Heat turned back on for Del Oro-Placer football

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Ask Placer County Sheriff Ed Bonner about the Del Oro-Placer football rivalry that will again play out tonight in Loomis and the floodgates of memories open. Bonner, a 1969 Del Oro High School graduate, can remember a freshman game in 1965 between his Golden Eagles and the Placer Hillmen that was played in what he recalls as a mud bowl. He remembers the score – 6-0 for Placer and the fact that even then, the two schools were building a rivalry that will be renewed in a playoff game at the Loomis school. As they were in 1965, both schools are in different leagues. But the two schools are in the same playoff division this year and through some serendipitous scheduling and wins last week, find themselves playing their 36th game since their first in 1970. Bonner graduated in 1969, the year before Del Oro and Placer became part of the same Sierra Foothill League. He was coaching from 1973 to 1979 when Placer had some of its strongest teams and ran up seven straight wins. But as a parents of two boys who played on the Golden Eagles team during the latter years of the rivalry, he watched the tide turn and Del Oro win 14 straight games. Like many parents, players and coaches, Bonner said Thursday that he has been longing for Del Oro and Placer to play again – even throwing around the idea of a pre-season matchup to keep the rivalry alive. They last played each other in 2005. “Now we’re meeting in the playoffs,” Bonner said. “How cool is that.” Bonner, who was inducted into the Del Oro sports hall of fame in 2010 for his track and football prowess, also has a little-known Placer connection. His father coached at the school in the 1950s and Bonner fondly recalls the short walk from his Olive Street home to the school to play on the field. Del Oro’s cheer coach Allie Hennessy can also claim a Placer heritage and an appreciation of the rivalry on the football field between the two schools. She graduated from Placer in 1982 and was cheerleader on the Hillmen side for many an epic battle. “Our rivalry was much like the one we have now between Granite Bay and Del Oro,” Hennessy said. “You love to hate ‘em. It’s going to be a great game.” Hennessy moved back to Placer County with her husband – also a Placer High grad – and found a home in Loomis. As cheer coach, she’s finding plenty of other ex-Placer High students in her neck of the woods. “There was an overlap then of kids who knew each other and that helped heat up the rivalry,” Hennessy said. “Now there are three or four parents of cheerleaders who are also Placer grads. There’s a lot of crossover.” Dr. Bill Kirby has seen the swings of the Del Oro-Placer rivalry on the sidelines for 32 years. He’s Auburn’s mayor but is also the Hillmen team doctor. “It’s like a neighborhood game,” Kirby said. “It’s good for the community to play Del Oro again. We’re the obvious underdog but I fully expect Placer to win.” Kirby said he’s seen healthy rivalries develop among Placer, Colfax and Bear River – all within 20 miles of one another. “All are really good high schools, not just Del Oro,” Kirby said. ------------------------------------ Fast facts: Going to the game - Game time is 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18 - Gates open at 5 p.m. - Tickets are $5 for students and $9 for adults - Tickets can be purchased at the game or at the Del Oro school office (open Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) - Parking coming from Auburn is available in the lot off King Road at Boyington Road Source: Del Oro High School