Thursday night football, anyone?
The members of this season’s Mira Loma High of Sacramento football team weren’t even a glimmer in their father’s eye the last time their alma mater made any noise at the section level.
The year was 1981.
The Matadors cruised through the regular season then the first two rounds of the playoffs to set up a showdown with Placer of Auburn in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II final.
The Hillmen rolled 30-7 to take their fifth crown in the previous seven years as Mira Loma’s football program dropped off the radar screen.
The Matadors (0-4 overall, 0-1 Pioneer Valley League), whose last win came in 1999, will look to notch one of their biggest wins in a very long time when Mira Loma is host to Bear River 7:30 p.m. Thursday at El Camino High School in Sacramento.
An El Camino home game on Friday forced the Bear River game with Mira Loma to Thursday. No matter the night, the matchup is one Bear River can’t afford to take lightly.
“Mira Loma beats a Bear River, and that makes their season, so we’re preparing for them the same way we’d prepare for a Del Oro or anyone else,” Bruins head coach Scott Savoie said. “We hope we come out and get after it. One of our team goals is to play four quarters of football, and we’d like to do that Thursday night.”
While the Matadors have only scored an average of 13.5 points a game, they have a gaggle of players with big-play capability.
On the ground, halfback Kamran Mustafa has carried the running game on his shoulders.
The 5-foot, 10-inch, 195-pound junior is second among league running backs behind Bear River’s Cody Yeager (463 yards), with 437 yards on 76 carries and two touchdowns.
“They’ve been a typically straight-ahead running team. They’re pretty big up front. I think their smallest offensive lineman is around 190 pounds, but the rest are 220 and up,” Savoie said.
Mira Loma can also put some air under the ball.
Junior quarterback Jeremy Reister has averaged 98.5 yards per game, with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
He can go up top with 6-foot-4 wideout Brandon Pearson (nine catches for 144 yards), or out of the back field with fullback Joel Rabara (4-94).
Of all the receivers the Bruin defense will have to keep an eye on, the most dangerous is senior Joey Rinelli. The 2001 All-Capital Valley Conference performer has only made four catches for 61 yards, but has found the end zone six times.
Defensively, the Matadors have struggled. They gave up 42 points to Encina in the season opener, and it hasn’t gotten much better. Mira Loma has given up 38.2 points per contest.
“They’ve got a cluster of good players. They just haven’t put it together yet,” Savoie said. “They’ve picked up four big losses, and it’s tough to get the kids up after something like that.”
The Showdown – Bear River will play Mira Loma at El Camino High School in Sacramento today. The junior varsity game starts at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity to follow at 7:30 p.m.
So far – Bear River enters the Pioneer Valley League game with a 3-1 overall record and 1-0 in league. Mira Loma is 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the PVL.
Key matchup – Bear River’s defense will have to corral the league’s second-leading rusher in Kamran Mustafa (437 yards) and third-leading scorer Joey Rinelli (six touchdowns).
Directions -To get to El Camino High School in Sacramento for tonight’s game, take Interstate 80 west to Watt Avenue South. Turn left on El Camino Avenue. The school is on the right.
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