The Bee’s Joe Davidson previews three Sac-Joaquin Section championship games this weekend:
Del Oro (11-2) vs. Elk Grove (12-1)
Where: Sacramento State
Outlook: The programs have combined for 13 section titles since 1984 but have never faced each other in a championship game until now. The teams do know each other, however. Elk Grove eliminated Del Oro in the D-II semifinals last season in a thriller, and the schools battled to a virtual draw in a preseason scrimmage in August. The Golden Eagles have won 10 straight since losing to De La Salle of Concord 41-3 in September. They have looked especially strong in the postseason, rolling River Valley 63-9, Whitney 35-11 and Yuba City 52-26. Elk Grove sweated out its past two playoff wins over Burbank (18-12) and Rio Linda (22-14) behind its core group of QB/LB Tommy Arnold, TE/LB Noah Letuligasenoa, RB Wadus Parker, DE B’won Canada, OL/DL Dior Vela, RB/LB Spencer Sheff and DBs Shaunard Harts and Elijah Jones. Del Oro has two three-year stars who played in a 2011 State Bowl in lineman Tanner Woods and TE/LB Tyler Meteer, who caught three of Michael Moore’s five touchdown passes last week. Much like Elk Grove, Del Oro likes to set the tempo with a power-running game with RB Dylan Kainrath, whose line includes Brandon Johnson and Emileo Campos. Trey Udoffia is dangerous on kickoff and punt returns for Del Oro.
Sacramento (11-2) vs. Manteca (12-1)
Where: Lincoln High School, Stockton
When: Tonight, 7:30 pm.
Outlook: Manteca seeks its third section title and second in D-III since 2005 under coach Eric Reis, who fields a power-running offense that relies on a big line and RB Alex Laurel (1,630 yards, 32 touchdowns), and QB Joe Menzel (1,768 yards, 24 TDs). The Dragons, coached by Paul Doherty, are first-time playoff winners and sport a 3-0 postseason record thanks to a spread offense that has stretched defenses with sophomore QBCaden Voges, who is second in the state to Folsom’s Jake Browning in passing yards (4,139) and touchdown passes (47). Teammate Damen Wheeler is second in the state with 1,840 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns after setting a state record with 380 receiving yards against Christian Brothers last weekend, including four touchdown catches of 67 or longer. Manteca coaches watched Wheeler race downfield against CBS and know the Buffaloes have to deal with his speed. WR Kyree Stephens is also a threat with 1,047 yards and 13 TDs. Sac High RB Lonny Powell (814 yards, 10 TDs) is a power back who has put away teams with late runs. Voges also has rushed for 10 TDs. Sacramento, still a young team, has to deal with nerves in facing a senior-heavy Manteca club that has won 11 consecutive games.
Folsom (13-0) vs. Oak Ridge (12-1)
Where: Sacramento State
When: Saturday, 7:30 pm.
Outlook: Jesuit pushing Folsom to the end in a rousing Division I semifinal 42-35 offers proof that the Bulldogs are indeed human after seemingly perfect play all season. Folsom beat Oak Ridge 35-0 in a Delta River League opener as the Bulldogs’ defense earned high praise from coaches. Oak Ridge intercepted Jake Browning four times but still couldn’t get into the end zone. Named Thursday as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, Browning has a state-record 69 touchdown passes and remains the key to the Bulldogs’ success. The line that has given him time to do his job is headed by Tommy Farrell and Cody Creason. The health of two two-way starters, lineman Sam Whitney and RB/LB Bailey Laolagi, is an interesting story line as they too are critical to Folsom’s success. Both went down with knee injuries against Jesuit. LB Rodney Ellison has had a strong postseason for Folsom, including two interceptions against Jesuit. Folsom receivers Will McClure (1,479 yards, 23 TDs), Josiah Deguara (1,227, 15) and Troy Knox (975, 10) are a challenge to cover. The Trojans are balanced on offense with QB Ian Book (2,411 yards, 30 touchdowns), WR Justin Priest (986, 15), TE Trent Buenzli (563, nine) and RBs Josh Wellman (769, seven) and Tanner Hughes (517, six). Folsom is in a section title game for the fourth successive season, the previous three in D-II. Oak Ridge is in its second straight D-I title game after winning four D-II crowns.