two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, the Hillmen drove to Del Oro’s 2-yard line. But Monroe laid a big hit on a Placer ball carrier to force a fumble, which Blake Covey scooped up and took 94 yards to give the Eagles a commanding 34-12 lead. The second-half turnaround saved Del Oro’s hopes for a second straight section title, and possibly a CIF State Bowl bid. “To Placer’s credit, they came out and hit us in the mouth,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “Our defense kept us in it and fortunately we made a few adjustments at the half. We challenged our guys and told them to play a full 48 minutes. We have great senior leadership.” After totaling 107 yards of offense in the first half, Del Oro’s running game got rolling late in the game. O’Sullivan finished with 124 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Monroe added 124 yards and two TDs. “In the second half we put all the pieces of the puzzle together,” Monroe said. “We started getting the momentum and we just kept it rolling.” Isaiah Pineiro had a first-half interception for the Hillmen. Covey had two interceptions for the Eagles. Spangler’s concussion was a big blow for the Hillmen. He had broken free for a big gain before Monroe converged on him and punched the ball out of his hands. Spangler landed hard on his head and was unconscious for several seconds before eventually walking off the field. Spangler’s backup – Jordan Ralls – did not play for the Hillmen after he suffered a concussion in the win over Patterson on Nov. 11. “That was a double whammy,” Montoya said. Despite the heartbreaking loss to their rivals, the Placer players were proud of their performance. “I’m not upset because we always say we should keep our heads up as long as we leave it all on the field and we did that,” junior lineman Jake Lewis said. “The first half was just smash mouth football. We had some fumbles and a couple calls that didn’t go our way, but we kept fighting. I love playing with all of these seniors.” Del Oro moves on to face another Placer County foe – Whitney. The Wildcats beat Cosumnes Oaks Friday, but lost senior quarterback Jake Rodrigues to a broken leg.