Here is a possible conversation sample at the next Martinez family get-together.
Rick Martinez: “My Le Grand teams won four straight section titles.”
Aaron Martinez: “But I got my first!”
Rick, without looking up while eating: “You’re catching up.”
Back in the real world, Le Grand is more than happy to have had the Martinez brothers leading the Bulldogs. Rick, the head coach while Aaron served as an assistant, guided the Bulldogs to those four memorable Sac-Joaquin Section titles from 2011 through ’14.
Rick now leads the Golden Valley football program while Aaron, the current Le Grand head coach, has returned the ‘Dogs to prominence. Le Grand will journey to faraway Fall River for the CIF Division VII AA Regional title, a bona fide Dog Fight, Saturday at 3 p.m. against the unbeaten Fall River Bulldogs.
Le Grand (8-5), which knocked off previously unbeaten Woodland Christian 35-12 last weekend for the D-VII section title, will embark Friday on one of its ultimate adventures. The Bulldogs will spend the night in Redding, about 90 minutes from their destination, then travel northeast to the tiny Shasta County ranching community of McArthur for its championship game. The total drive time is an estimated six hours.
Neither Le Grand nor Fall River has won a state football title. The winner will face either Loara or Morro Bay to attain their first No. 1 trophy.
“We have a great following,” Aaron Martinez said. “I’m sure a lot of people will make the trip to support us. “(Le Grand) does close down for us.’”
It appeared most of the Merced County berg rooted home the Bulldogs over Woodland Christian to their section title at Sacramento’s Hughes Stadium. Le Grand raced to a 21-0 halftime lead and, before it was over, five different Bulldogs accounted for touchdowns. The game was decided when Ronnie Ramirez intercepted a pass in his own end zone and dashed the length of the field for the long-distance pick-six.
“I was real happy with the defense and the balance we had on offense,” Martinez said. “I felt we outplayed them.”
Le Grand, which placed third in the Southern League and was the No. 3 seed in the section bracket, has peaked at the right time. Its four-game winning streak, punctuated by two thrilling victories over Mariposa, has featured defense. The Bulldogs have yielded only 14 points a game during that run.
Four juniors, among other Le Grand standouts, have escorted Le Grand to the NorCal summit: Quarterback Julian Bucio (2,165 passing yards, 29 touchdowns), running back/linebacker Louie Aguallo (717 rushing yards, 13 TDs), receiver Carlos Castaneda (14 TDs) and two-way beast in the line Fermin Villegas (6-foot-2 305 pounds).
Le Grand will face its second straight undefeated opponent. Fall River (11-0), which has dominated the Cascade Valley League for nearly a decade, is a gaudy 42-5 the last four seasons under coach Todd Sloat.
The assignment for Le Grand will be simple yet daunting – contain Ryan Osborne, the do-everything Fall River senior quarterback. Osborne, 6-foot and 205, merely has passed for 1,494 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 1,330 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Oddly for all its success, Le Grand never has played at the Northern California level. The small-schools bracket did not exist past the section level during the Bulldogs’ dynasty, but the school was invited to a small-schools state final in 2011. Le Grand, 12-0 at the time, lost that day in Carson to Sierra Canyon 34-13.
Last weekend became an echo of sorts to those years of Le Grand dominance.
“To see their faces, to see the excitement they’ve brought to the community, it was a little overwhelming,” Martinez said.
As for the Martinez brothers’ private debate, Aaron feels better these days.
“I don’t have to avoid him (Rick) now,” Aaron said. “I got a little arsenal.”
Rick Davis does not want Friday night to be his swan song.
Davis, Argonaut High of Jackson’s football coach for 20 seasons, announced earlier this fall that this campaign would be his last. What’s for certain is that he’ll make his final home appearance in the CIF Division 6-AA Regional title game against St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma on Friday night at 7:30.
The winner will advance to the state final, and Davis wants his Mustangs to be there.
Argonaut (10-3), the runner-up behind Sonora in the Mother Lode League, annexed its first Sac-Joaquin Section title since 2004 last weekend with a 31-20 victory over Rosemont of suburban Sacramento in the Division VI final.
The NorCal final pits teams with veteran coaches – Davis and St. Vincent’s Trent Herzog – rugged defenses and ground-oriented offenses.
Argonaut is led by two-way star Beau Davis, the quarterback on offense and the MLL’s Defense Player of the Year (139 tackles). Davis engineers the Mustangs’ Wing-T attack, and he’s supported by the explosive Colby Eckhart (975 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, five receiving TDs). Caleb McElfish has scored 11 touchdowns.
The Mustangs have been giant-killers in the playoffs with wins over schools with larger enrollments. Rosemont, only the second Sacramento City Unified School District team to reach a section football final, triples the enrollment of Argonaut.
St. Vincent (11-1), the Redwood League champion, won the North Coast Section D-VII final last weekend over St. Helena 54-32.
The winner will meet the Quartz Hill-Palo Verde Valley winner for the state championship. That's where Davis targets his finish line.