A year ago, the Bay Area teams in the Northern California Regional football playoffs were forced to travel and grumbled plenty to the CIF offices.
Now, in the second year of the regional playoffs, the Bay Area teams are happy to be close to home. Last year, Sacramento State hosted the Open and Division I games, drawing good crowds, but the venue will be dark this weekend.
Folsom will play state-ranked No. 1 De La Salle of Concord in Saturdays Open game at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. Del Oro will face Serra of San Mateo in the Division I game Friday at San Jose City College, a venue Serra has used numerous times.
A potential problem at Diablo Valley is the size of the stadium for a game expected to have high interest. Folsom, ranked second in Northern California behind De La Salle and third in the state, is 14-0 and led by quarterback Jake Browning, the state record holder in passing yards and touchdown passes in a season. De La Salle is, well, De La Salle, which draws a crowd with its name and history of success.
CIF associate director Ron Nocetti said Diablo Valley can seat up to 6,500, including standing-room only. Nocetti said 7,300 tickets were sold for the Folsom-De La Salle game last season at Sac State and another 1,000 attended, mostly on passes. But several longtime Sac State executives and stadium management personnel insisted more than 10,000 attended.
De La Salle has hosted many contests against nationally ranked teams or local rivals, so theyre fully capable of hosting this game, Nocetti said. Folsom will be given an ample supply of pre-sale tickets. If they fire through those tickets, well bring in more seats. We have the ability to bring in more.
Nocetti said 1,500 to 2,000 seats can be added around the end zones.
San Jose City can seat up to 8,000, Nocetti said. Monday, Serra coach Patrick Walsh said Central Coast Section playoff games there have drawn as many as 10,000, including overflow.
Nocetti said a number of venues were considered for the Regional games this year. Unlike NorCal and state basketball, which have long-term commitments to play at Sleep Train Arena, NorCal football selects sites each year.
Sac State was a great host last year, but this has nothing do with last year, Nocetti said. We were very conservative last year (in picking venues). We didnt know what to expect. We think everything will work out fine.
Serra talk Serra has a strong athletic tradition, alma mater of football greats Lynn Swann and Tom Brady and home run king Barry Bonds.
Walsh, in his 13th season, led the Padres to their first Central Coast Section Open title. Its a physical, disciplined team, he said, one that lost to De La Salle 21-14 in a season opener. Walsh sees a lot of similarities in Del Oro.
Coach Casey Taylor has done a great job, Walsh said. ... The beauty of the Regional playoffs is champions get to face each other. I see a lot us in Del Oro. Coach Taylor is known for building programs around toughness, and their games this year against Grant and last week against Elk Grove, trailing 19-0 and winning 20-19 (in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II final), is an example. Very impressive team. Were very concerned.
Taylor said his team can no longer celebrate the wild finish against Elk Grove, with the focus shifting to Serra.
Theyre a very good team, fast, athletic and physical, he said. We will have to play great to have a chance. Hopefully, we can play the way we did in the last seven minutes (against Elk Grove) and not the first 41 minutes.
Taylor said Del Oro played like champions down the stretch against Elk Grove, with Michael Moore throwing three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
Most teams would have quit in that situation (down 19 in the fourth in rain and wind), Taylor said. Its a testament to our senior leadership, of not giving up and competing for 48 minutes. We know we have a great opportunity Friday in San Jose and want to take advantage of it. Our players want to keep playing and dont want this ride to stop.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his Extra Point every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.