Add Zebras to Placer’s list of rivals

By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Placer High football team has developed heated rivalries with many a foe in the foothills. Del Oro, Colfax, Bear River and Nevada Union have all had their run-ins with the Hillmen over the past three decades. Lincoln has been the cordial, non-threatening neighbor to the north, up until now. If Friday’s gridiron showdown lives up to its billing, it could be the genesis of a Placer-Lincoln rivalry to match any in the area. “It’s going to be a heck of a game,” said former Placer coach Bill Miller, who guided the Hillmen to their last section title (1981) and their last undefeated season (1980). “Placer played Lincoln at least once (when I coached) but they weren’t the team they are now.” The two foothill foes have both endured long championship droughts. The Hillmen or the Zebras could take a huge step toward a Pioneer Valley League title on Friday when they square off at LeFebvre Stadium. Beyond the PVL title hopes, both teams are undefeated at 7-0 and both are jockeying for playoff position in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s new postseason format. Like Placer, Lincoln’s best days on the football field were some 30 years ago. The Zebras had a glorious run in the mid-1970s in the Pioneer League, which included Colfax, Del Oro, Wheatland and Truckee. Meanwhile the Hillmen were dominating the Sierra Foothill League, going up against Nevada Union, Yuba City and Roseville. Miller guided Placer to five Sac-Joaquin Section Division II titles between ‘75 and ’81. Lincoln infamously joined the SFL in ’80 and promptly went winless. In ’81 the Zebras refused to play in the SFL in football, opting to play an independent schedule. Lincoln had little to cheer about as recent as last season. The Zebras suffered through a miserable 1-9 campaign under coach Ken Lowe, who introduced the wing-T offense last year. Placer’s fortunes were similar prior to last season. The Hillmen hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2000 before coach Joey Montoya guided Placer to an 8-5 campaign in 2008. Placer stunned Oakdale and Dixon in the playoffs before falling to Whitney in the Division IV championship game. Miller has seen all of Placer’s games this season and said he wouldn’t miss Friday’s showdown. “From what I hear, Lincoln is big and mobile,” said Miller, Montoya’s grandfather. “It’s going to be a task to beat them.”