DEL PASO HEIGHTS -- The high school football season begins Friday and one of the big questions going in is will the Grant High School Pacers rebound from their worst season in almost three decades?
Grant football in Del Paso Heights really is polarizing to the community. So polarizing that head coach Mike Alberghini, who has been coaching at grant for 50 years, missed only his second ever practice Wednesday due to illness -- and that was a big deal.
The team finished below .500 and out of the playoffs last season, which is unheard of.
The crew at Five Starr Fades on Del Paso Boulevard has heard it all about Grant High School football but this last year has been particularly eye-opening.
"Last year was tough for everybody's ego, first of all. It was tough on Pacer pride," said Kendall Robinson, the owner of Five Starr Fades.
"Nobody here is used to seeing Grant down low," said owner Rondell Dean. "Grant has always been a powerhouse."
The Pacers finished 4-6, missing the playoffs for the first time in Alberghini's 26-year reign.
The rough season also took a toll on the Del Paso Heights community.
"Well, when they didn't make the playoffs it was a hit, it was a hit to the area," Dean said.
"Trying to defend not making it to the playoffs, that was just hard to explain to people," Robinson said.
"We were known for at least seven, eight, nine wins every season and you could just see kind of the empire crumbling," said assistant head coach Carl Reed.
It was a time to reevaluate the Pacer's program, top to bottom while at the same time not forgetting what got them their status in the first place.
"We got to be more disciplined and play the game," Reed said. "We can't just throw athletes out there."
"We're not going to have another year like that," said Pacers linebacker and fullback Jesse Hernandez. "We want people to watch our games and put on a show every night for these people and get this community back together."
"It's definitely Pacer pride. It's definitely a million percent bringing that back," Reed said. "You know, win or lose teams are going to know they played us. That's how we've got to be and bring back the atmosphere of how it was."
Grant switched leagues and is playing in arguably the toughest high school league in the section, the Sierra Valley League, with teams like Folsom, Granite Bay, Oak Ridge and Rocklin.
It all starts Friday with a home game for the Pacers against Davis.