Commentary: Why Inderkum & Grant Won’t Meet On The Field

BY BILL BRADLEY
Special To
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Seven miles may separate Inderkum High School and Grant High School, but they are closer than you would think on the football field.

The schools draw from different neighborhoods, with Inderkum in the middle of North Natomas’ unique apartment suburbia and Grant sitting in the older Del Paso Heights. But both schools have carved out a niche as varsity football powers.

Grant High put Sacramento on the national prep football map. The Pacers have become a fixture since the state bowl games began last decade and have enjoyed unmatched success under Coach Mike Alberghini.

But Inderkum is not far behind. Under Coach Terry Stark, the Tigers have won at 10 games for the past six seasons. Just three seasons ago, they won 13 games before losing in the section championship.

If these two schools have so much in common on the football field, then why haven’t they played in the past decade? Why couldn’t the two schools meet in, say, the home openers for both schools?

There’s no hope of that happening this year as the 2012 prep football season opened August 24 with Inderkum hosting Clovis East and Grant playing Paradise in a home game.

But the reason these nearby schools haven’t played in recent years is more than just finding an open spot on the schedule and making a few phone calls. It’s more than a he said/he said debate. It’s a little bit of posturing, some negotiating gone awry and, seemingly on Grant’s part, a little bit of arrogance.

A DEMANDING SCHEDULE

The basics: Inderkum is in the six-team Tri-County Conference and Grant is in the six-team Delta Valley League. Each team has five conference games and five non-conference games to schedule each season.

Here’s the rub: Grant, which is rated 88th in the state by MaxPreps.com and 781st in the country, has the goal to play a schedule that will lead to a mythical national championship. After all, the Pacers have been regulars in USA Today’s high school football Top 25 during the past decade. And, despite recent success, Inderkum is rated 120th in the state and 1,207 nationally by MaxPreps.

Listening to Reginald Harris, Grant’s athletic director, you would think he was trying to craft a schedule for the University of Oklahoma football team rather than the Pacers.

“People don’t want to put us on our schedule,” Harris said last week. “To do that would ruin their chances of getting to the playoffs.

“(Area power) Folsom won’t schedule us anymore. They can’t compete with our guys. But when their best players are seniors, they’ll call us. We don’t shy away from any anybody. We go out of state and play people. … People want to run away from us.”

That sounds good, but it’s not that simple.

Harris, who works the schedule with Alberghini, acknowledged Inderkum approached Grant for a game this season.

“(Inderkum) did want to play us, but they wanted to split the gate,” Harris said.” That’s not the way it works. You schedule a home-and-home series and we come up there the next year.

“They didn’t want us to come to their home. … I have no idea why. Maybe it’s a financial thing.”

It sounds as if there’s certain amount of cockiness that comes with making the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons.

“It’s a special thing for us to play you,” Harris said. “(Nationally ranked) De Le Salle wanted to play us one year there, but they wouldn’t schedule a home-and-home.

“Our kids get victimized. We appreciate Del Oro and Oak Ridge putting us on the schedule. But where would be if we kept running away from competition. We’re not going to grow our reputation by playing Sac High and McClatchy. Our community demands we play the best. We give them a show on Friday nights.”

BUILDING THEIR OWN REPUTATION

Drive west on U.S. 80, turn north at Truxel Road and you’ll find another high school with high expectations. Inderkum High is nine years old and has been playing varsity sports for eight. And for the past six football seasons, the Tigers have a 64-11 record.

Such sudden, but sustained, success has created unique scheduling challenges for Inderkum. Principal George Tapanes has seen how tough it can be to schedule varsity games when the school’s resume is so new.

“It gets tougher,” Tapanes said last week. “In scheduling the preseason games, we’re in same shoes that a lot of schools are when they are perennial winners. Nobody else wants to play you when you start winning.

“Our preferences are to have a good match up. Ideally we want a good gate,” he said. “… Local teams are good for us because it keeps costs of transportation down and we stand a better chance of getting a bigger crowd.”

Tapanes, a former football coach, got involved in scheduling this year. He said he was the one who originally approached Grant earlier in 2012 about meeting on the football field this fall.

“It didn’t work out,” he said. “We had openings. We asked to play. There was back-and-forth between us. The principals, the athletic directors and the communities got involved.

“We wanted to host the first game of a home-and-home series and the second game would be there,” Tapanes said. “Then, there were a lot of conditions put on the series. We would have had to split the gate at our first game. That’s when the talks ended.”

Tapanes denied Harris’ statement that Inderkum only wanted one game at Grant and then splitting the gate.

“I can guarantee you. I launched the initiative to play in the first place. I reached out to Grant,” Tapanes said. “The only stipulation I had was that we had a two-year deal and play the first year at Inderkum. That’s how it normally works.

“They had asked for a clause. If either team tried back out, there would be a monetary clause if someone bailed out. That’s pretty straight-forward in these deals. It was not a problem. But they kept adding up. Only the insistence that we split the game finally did the talks in.”

Tapanes said the idea for the game came from Inderkum fans and parents.

“There are families here whose parents are Grant alumni,” he said. “Such a game would mean a lot to them. For us, it was a no-brainer, at the gate and for the community.”

That Inderkum is in the conversation with a national program like Grant is compliment to Stark, who has created success and consistency in a relatively short time.

“Terry does a great job. … We’ve been able to schedule Pleasant Grove and Rocklin and Clovis East this year,” Tapanes said. “We do want balance, though, and we don’t want to schedule too many teams in a row that are perennial powers. But we want to challenge the kids.

“As such a young school, we have a small alumni base. We don’t have a sense of history. Those things take time to develop. But we’ve seen that happening at Inderkum in all of our extra-curricular activities.”

NATURAL RIVALRIES

There are many non-conference games in the Sacramento area that unite communities.

Every year, Vista Del Lago and Oak Ridge high schools cross a hill between Folsom and El Dorado Hills to meet. Rocklin and Whitney high schools have one of the best rivalries after splitting enrollments five years ago. And Davis High regularly plays neighboring Woodland High.

After talks fell through this year, many more miles will have to be traveled before Inderkum plays Grant in varsity football. And there appears to be a lot of hard feelings on the highway between them.

“It’s a matter of trust,” Tapanes said. “That’s my general impression. You have to have that first before you make an arrangement. You don’t see (the trust) right now. We tried, it didn’t happen and we moved on.”

It sounds like Grant officials are still interested, but on their terms.

“We would have a sellout crowd if Inderkum wanted to come over here and play us,” Harris said. “We would love it.”

Bill Bradley is the former sports editor of the Sacramento Bee. He has been covering high school sports for more than 30 years. He also runs an independent news site that covers Sacramento State athletics, www.sacstatesports.com.

2011 TIGER FOOTBALL PHOTOS BY C. SHANNON

Comments

  1. The mystique with regard to Grant is gone. If Inderkum had played them this year they would beaten them, easily. Inderkum is doing well because of Terry Stark and his staff, period. Administrations and regimes come and go but he’s the constant, he and his staff. Reggie Harris needs to check himself. He did the same thing to De La Salle, and they said no thanks. Inderkum doesn’t need Grant and they can play with anyone as Pleasant Grove found out this year.

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