Will NU-Grant rivalry survive?
Mike Alberghini just doesn’t understand.
How can the Sac-Joaquin Section propose to take one of the most prolific high school football programs out of Division I competition, and in the meantime make a compromise to leave another perennial powerhouse in that same division?
That’s what Alberghini, athletic director and head football coach at Grant High School, is facing.
According to the proposal currently on the table for the section’s league realignment, Alberghini’s Pacers would be placed in the Metro Conference, which expects to be reclassified as a Division II league beginning with the 2006-07 school year.
If that proposal is the one finally approved by the section, it could mean the end of one of the most highly-anticipated matchups each fall: Grant versus Nevada Union.
“Taking Grant and Nevada Union out of the same league … I’d hate to lose them as a league opponent,” said NU head coach Dave Humphers. “Several times in the past 10 years, Nevada Union and Grant has been one of the best games in the state of California and one of the top rivalries anywhere.”
The all-time series, which dates back to a 20-14 Grant win in 1973, is led by Grant with a 15-13-1 record. The Pacers also prevailed in the latest matchup, a 24-21 win in Sacramento on Oct. 29. Nevada Union, though, has won four of the last six meetings.
“It’s a great rivalry,” said Alberghini. “I’m sure, even if we don’t have a (league) game with them, we’ll do anything we can do to keep up our games with Nevada Union. I’m sure we’ll do anything we can do and hopefully they will, too, to play non-league games.”
The Miners, under the current proposal, would be placed in the Division II Sierra Foothill League in all sports, except football. Nevada Union, according to the current proposal, would compete in one of two D-I Delta leagues.
It’s that plan, which keeps one of the area’s elite football programs in Division I, that Alberghini and his colleagues at Grant are eyeing.
In the big picture, moving Grant to a D-II league is the best thing for the school, in terms of the Pacers’ entire athletic program, Alberghini said.
But when it comes to football, he said, the move just doesn’t make sense.
“I think it’s really stupid for Grant not to be in Division I football,” said Alberghini. “We haven’t done well (in Div. I in other sports), so it is something you want to do in that what’s right for everybody, in all of our sports.
“But nobody has had a better record, nobody has had more playoff wins and nobody has as many Division I titles as Grant. I mean we’ve won four Division I titles in the past 12 years. Nobody else has done that.
“So I’m just saying that you don’t want to cheapen Division I football by not having Grant in there. Why would you not want to have this team be part of it?”
Alberghini said he doesn’t consider the Grant-Nevada Union series as a “dead issue,” mostly because he doesn’t see the latest meeting as the end of the realignment process. He plans to make the case that Grant should be allowed to play D-I football, just as Nevada Union.
“Nevada Union deserves to play Division I football also,” Alberghini said. “So, I ‘m not looking at this as a ‘Why them, why not us?’ but we will bring this back to the table and ask what’s the difference?
“We’ll make another proposal and see how it goes and go from there.”
For Nevada Union, few changes have arisen to the original proposal laid out last month. Under the current plan, the NU football team would compete in Delta No. 1 League, which also would include Davis, Elk Grove, Franklin, Laguna Creek and Valley.
The original proposal also included Grant and Monterey Trail, a school yet to open, but has been replaced by Valley High and Kennedy, which would compete in the Delta in all sports except football.
Delta League No. 2, under the current plan, would include Florin, Folsom, Jesuit, Monterey Trail, Pleasant Grove, Sheldon and St. Francis.
“Essentially, all they’ve done is deleted Grant from Delta No.1 and added Valley,” NU athletic director Steve Pilcher said. “And in Delta No. 2, they’ve deleted Granite Bay – which will compete in the Sierra Foothill League in all sports -and added Monterey Trail. And Placer, which was in the SFL, is now in with Bear River in the Pioneer Valley League.
“The bottom line is we’re very appreciative. We think this plan is great. The Sierra Foothill League is as tough as any Division I league for all the other sports and for football, you just couldn’t put Nevada Union into Division II and not have a significant amount of criticism.”
Pilcher said NU’s joining the Delta League would mean that traditional preseason games against future league foes Elk Grove and Laguna Creek would open the door for other prime-time opponents.
“I think it might be time to go out and rekindle some old matchups, like with Napa. Or we could start new ones, like with a Cordova, an Oak Ridge or maybe even a St. Mary’s (Stockton). I think those would be great games that would get big crowds and a lot of interest.
“But we’d love to work something out with Mike. If this (proposal) gets set in stone, we’d love to play Grant in the preseason.
“Of course (the series) would be in jeopardy, if Mike and Dave didn’t want to play each other. But I don’t think that’s the case.”
“This is not just a football issue,” Humphers said. “With realignment, all the sports programs to be considered.
“But if it ends up that way, with Nevada Union and Grant in different leagues, we’ll certainly try to schedule them in non-league games. And, also, we’ll hope to still get to play them in the playoffs.”
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