By Joe Davidson
Football coach Mike Alberghini has done this 20 consecutive seasons now, organizing a scholarship signing party at Grant High School and welcoming proud - and often emotional - parents in to witness a bit of history.
National Signing Day is a special day for prep football players across the country, and it certainly carries special meaning in Del Paso Heights, a community that follows its football players from youth ball, into the high school ranks and often into the scholarship four-year level.
This morning, Grant will usher off another impressive crop of players as they take a seat to sign letters of intent, and then watch their beloved coach feed them into a nearby fax machine to awaiting coaches. Normally when this many Grant players and their parents, uncles, aunts, siblings, there's a grand feed to be hand on Grand Avenue. No one football program parties it up with a spread than this one.
"You won't see the smoke of a bar-b-que going, but you will see knives and forks in action," Alberghini cracked. "We'll find a way to eat pastries and breakfast things."
Mostly, it'll be a morning to celebrate achievement. Alberghini has raved for months about the core senior leadership of his team, which was state-ranked No. 1 for 12 weeks before a playoff setback to Folsom.
Co-captains and buddies Vei Moala and Puka Lopa - The Bee's co-Defensive Players of the Year - will sign with Cal, giving the Bears two terrific defensive linemen, scholars and leaders.
In addition, safety James Sample will sign with Washington and linebacker Darryl Paulo with Washington State. Mammoth offensive tackle Filipo Sau will sign with Snow College in Utah, a two-year scholarship program that has historically been a launching pad to four-year programs.
Defensive back Ference Lang could also be in the mix, though he may not sign today. Today is the first day athletes can sign football letters, not the last.
"They're all going places where they can graduate, play good football, that transition from teenager, to growing up, a chance of becoming men," Alberghini said.
Alberghini said Cal is gaining two well-rounded young men in Lopa and Moala. They were a force together for three years at Grant. Alberghini can only imagine how dominant they can be as they grow together at Cal. They were national recruits and chose Cal for its academic standing, football reputation and proximity to home. Berkeley isn't so far from Sacramento to zip home for a Sunday family feed.
"It's the best of both worlds for them," Alberghini said. "They're very good friends. They're going to school together, playing big-time football. They're close enough for family and friends to see."
Alberghini said the signing ceremony will be brief - there is school, after all.
"And then we get on with the real world, time to go about life," he said.