When the Rosemont High School football team walked off the field at Sacramento City College on Saturday afternoon, the players were met with cheers from supporters in the bleachers.
Some players had tears in their eyes. Others soaked in the moment and appreciated the crowd. The chants of “Rosemont, Rosemont, Rosemont” echoed down to the sideline.
The Wolverines’ season ended with a 31-20 loss to Argonaut in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI championship game. Most people didn’t expect Rosemont to make it this far. Rosemont became the second Sacramento City Unified School District program to reach a section football final. The other was Burbank in 2008, which lost to Grant in Division II.
Rosemont will be back, the players say. A majority of the team’s big contributors are sophomores and juniors.
“I’ve coached a lot of teams and section champions with wrestling and I’m the proudest of this team,” Rosemont coach Rick Wanlin said. “We are so young and under the radar. The amount of improvement has been big and next year the sky is the limit. They’re all coming back. It inspires us to get back into the weight room to do it again, because it’s addicting. Being here is fun. Not losing, but being here is fun.”
He added, “There’s still disappointment. I thought we were there the whole time. I’m not disappointed with the players. We weren’t supposed to be here. It was a hard road getting here. That’s why I’m so excited for the future.”
Wayshawn Parker and Michael Cherry are two players who will return for the Wolverines that helped their school finish with its best record in school history at 11-3. Parker had a 25-yard touchdown catch from Joseph Ortiz in the first half and Cherry punched in a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter that was set up by a Keagan Hill interception.
Hill was a key senior leader on Rosemont who played both ways. At the start of the season, Hill didn’t expect his team to make it to the section final. He knows the program will be in good hands with Parker, Cherry and more returning.
“We led the team well and lifted up the younger kids,” Hill said. “At the beginning of the season, I did not think we would be here, but once it hit the middle of the season I knew we were going to make it. The future is bright for Rosemont. They will be good, for sure.”
Another key senior leader on Rosemont was coach Wanlin’s son Adam. He finished with a pair of catches in his final prep game.
“I’ve been coaching him for a while,” Wanlin said of his son. “It’s been fun. For him it’s probably hard to live with a head coach all of the time, but you don’t get these moments pretty often. To be out here on the section finals with your son as a senior, it’s pretty special.”
For Argonaut, the victory ensures at least one more game for the Mustangs of Amador County. All section champions advance to a CIF Northern California Regional final. Brackets will be released Sunday.
Argonaut coach Rick Davis announced earlier this fall that this would be his final season in charge and what a way to punctuate his 20-year career. He didn’t just continue a legacy of success in the region. He enhanced it. The school started playing football in 1922 when it was known as Jackson High School. Jackson merged with nearby Ione High in 1983 to become Argonaut High, named after the Argonaut Mine located less than a mile from campus.
Argonaut, with 550 students, toppled higher-enrollment schools throughout the playoffs.
“This is huge for our school,” the coach said. “We won our last championship in 2004, and so, 17 years later, my last year, and we did it again. Really proud of the kids. They’re blue-collar kids. They lifted weights every Saturday night.”
He then peered over to the Hughes Stadium home side stands where a throng of fans cheered in their green and gold colors.
“Our crowd is tremendous,” he said. “These kids have been through a lot with COVID. All schools have. We just kept pushing.”
Troy Gassaway agreed. He is the fifth-year principal at Argonaut, a football player at Sacramento State in the early 1990s.
“Toughest job I’ve ever had,” Gassaway said with a laugh about being an administrator. “These are great kids. It’s a big deal for our town. I think half the town is here today. Not many shoppers in Jackson today.”