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Presumed Dead Too Soon? | Elk Grove Football Rushes Back To SJS Relevance Presumed Dead Too Soon? | Elk Grove Football Rushes Back To SJS Relevance
Seniors Zeke Burnett, Ethan Archuleta And Pita Folaumotui Vi Are On Mission To Prove Elk Grove’s Demise Was Falsely Advertised — They Might Be... Presumed Dead Too Soon? | Elk Grove Football Rushes Back To SJS Relevance

Seniors Zeke Burnett, Ethan Archuleta And Pita Folaumotui Vi Are On Mission To Prove Elk Grove’s Demise Was Falsely Advertised — They Might Be Right •

TOP PHOTO: Zeke Burnett Crosses The Goal Line In Elk Grove’s Sept. 17 Win At Lincoln (Ike Dodson photo)

A dive isn’t a really a dive when it’s executed by Elk Grove High senior running back Zeke Burnett.

It’s more of a fuse.

Burnett (5 foot, 11 inches, 190 pounds) is one of California’s most explosive running backs, a rare combination of speed, power and courage — or at least what seems like courage. Burnett erupts through blocking holes as if he expects each play to result in a touchdown.

He’s a big reason why Elk Grove (2-2 overall, 1-0 Delta League) should be given a little more respect these days. The Thundering Herd fell off radars after back-to-back losses to Inderkum (15-6) and Oak Ridge (28-27), but have won two straight, including a 49-23 dismantling of Lincoln High and a 42-12 shellacking of Davis.

“We just had to overcome the adversity and get better,” Burnett said. “We just want to improve on offense, defense and win all of our games.

“We are coming for the league… we are coming.”

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Elk Grove can make it three straight by overcoming visiting Sheldon-Sacramento (4-1) today to keep pace with NorCal Top 20 No. 13 Jesuit, also unbeaten in Delta action.

Expect to see much of Burnett, who ran for 212 yards and five touchdowns against Lincoln, before health issues held him to one carry against Davis. Four-year Elk Grove coach John Heffernan confirmed Thursday that Burnett is “good to go” against a Sheldon team that has outscored opponents 156-93 in 2021.

Elk Grove, Zeke Burnett
Zeke Burnett returns to the field tonight after health issues limited him to just one carry against Davis. (Ike Dodson photos)

It’s sensational news for Elk Grove, considering Burnett’s explosiveness.

“Honestly, he makes play calling easy,” Heffernan said. “You just call your normal plays and he might take it to the house.

“He can take a dive and go to the house, so we don’t have to try to manufacture too many things. We just have to run our offense and let our kids execute.”

You can load the box against Elk Grove (87 precent of the team’s offensive yards have come on the ground), but you can’t just key on Burnett either.

Micro-quarterback Ethan Archuleta (5-8, 175) is extremely difficult to grab, let alone see, and has excellent vision when plays break down, or when he bolts into the open field on option runs. The senior has helped Elk Grove create one of the best rushing duos in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Ethan Archuleta, Elk Grove
Ethan Archuleta follows his blockers for a big gain during the Sept. 17 win over Lincoln.

Let’s take a look at the top six such pairs:

  • Manteca (Blake Nichelson & Lyon Colon: 1,309 yards, 21 TDs, 9 games)
  • Yuba City (Brandon Sanders & Joaquin Porcayo: 993 yards, 17 TDs, 9 games)
  • Patterson (Sean Hansen & Lolo Mataele: 959 yards, 12 TDs, 11 games)
  • Elk Grove (Zeke Burnett & Ethan Archuleta: 912 yards, 12 TDs, 6 games)*
  • Monterey Trail (Ali Collier & Ronnie Brutus; 833 yards, 11 TDs, 9 games)
  • Wood-Vacaville (Ken Tilford & Jayjay Olaes: 829 yards: 9 TDs, 8 games)
    *Burnett had 1 carry for 1 yard in one additional game before leaving for health reasons

Archuleta and Burnett have the best per-game average amongst all rushing duos in the SJS.

Both have garnered collegiate interest, and Burnett said he has scholarship offers from Nevada, Colorado, Colorado State, San Jose State, Fresno State, San Diego State and Sacramento State.

“I’m just looking for a school that is a home for me, a good fit,” Burnett said. “Everything has to work out.”

Burnett is understandably on recruitment lists after he ran for 1001 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore during Elk Grove’s SJS champion season in 2019. His teammate, senior defensive end Pita Folaumotui Vi, doesn’t have such pedigree.

He does have the athleticism and talent however.

Folaumotui Vi (6-3, 230) was an absolute wrecking ball against Lincoln, and should excite the lucky recruiters who stumble onto his game film. He drives offensive tackles into the backfield so much, he might as well take the carpool lane.

Pita Folaumotui Vi, Elk Grove Football
Pita Folaumotui Vi (1) will stand out amongst a crowd of Thundering Herd teammates.

“He’s definitely a next-level player,” Heffernan said. “When you watch high school games and you see a kid like him, it just stands out.

“He’s a little bit of a sleeper. We didn’t really have a season last year really — one game he got to play — so this is his coming out.”

Folaumotui Vi (five sacks) credited the rest of his defense for helping clean up some of the havoc he creates. Today, the Elk Grove defense will look to stymie the effectiveness of Sheldon’s star trio, quarterback Jesiah Machado (1,114 passing yards, 12 TDs), running back Isaiah Bickham (615 rushing yards, 6 TDs) and receiver Scott Nixon (41 catches, 531 yards, 8 TDs).

Nixon is the son of Sheldon coach Chris Nixon — who had an immensely successful nine-year run coaching the Thundering Herd from 2008-2016. This is Nixon’s first full season running the Huskies, and the first time he and his staff (many with strong Elk Grove ties) will face off against their former program.

All drama aside, the Thundering Herd know a win is another big step in putting themselves back in the SJS heavyweights conversation. In fact, a good enough performance could warrant an obituary retraction for the Elk Grove football program.

Ike Dodson

Ike Dodson currently works as an information officer for California Correction Health Care Services. Prior to that he was an award-winning journalist with over 14 years of experience writing about the Sac-Joaquin Section.

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