Lancers Defeat Wolverines, Win Share of SVC Crown

By Mike Bush  |  2017-11-08

Members of the Cordova High School football team celebrate their 48-0 SVC finale win over rival Rosemont, as they keep the Sledgehammer that the two schools have battled for in recent years. Photo by Rick Sloan

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – Members of the Cordova High School football team will need to send the Union Mine squad Christmas presents or gift cards next month.

That is because Cordova will hoist up a second consecutive – and final – Sierra Valley Conference title. The Lancers posted their first shutout of the season against Rosemont, which led to a 48-0 win at Lancer Stadium on Nov. 3rd.

As Cordova was en route to its win, Union Mine jumped out to an early start that led to beat El Dorado 23-20. That win gave Cordova (4-1 in the SVC, 7-3 overall) and El Dorado (4-1 and 7-3) a share of the conference title. Cordova and El Dorado, along with Liberty Ranch, were tri-SVC champions last season.

“We were sweating that game out for sure,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill, referring to the El Dorado-Union Mine game.

Now the Lancers begin the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs against a familiar non-league foe in Vista del Lago of Folsom. See elsewhere on this page for another story on Cordova’s second consecutive playoff trip.

Five minutes left in the first quarter against Rosemont (2-3 in the SVC, 4-6), Cordova scored its first touchdown when quarterback Johnele Sanders scored on a 33-yard run. Along with Alvin Banks booting the extra-point, the Lancers led 7-0.

The Lancers’ defense played a role in the team’s next two touchdowns, both in the second quarter. Cordova, face a Wolverines’ team that runs the veer offense, forced a turnover at midfield that gave the ball back into the Lancers’ hands. That led to wide receiver Jordan Colvin hauling in a 38-yard pass with 10 minutes left in the quarter, concluded with Banks’ extra-point boot to make it 14-0.

Banks, from his defensive back spot, set up the next score on an interception halfway through the quarter. Then he rambled 49 yards into the end zone that gave Cordova a comfortable 21-0 halftime lead.

“Alvin gets open when the rest of the team is performing,” said Nill of Banks. “The defense played lights out.”

Five minutes into the third quarter, Cordova’s defense forced Rosemont to punt. That led to another offensive possession and score for the Lancers, as Sanders scored on a 47-yard run to make it 28-0, plus Banks’ extra-point kick.

Then three minutes left in the quarter, Cordova made it 35-0 when running back Elijah Jenkins crossed the end zone on a rushing touchdown. The Rosemont coaches asked for a running clock at that time.

Two different Lancer players scored the final two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter. Tyreke Tate scored the first one on a 37-yard run, followed by Kijon Allen on a 20-yard run. The extra-point kick missed but the score became 48-0.

Toward the end of the third quarter going into the fourth, Nill and his assistant coaches got all of the Lancer players into the game.

“Every single person played,” said Nill, who started rotating players after Rosemont asked for the running clock. “We knew we had to work extra hard to get everybody in the game, and we did.”

Sanders completed 8-of-16 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, he rushed for 103 yards on five carries.

“Johnele was just a nightmare running our game against Rosemont,” Nill said.

Cordova running back Raymond Fite had 89 yards rushing on eight carries, and had 122 all-purpose yards. Colvin had his one reception for 40 yards, and Banks, who had a combined 124 all-purpose yards, 3-38. Cordova had 422 overall yards; 318 rushing and 104 passing.

“When you have over 300 yards rushing, your offensive line is clicking,” Nill said.

On defense, Fite and Jenkins, who plays linebacker, had 13 tackles each. Outside linebackers Yusef Pugh followed with eight tackles, outside linebacker Ryan McMoore and defensive back Jaylen Jones and Colvin, who plays strong safety, had four each.

This was the last SVC football game for Cordova. Next July, Cordova, for all sports, will be one of six schools as members of the inaugural Greater Sacramento League, which the section created and approved through the section’s board of managers for the 2018-22 league realignment cycle earlier this year.

Other schools joining Cordova in the new league, which is Division IV, are Florin, Johnson, Valley and West Campus, all of Sacramento, and Natomas. The SVC drops to D-V, and adds Bradshaw Christian, which is in the Sierra Delta League that is D-VI, with El Dorado, Galt, Liberty Ranch, Rosemont and Union Mine.

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Lancers in Convincing Win

By Mike Bush  |  2017-11-03

Cordova running back Elijah Jenkins eyes the end zone against Liberty Ranch

Second Half Action Gives Cordova Win over Liberty Ranch

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – Darren Nill and his Cordova High School football team have beaten four of five Sierra Valley Conference schools in his three years.

Now the Cordova head coach, in his third seasons, is perfect at 5-0.

Donning pink and black jerseys in honoring Breast Cancer Awareness against SVC foe Liberty Ranch at Lancer Stadium on Oct. 27th, the Lancers broke away to post a convincing 47-28 win over the Hawks.

“I didn’t even think about it until I was walking across to share their (Liberty Ranch’s coaches) hands (after the game),” Nill said. “One of the assistant coaches came up to me and goes, ‘you guys aren’t going to be around to revenge this. This is the first time you’ve ever beaten us.’ We had a laugh and a hearty hand shake. Then it dawned on me that I got them all.”

Liberty Ranch won last year’s contest in Galt, 7-6. On its way to winning the SVC title in 2015, Liberty Ranch knocked off Cordova 28-26, also at Lancer Stadium.

The win inches Cordova (3-1 in the SVC, 6-3 overall) closer toward a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.

Cordova still has a chance of winning a share of the SVC title. A win over rival Rosemont (2-2 in the SVC, 4-5) in Friday’s SVC finale at Lancer Stadium, plus a Union Mine (2-2 in the SVC, 4-5) win over El Dorado (4-0 in the SVC, 7-2) would give the Lancers and Cougars a share of the title for a second straight year. Cordova, along with Liberty Ranch and El Dorado, were tri-champions last year.

Liberty Ranch (1-3 in the SVC, 2-7) led 22-20 at halftime. But the Lancers took a 26-22 lead with 10 minutes left in the third quarter when quarterback Johnele Sanders completed one of his three touchdown passes.

Cordova free safety Tyreke Tate picked off a pass that went back to the end zone, which gave the Lancers a 34-22 lead with about a minute to go in the quarter.

Now in the fourth quarter, Liberty Ranch closed the score to 34-28 on a rushing touchdown. But in the final minutes of the game, Cordova added two more touchdowns for the final score. The first one came when Sanders hit Jordan Colvin on a 30-yard strike. Alvin Banks had a 50-yard run to the end zone to finish off the scoring.

The Lancers had chances to take advantage of Hawk mistakes in the first half. But that quickly changed in the second half.

“We talked about executing our offense (at halftime),” Nill said. “They (Liberty Ranch) had eight turnovers. We were able to capitalize on three of those eight turnovers. Basically, getting down to what we do, executing better.”

Cordova running back Raymond Fite had a big night on the ground, with 146 yards on nine carries and a touchdown. Sanders completed 10-of-22 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Banks had four receptions for 75 yards, and rushed three times for 66 yards. He also had three interceptions in the game.

On defense, Lancer linebacker Jalen Jones led the team with 14 tackles, and outside linebacker Yusef Pugh 11. Turner and Elijah Jenkins, also a linebacker, had eight tackles each. Cordova’s defense created four fumble recoveries.

The Rosemont-Cordova game is scheduled to kick-off at 7:30 p.m.

Although leaving the SVC for the new Greater Sacramento League when the 2018-22 league realignment goes into place next July, Cordova will continue to play Rosemont in non-league next year and 2019, Nill said.

The section is projected to release playoff brackets on late Saturday afternoon. On Tuesday, MaxPreps had projected Cordova to be in Division III. To view the brackets on Saturday, visit the section’s Website –

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Cordova Lancers Handed First SVC Loss

By Mike Bush  |  2017-10-27

Cordova running back Alvin Banks (16) returns the kickoff, with assistance from lineman Jaizyn Phelp-Reis (55) in last week

PLACERVILLE, CA (MPG) – Chances came and went for the Cordova High School football team.

But in its big Sierra Valley Conference game at El Dorado, the Cougars came away with a thrilling 27-26 victory over the Lancers on Oct. 20th.

The painful loss still keeps Cordova (2-1 in the SVC, 5-3 overall) in the title race, but needs help to win a share of the title. El Dorado (3-0 in the SVC, closes out its regular season against SVC foes Galt (0-3 in the SVC, 3-5) and rival Union Mine (1-2 in the SVC, 3-5).

With 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Cordova scored its final touchdown of the game on the ground to cut the score to 27-26. Going for the 2-point conversion, the Lancers were unable to covert that left the Cougars hanging onto the slim lead.

As time ticked off the clock, the Lancers had the ball only one time, which they turned over on downs. El Dorado had possession two more times, although unable to find the end zone.

“They were using the maximum amount of clock time starting in the fourth quarter,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill of the Cougars’ offense.

But mistakes late in the game were costly for the Lancers.

“We had nine defensive offside penalties,” Nill said. “Those nine jumps allowed them to prolong drives. Normally, they would’ve been punting away. We shot ourselves in the foot when we were on defense. We had a lot of missed snaps (on offense), quarterback exchanges, dropped balls. Basically, drive killers.”

Cordova lead 14-13 at halftime, scoring a touchdown in the first and second quarters. El Dorado scored its final two touchdowns in the third quarter before the Lancers’ defense kept the Cougars’ offense in check in the final quarter.

Offensively, the Lancers had 432 total yards; 279 rushing and 153 passing. Quarterback Johnele Sanders completed 6-of-12 passes for those 153 yards, and had 204 yards rushing.

Cordova running backs Chase Allen and Jaylen Jones had a rushing touchdown each in the game. Jordan Colvin had a scoring reception of 70 yards from Sanders.

On defense, four Lancers had double figures in tackles. Linebacker Elijah Jenkins had 18 tackles, followed by fellow backers in Ryan McMoore at 17, Yusef Pugh at 16 and defensive end Clifford Bright 10. Free safety Tyreke Evans and Jones, a defensive back, had seven each.

Cordova will play its final two SVC games at Lancer Stadium. The first one is this Friday, when Liberty Ranch (1-2 in the SVC, 2-6) pays a visit. The Hawks have lost their last two conference games by a combined six points, including a 35-33 loss to Rosemont in last week’s contest.

“I think Liberty Ranch will give us a great game,” Nill said. “They are just too good of a team. They’ve got a great coaching. I know they are going to come out and play. But we’re going to be at home. Nothing beats home cooking. Our guys are really going to be focused this week.”

Game time for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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Cordova Football Too Much for Union Mine

By Mike Bush  |  2017-10-18

Alvin Banks rips through for a big gain. Photo by Rick Sloan.

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – There is more than one way to find the end zone.

In its second Sierra Valley Conference game at Lancer Stadium on Oct. 13th, the Cordova High School football team showed the homecoming crowd how it can score in different formations against Union Mine. That led to a 48-6 win over the visiting Diamondbacks.

Cordova (2-0 in the SVC, 5-2) scored three touchdowns in the first quarter for a 22-0 lead – but only one was on offense. After the Lancers went three and out on their first offensive drive, Union Mine (0-2 in the SVC, 2-5) had the ball. But Lancer defensive back Alvin Banks has an interception and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown.

“Our defense is peaking at the right time,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill.

The Lancers scored their second touchdown also on special teams. After Union Mine punted after its second possession, Cordova running back Raymond Fite took the Diamondbacks’ punt return and rushed it back for another score for a 15-0 score.

“We knew we had too much speed for them,” Nill said. “We were going to try to exploit that every chance we got.”

The Lancers added another touchdown before the opening quarter was done for the 22-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Cordova continued its scoring attack on the D’Backs’ defense, with three more touchdowns that led to a 41-0 halftime lead. Lancer quarterback Johnele Sanders led the way, as he threw two touchdowns in the first half, and completed 9-of-14 passes for 160 yards. He also rushed for 102 yards and scored another TD on the ground for three combined in the game.

Banks, a wide receiver, also had a big game for the Lancers. He hauled in 154 yards receiving on seven receptions. Fite had 39 yards rushing on four carries, Clifford Bright 5-40 and Chase Allen 4-29.

One of the pluses for the Lancers, in the second half after the D’Backs asked for a running clock, was playing everyone to cap off the homecoming victory. Most of the fourth quarter included playing time for the two girls on the football squad; wide receiver and defensive backs Kiran Pooni and Ajay Williams, who had returned some kickoffs for the Lancers this season.

“They got a ton of playing time,” said Nill of Pooni and Williams.

On defense, Lancer outside linebackers Yusef Pugh had six tackles in the contest and Elijah Jenkins and Ryan McMoore four each.

Cordova hits the road to Placerville for a tougher SVC game on Friday. El Dorado (2-0 in the SVC, 5-2) welcomes the Lancers. The winner of this game will have an inside track toward winning the conference title.

“Big game,” said Nill of the upcoming game. “It’s going to be a great night of football.”

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Cordova ‘Peaking’ at Right Time in SVC Win over Galt

By Mike Bush  |  2017-10-13

Cordova quarterback Johnele Sanders, shown here about to pass the ball against Foothill during a non-conference home game at Lancer Stadium toward the end of last month, scored many times in the Lancers

GALT, CA (MPG) – A series of early mistakes haunted the Cordova High School football team for most of one quarter.

But the Lancers refocused the rest of the way that led to a 52-13 Sierra Valley Conference opener victory over Galt on the Erv Hatzenbuhler Field at Warrior Stadium on Oct. 6th.

Cordova (1-0 in the SVC, 4-2 overall) was marred by early mistakes, thanks to Galt (0-1 in the SVC, 3-3), which picked off a Lancer pass and recovered a fumble in the early part of the first quarter. On one of its offensive possessions, Cordova drove to the Warriors’ 10-yard line, only to watch the drive come up short in which a holding call was called against the Lancers.

“We made a lot of mistakes,” said Cordova head coach Darrin Nill of the opening quarter. “It was one of those things where we had to get the mistakes out of the way first before we could start playing football.”

Toward the end of the quarter, Cordova scored its first touchdown when quarterback Johnele Sanders threw a scoring pass to wide receiver Jordan Colvin. The Lancers opted and made the 2-point conversion. Galt scored its first of two touchdowns in the quarter to make it an 8-7 score entering the second quarter.

The Warriors turned the ball over after a missed 37-yard field goal in the second quarter. Then the Lancers’ offense went on a scoring spree that led to a 32-7 halftime advantage.

Leading the way for the Lancers were Sanders, who completed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Alvin Banks. Sanders, who completed 10-of-14 passes for 192 yards and threw three touchdowns, scored on rushing touchdown, and rushed 10 times for 133 yards and two more scores for a combined five in the game.

Yusef Pugh had a punt returned 70 yards for Cordova, which was successful on all of its 2-point conversions in the quarter.

The Warriors was focused on the Lancers’ passing attack led by Sanders, who has completed 84 of 120 passes for 1,425 yards and 17 touchdowns for the season. That’s when Cordova opted for its running game that finished with 271 combined yards.

“They knew we had a really tough passing attack,” Nill said. “(Cordova running backs) were giving us six, seven yards a carry. When they (Galt) tighten up the box a bit, we threw the ball.”

Cordova scored two more touchdowns in the third quarter, along with Galt adding another one to make it 45-13 going into the fourth quarter. After the Lancers scored their final touchdown, game officials called for a running clock when the game became more than a 35-point difference.

After giving up 39.3 points per game on defense in the pre-season, Nill and his assistant coaches were pleased to hold a Galt squad that has many offensive weapons to only two touchdowns.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Nill said. “We’re getting it together with the right people at the right places.”

Leading the Lancers’ defense were linebackers in Elijah Jenkins, who had 13 tackles, Pugh 10 and Chase Allen seven.

On Friday, Oct. 13th, Cordova will have its homecoming game against SVC foe Union Mine (0-1 in the SVC, 2-4), which rallied from a 26-8 deficit but fell short to Liberty Ranch, which posted a 40-35 win in the conference opener in El Dorado last Friday. Game time for Union Mine-Cordova is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

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Cordova Football Ends Preseason with Victory

By Mike Bush  |  2017-09-28

Alvin Banks Touchdown. Photo by Rick Sloan

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG) – Three touchdowns set the tone early for the Cordova High School football team in its final pre-season game.

Hosting Foothill at Lancer Stadium on Friday, Sept. 22, the Lancers’ fast start led to corralling the Mustangs 69-36. The victory gives Cordova a 3-2 record going into its bye week.

Lancer quarterback Johnele Sanders scored two of the team’s three touchdowns in the first quarter that led to a 21-0 advantage. The junior scored the first one on a 3-yard run, and toward the end of the quarter, Sanders found wide receiver Alvin Banks on a 44-yard pass for his second TD.

In between Sanders’ scores, Cordova running back Jordan Colvin found the end zone on a 10-yard rushing score halfway through the quarter. Banks scored on a 2-point conversion that gave the Lancers a 21-0 lead.

“We knew that we had some athletes of the field who could take advantage of their defense, and we did,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill.

After Foothill (1-4) scored its first touchdown in the second quarter, Cordova scored four touchdowns. That included two more touchdown passes from Sanders, in between with running back Raymond Fite completed a 20-yard pass to Banks. Sanders finished the quarter with another touchdown on a 20-yard run.

But the Mustangs galloped to two more touchdowns. But the Lancers held a 47-22 halftime lead.

Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, the Lancers scored three more touchdowns, all on the ground from Banks and Sanders, both of whom combined for eight touchdowns. The Lancers finished with 607 offensive yards; 360 rushing and 247 passing. Cordova is averaging 42.2 points per game.

“If they are going to give us the run, we’re going to take the run,” said Nill of the Mustangs’ defense. “If they are going to give us the pass, we’re going to take the pass … they responded.”

Changes on the offensive line, Nill notes, in recent games has helped shore up the Lancers’ rushing game. That includes some linemen going one way, and allowing those who were playing both sides of the ball to focus on defense.

Sanders completed 15-of-23 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 19 carries for 218 yards. Banks had nine receptions for 221 yards, and made 3-of-4 of the Lancers’ extra-point kicks.

On defense, Cordova inside linebacker Andrew Turner led the team in tackles with eight. Outside linebackers Yusef Pugh and Ryan McMoore had seven tackles each. Pugh had two fumble recoveries, an interception and a quarterback sack, and Colvin, a defensive end, also had a quarterback sack. Banks, who also plays defensive back, also had two picks and linebacker Mason Trujillo also had an interception.

Although Cordova produced a win, the defense has given up an average of 39.4 points per game in five games.

“We have a lot of work,” Nill said. “Coaches are never content, and especially our group. We are nowhere near perfect.”

Now with pre-season in the rear-view mirror, Cordova will set its sights on Sierra Valley Conference action. On Friday, Oct. 6, the Lancers make the Highway 99 trek to the southern part of Sacramento County to play Galt (3-1), which knocked off Mira Loma 38-0 when the Lancers were beating Foothill. The Warriors conclude their preseason hosting Franklin of Stockton this Friday.

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Late Mistakes Costly for Cordova Footbal

By Mike Bush  |  2017-09-22

Alvin Banks on the kick return.

Rancho Cordova, CA (MPG) – A boxing match took place between the Cordova High School football team and the Vista del Lago squad.

But in the final 12 minutes of the Sept. 15th contest, a one touchdown difference turned into a knockout punch for Cordova, as Vista del Lago posted a 54-33 victory over the Lancers.

Cordova (2-2) trailed 40-33 entering the fourth quarter. But three minutes into the quarter, the host Eagles (2-2) intercepted a Lancer pass that led to a touchdown. The extra-point made it 47-33.

Vista del Lago closed out the scoring in the quarter two minutes later on a 45-yard punt return taken back to its end zone. Another Eagle extra-point led to the final score.

“A lot of mental mistakes caught up with us,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill. “It was a toe-to-toe (game).”

The Lancers trailed 28-21 at halftime. But in the third quarter, Cordova received the opening kickoff that trimmed the score to 28-27 with nine minutes remaining when quarterback Johnele Sanders threw one of his four touchdown passes, this one 35 yards to wide receiver Alvin Banks.

Cordova and the Eagles traded scores throughout the quarter. After Vista del Lago responded with a 45-yard pass from Grant Patterson to Chad Wilson to expand its lead to 34-27, the Lancers answered with another pass from Sanders, this time a 12-yard strike to Jeremiah Bankett. That led to making the score 34-33.

The Eagles added another touchdown on another pass from Patterson, this one of 14 yards, with four minutes remaining. The extra-point made it 40-33 entering the final quarter.

In the first quarter, the Lancers held a 7-6 lead after Sanders completed another TD pass, this one 30 yards, to wide receiver Calvin Augusta with three minutes left. Sanders threw another touchdown toward the end of the quarter that tied the game at 14-14.

Sanders found Augusta again in the second, this time on a 40-yard strike that gave Cordova a 21-14 lead. Vista del Lago scored two more touchdowns for a 28-21 halftime lead.

This was another huge game for Sanders. He completed 23-of-33 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns. Against Rio Linda, Sanders threw for 410 yards and four touchdowns.

Grabbing some of those passes was Banks, who had eight catches for 231 yards. Running back Raymond Fite had 10 carries for 34 yards.

“Most of the nights we’ve played, Alvin is the best athlete on the field,” said Nill of Banks. “Get him the ball and let him do his thing.”

On defense, Cordova was led by safety Tyreke Tate with 17 tackles. Junior linebacker Elijah Jenkins 16 and outside linebacker Yusef Pugh had 14. Ryan McMoore followed with 11.

The Lancers were dealt with two season ending injuries to two starters. In the second quarter, after catching a pass, Augusta broke a bone near his knee. According to Nill, the extent of the injury has Augusta, a senior two-sport athlete who also played guard on the Cordova boys basketball team last winter, out for the rest of the season.

Junior wide receiver Anthony Diaz, who had a game-winning touchdown at Rio Linda nearly two weeks ago, broke his hand and would be out 8-10 weeks.

Cordova will play its final pre-season game of the season when Foothill invades Lancer Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

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