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Turnaround leads to title for Del Oro

Defense dominates as Eagles win eighth straight, roll to seventh section championship
By: Cecil Conley Gold Country News Service
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SACRAMENTO — Casey Taylor and his Del Oro High School football team were in no hurry to get out of the rain Saturday night. The Golden Eagles soaked in the thrill of victory for all it was worth. Del Oro entered the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs as the No. 11 seed. The Golden Eagles finished as champions by defeating Oakdale 21-0 at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. A season that began in the scorching heat of August ended on a damp Saturday night in December. The Golden Eagles weathered much more than Mother Nature in a season to remember. Senior Tyler Adair did not mind that the rain was turning the black paint on his face into a mess. He also did not mind that he had to play this season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “This means everything,” Adair said. “We knew we could do it.” Del Oro was 2-4 after a 27-18 loss to Rocklin on Oct. 8. The Golden Eagles then got on the right track, winning their final four Sierra Foothill League games and four postseason games. A season that was on the verge of being derailed two months ago ended with Del Oro roaring back to win eight consecutive games. “We had to get it together,” junior linebacker Alex Bertrando said. “We knew we had the talent.” Kai Vonalvensleben sealed the deal for Del Oro (10-4) when he intercepted a tipped pass and dashed 52 yards to the end zone to make it 21-0 with 4:16 to play. That was enough to send Oakdale fans to the exits. Defense was the difference for Del Oro on Saturday night and throughout the playoffs. The Golden Eagles did not allow more than nine points in any of their four postseason wins. Del Oro picked the perfect time to record its first shutout of the season. Vonalvensleben’s interception return was one of three big plays that produced one memorable victory for the Eagles. The first was a 72-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Heatherington to tight end Shoichi Martinson with 8:39 left in the first half. The second was Russell Smith’s 65-yard return of the second-half kickoff to make it 14-0. Del Oro was the lowest seed to play for a championship in Division I, II or III. Monterey Trail was the No. 10 seed in Division I and lost to top-seeded Pleasant Grove in Saturday’s other title game at Hornet Stadium. The Golden Eagles defied the Division III seedings, and they were not alone. Top-seeded Manteca and No. 3 Pioneer lost in the first round. Whitney ousted Pioneer as the No. 14 seed to earn a trip to Loomis to face Del Oro. The Golden Eagles sent the Wildcats home with a 26-9 loss. Del Oro then hit the road to face No. 2 Patterson and rolled to a 28-9 victory. Oakdale (10-4) advanced through the playoffs as the No. 5 seed with victories over Christian Brothers, Placer and Casa Roble. The Division II playoffs followed the seedings with the top four seeds advancing to the semifinals. Fourth-seeded Folsom pulled a surprise in Friday’s title game, defeating No. 2 Grant 41-20 to avenge a 49-14 loss Aug. 27.