In the four-week sprint to the Sac-Joaquin Section football championships, nerves, expectations and weather are sure to play a role. Three of The Bee's top-ranked teams Franklin, Folsom and Placer enter the playoffs unbeaten and favored to win their divisions. For others, the playoffs mean new life after disappointing regular seasons. So don't be surprised if Nevada Union, Del Oro or Grant each 5-5 but winners of a combined 18 section titles wins a championship.
Franklin (10-0): Offensive balance, steady QB in Trent Spallas, playmaker in Tre Lampley and quick, aggressive defense are ingredients for first title.
Burbank (10-0): Titans seek first title behind prolific triple-option run offense. The defense is led by rising college-recruit lineman Ngalu Tapa (20 sacks).
Oak Ridge (9-1): Trojans are led by junior QB Jason Samuels, tough backs and strong defense. After four D-II titles, Trojans seek first in D-I.
Granite Bay (7-3): The defending champ is on a roll after a slow start. Defense is led by DE/LB Beau Hershberger, and fly sweep includes burner Tony Ellison.
Pleasant Grove (6-4): Eagles open at Stagg (9-1), which hasn't played near the competition the Eagles have. Versatile QB Dre Terrell is eager to win.
Grant (5-5): Pacers have never been a dark horse but haven't been a 5-5 playoff team, either. Grant has loads of skill, size and motivation.
Folsom (10-0): Bulldogs have a superb offensive line that has protected QB Jake Browning (43 touchdowns). Defense has been strong, too.
Elk Grove (9-1): Herd features terrific interior-line play and runners Robert Frazier and Wadus Parker. Elk Grove craves a final showdown against Folsom.
Del Oro (5-5): A few bounces away from being 8-2, the Golden Eagles feature game-breaking running back Brandon Monroe.
St. Mary's (8-2): The Rams of Stockton have bowl-game experience on their résumé. St. Mary's lost 21-13 at state No. 1 De La Salle-Concord.
Yuba City (9-1): The Honkers lost a shootout to Placer on Sept. 21 and draw Del Oro as a brutal opener. Yuba City's offensive balance and unsung defense are keys.
Antelope (9-1): The Titans are rising fast but likely have to topple Rocklin, Buhach Colony and Folsom just to reach the final. Triple yikes.
Oakdale (9-1): Mustangs seek a third consecutive title appearance and first championship in D-III. Team's lone loss was to San Diego power Oceanside.
Vista del Lago (9-1): The Eagles are led by sophomore QB Matt Jimison and veteran receivers. Wins include a thriller over Cosumnes Oaks.
Inderkum (8-2): Banged up and bruised, and yet the Tigers are still perhaps the fastest team in the field. Dedric Allen is a defensive stopper.
Cosumnes Oaks (8-2): Competitive losses to Franklin and Vista have seasoned the Wolfpack. Team has a gamebreaker in WR Alex Van Dyke.
Sacramento (8-2): Dragons' only losses were to Cosumnes Oaks and Burbank. Spread offense seeks program's first playoff win.
El Camino (7-3): Eagles have a QB playmaker in Jonah Lessard and LB standout in Quenton Hagen.
Placer (10-0): Shaved-headed Hillmen seek their first title since 1981. The defense is dominant with DL Eddie Vanderdoes and DB Isaiah Pineiro (nine picks).
Central Catholic (8-2): The Raiders, who own a section-record 15 titles, lost to Placer but own big win over D-II St. Mary's.
Center (8-2): One scary team with speed and defense, the Cougars are grumpy after losing the Pioneer Valley League title game to Placer last Friday.
Escalon (8-2): The Cougars' résumé includes eight section titles and a state bowl win in 2010. They could face Placer in the quarterfinals.
Argonaut (10-0): The Mustangs, seeking a second title, play tough defense, having allowed 14 or fewer points eight times.
Capital Christian (9-1): The Cougars, who feature college- recruit lineman Nifae Lealao, may have to beat Los Banos and Placer to reach final.
Le Grand (8-2): The Bulldogs are two-time defending champions and have a state bowl game on their impressive résumé.
Waterford (8-2): The Wildcats have 43 rushing touchdowns, 21 by Dylan Gonzalez. They seek a chance to avenge earlier 40-20 loss to Le Grand.
Golden Sierra (7-3): Seeking their first title, the Grizzlies own a 16-14 win over Highlands as part of a six-game win streak.
Highlands (6-4): Early losses to larger schools Vista del Lago, Lincoln and Bear River. The Scots lost in the final past two years.
Bradshaw Christian (5-5): The Pride won two of the past three D-VI titles and inch up in class. Three early losses came to teams that combined to go 26-4.
Foresthill (9-1): With last year's loss to Bradshaw in the final as a motivator, QB Tommy Sawyer has passed for 25 TDs.
Brookside Christian (8-2): QB Austin Caldron tossed 17 TD passes as the Knights outscored foes 304-14 in their past five wins.
Woodland Christian (8-2): Steady sophomore QB Josh Truesdell has passed for three TDs in three of his past four games.
Ripon Christian (8-2): The Knights have a 35-21 win over Le Grand. Andrew Brown has rushed for 1,329 yards, 20 TDs.
Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
(All games at 7 p.m., unless noted)
No. 16 Nevada Union vs. No. 1 Franklin at Cosumnes Oaks
No. 14 Enochs-Modesto at No. 3 Oak Ridge
No. 13 Bethel-Vallejo at No. 4 Downey-Modesto
No. 12 Napa at No. 5 Granite Bay
No. 11 Tokay vs. No. 6 Pitman at Turlock H.S.
No. 10 Pleasant Grove at No. 7 Stagg-Stockton
No. 9 Merced at No. 8 Lincoln-Stockton
No. 15 Grant at No. 2 Burbank, 1 p.m.
No. 16 Atwater at No. 1 Folsom
No. 15 Del Oro at No. 2 Yuba City
No. 14 Ponderosa at No. 3 Elk Grove
No. 13 Rocklin at No. 4 Antelope
No. 12 McNair-Stockton vs. No. 5 Buhach Colony at Atwater H.S.
No. 11 Whitney at No. 6 Del Campo
No. 10 Tracy at No. 7 St. Mary's-Stockton
No. 8 Rio Linda at No. 9 Vacaville
No. 15 Lincoln vs. No. 2 Vista del Lago at Folsom H.S.
No. 16 Pacheco-Los Banos at No. 1 Oakdale
No. 14 Rosemont at No. 3 Sierra-Manteca
No. 13 River Valley at No. 4 American Canyon
No. 11 Manteca at No. 6 Inderkum
No. 9 Benicia at No. 8 Patterson
No. 10 El Camino at No. 7 Sacramento, 1 p.m.
No. 12 Christian Brothers at No. 5 Cosumnes Oaks
No. 16 Hilmar at No. 1 Placer
No. 15 Hughson at No. 2 Argonaut
No. 14 Amador at No. 3 Ripon
No. 13 Modesto Chr. at No. 4 Capital Chr.
No. 12 Summerville at No. 5 Los Banos
No. 11 Bear River at No. 6 Central Catholic-Modesto
No. 10 Center at No. 7 Dixon
No. 9 Calaveras at No. 8 Escalon
No. 5 Bradshaw Christian at No. 4 Highlands
No. 6 Rio Vista at No. 3 Le Grand
No. 1 Waterford, No. 2 Golden Sierra
No. 5 Elliot Christian-Lodi vs. No. 4 Ripon Christian at Modesto Christian
No. 6 Big Valley Christian-Modesto at No. 3 Woodland Christian
No. 1 Foresthill, No. 2 Brookside Christian-Stockton