photos by Charlie McDonald (email@example.com)
by Mike Finnerty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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The Capital Valley Conference title was up for grabs Friday night when SureWest's No. 16 Rio Linda Knights played host to the No. 11 Del Campo Cougars.
Late season big games have been something of familiar territory for Del Campo in recent years, but not for Rio Linda. Before Friday's showdown, the Knights had not been in a league title chase in the final week since the 2006 season.
With both teams known for tough defenses and ground-and-pound offenses, their combined four passing touchdowns in the first half put Del Campo up 28-21 by intermission.
But in the second half, the game slowed down, the defenses dominated.
When Del Campo's Adrian Rocha intercepted a pass in the end zone late in the game, it sealed a 34-28 victory for Del Campo and gave head coach Mike Dimino his sixth league title as the front man for the Cougars.
"Rocha played a great game," said Dimino. "He made that pick, and he also made a big catch in the back of the end zone at the end of the first half. He made the plays tonight, but al the kids did. I'm very impressed. We're happy."
The victory gave Del Campo (8-2, 5-0) the CVC title, with Rio Linda (8-2, 4-1) finishing in second as both teams will now get ready for the opening round of the Division II playoffs set for November 9.
"It was a hard fought battle," said Dimino. "Rio Linda is a very well coached team, they played really hard, I'm real impressed. I didn't think they would do anything less, fought for the championship, came down to the end, and luckily we made a few plays and got it."
Del Campo quarterback Derek Rodigo knows it's good to head into the playoffs with some momentum.
"It just gives us that extra push to the playoffs, gives us that extra drive to push through and try and get that section championship."
The first half went back and forth with both teams trading touchdowns.
Del Campo's Austin Brown scored on a one-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Cougars lead, and that what would be the first of three half scores for Brown.
If it wasn't Brown finding the end zone for Del Campo, it was Rio Linda quarterback Dustin Rossiter going to the air. Rossiter, who had just five touchdown passes all season long, threw three touchdown passes in the first half.
Rossiter connected with Keenan Hunt on 30-yarder, JT Loudon on 24-yarder, and then just before the half Rossiter hit Rocha for a 23-yard score for the seven-point halftime advantage.
Rio Linda's Marcel Brown scored on a 21-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 28-28 in the third.
Del Campo seized the lead back in the fourth on a Chris Gonzalez 1-yard run, but a window of opportunity opened up when Del Campo missed the extra point.
The Knights had the ball twice in the final minutes, but the Cougars defense came up big late, which included the Rocha interception.
"It was a heck of a game," said Rodigo. "Both teams fought their hearts out, and we're just happy to come out on top and it was a great win for the team."