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It’s official: MT vs. PG on ESPN

By John Gudel, Elk Grove Citizen, 07/12/11, 3:00AM PDT


Two Elk Grove schools have agreed to play on ESPN, just two weeks after a proposed plan had been declined.

Initially adamant about not playing on national television, Pleasant Grove High School football coach Joe Cattolico has changed his mind.

After acknowledging he turned down ESPN’s request to broadcast a game in the 2011 regular season, Cattolico decided last week to allow the season opener against Monterey Trail to be televised on ESPN.

The game, originally scheduled for Aug. 26 at Monterey Trail’s Mark Macres Memorial Stadium, has been moved to Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. It will still be played at Monterey Trail and is tentatively scheduled to be televised on ESPN2.

The junior varsity game will be played Aug. 26.

Representatives from Monterey Trail and Pleasant Grove declined to speak to the Citizen until contracts with ESPN are officially signed, possibly this week.

Monterey Trail had always been in favor of the game being televised, but Cattolico needed some convincing. It wasn’t until last Tuesday, when Cattolico talked to a marketing representative connected with the ESPN discussions, that he agreed for the game to be televised.

Cattolico originally had proposed that Monterey Trail keep the date and try to find a possible replacement and then Pleasant Grove would play that replacement’s scheduled opponent for Zero Week.

In the end, Cattolico said ESPN agreed to numerous changes from the way the network handled last year’s Grant-Folsom game. Folsom head coach Kris Richardson told Cattolico that ESPN crews had his players pulled out of classes and practices for interviews and video shoots, and Cattolico was assured that wouldn’t happen for the Pleasant Grove-Monterey Trail game.

The addition of the ESPN broadcast creates an interesting first two weeks of the season for Pleasant Grove, which plays highly touted Lincoln of Stockton the next week, Saturday, Sept. 3, at Del Oro High School in the second annual Battle at the Capital.

ESPN wanted to keep Pleasant Grove as part of the deal, even though Monterey Trail was still on board regardless of its opponent. The reasons were simple: Pleasant Grove is ranked eighth in the nation in MaxPreps’ top 25 preseason poll and lineman Arik Armstead is considered the 17th best recruit in the nation, according to ESPNU Top 150.

The game will be a historic event for the city of Elk Grove.

No Elk Grove team has ever played on national television, and only last year’s Grant-Folsom season opener was the first-ever Sacramento-area game on ESPN.

This will mark the second consecutive season that a Sacramento-area game has been broadcast.

ESPN had an opening for a Northern California game in the first week, thus no other possible opponents for Pleasant Grove, such as defending state champion Folsom, were discussed. 

Once Monterey Trail approved the idea and Pleasant Grove athletic director Jeff Caton and the school’s administration allowed Cattolico to make his own decision, it was a matter of ESPN convincing him.

The Monterey Trail-Pleasant Grove series itself has quickly evolved into one of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s best rivalries since realignment in 2006.

Formerly together in the Delta River League – Monterey Trail is now in the Delta Valley Conference – they played each other annually for four consecutive years.

That was expected to end after the 2009 season, but when neither Cattolico nor his close friend, Monterey Trail head coach T.J. Ewing, could fill a season-opening date last season they both reluctantly agreed to a two-year contract.

Ironically, the 2011 season opener will be the third meeting between the two schools in 12 months. Pleasant Grove opened 2010 with a 21-18 win at home and then beat Monterey Trail 21-6 in the first-ever all-Elk Grove Division I section final.

It was Pleasant Grove’s first football section title, and Monterey Trail’s second consecutive section-final appearance.

They are the only two schools from the North to make multiple section-final appearances since 2006 – both twice.

Unlike Pleasant Grove, Monterey Trail has a bye after the first game of the season and then plays nine consecutive weeks.

Pleasant Grove scheduled its bye for Sept. 30, the week before the start of the Delta River League schedule.