We begin our 2017 Football coverage by revealing teams #20-11 in our NorCal Preseason Top 20 in a daily countdown to Aug. 24 when #10-1 are revealed in our 2017 Football Preview Special. If you need to catchup, here are links to previous entries:
No. 15 ELK GROVE
2016 REVIEW: 11-2 and No. 15 in our final rankings
COACH: John Heffernan, 1st season
WHY THEY’RE HERE: The Thundering Herd is synonymous with playoff football, and despite a challenging offseason that included the dismissal of longtime head coach Chris Nixon, Elk Grove is expected to be playing into November once again.
FAMILIAR FACE: The lone coaching holdover to remain on staff after Heffernan was hired during the Summer after 18 years at Burbank-Sacramento is veteran offensive line coach Moe Loller. The longtime leader of the Herd’s “Hammerheads” has found a way to create lanes for the run-heavy Elk Grove offense despite not always having the beefiest group in the trenches. Senior George Spithorst, at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, is a long way from the 300-plus linemen that he will see from his LB position on defense, but he will be among the Herd’s heaviest Hammerheads. Other key OL contributors will be Ben Bouck (6-1, 230) and Nathan Seamons (6-2, 230).
TRANSITION BY FIRE: With almost an entirely new coaching staff and new starters at QB, WR, and MLB to replace graduating stars, Elk Grove may want some extra time to get up to speed in 2017. But the Thundering Herd will face the speed of perennial power Inderkum in their opener, providing little to no period of adjustment. Immediately after facing the Tigers, Elk Grove will host Bay Area juggernaut Serra-San Mateo.
NAME TO NOTE: Zion Thomas, FB, Sr. — The 5-foot-10, 190-pound rusher led the ground attack as the lead back with 976 yards and 13 TDs. This season, he will power Heffernan’s “flex-bone” offense and is expected to again lead the Herd in rushing. He will have sufficient help in the backfield with returning halfback Jaden Burns and additional young legs to spell him, as needed.
8/25 vs. INDERKUM
9/2 vs. SERRA-SAN MATEO
9/8 @ Lincoln-Stockton
9/22 vs. DAVIS
9/29 @ Grant-Sacramento
10/6 vs. JESUIT-CARMICHAEL
10/13 vs. PLEASANT GROVE-ELK GROVE
10/20 @ Monterey Trail-Elk Grove
10/27 @ Franklin-Elk Grove
11/3 vs. SHELDON-SACRAMENTO
LAST WORD: Elk Grove may be slow out of the gate with a difficult schedule to start the season, but Heffernan will have the Herd in form and in position to play deep into the postseason.