As if the Sac-Joaquin Section championship football games didn’t have enough energy, there’s this added factor: a chance at redemption.
In the Division II final Friday night at Sacramento State, top-seeded Del Oro (11-2) takes on fellow perennial power Elk Grove (12-1). The teams have combined for 12 section titles since 1989 and met last season in a semifinal, with Elk Grove winning a thriller 35-32. Many players from that contest are back – including Tanner Woods, Tyler Meteer and Brandon Johnson of Del Oro and Tommy Arnold, Noah Letuligasenoa and B’won Canada of Elk Grove – and they remember the 2012 outcome and what’s at stake.
“Last year, they got us, and we don’t mind playing them again,” Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said. “They’re really, really good. We thought it might come down to these two teams.”
Said Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon: “Del Oro has a special, special group, and so do we.”
The champion likely draws the winner of the Central Coast Section Open championship game, either Serra of San Mateo or Mitty of San Jose, in the NorCal D-I game.
On Saturday at Hornet Stadium, The Bee’s No. 1-ranked Folsom, No. 3 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, takes on Oak Ridge (12-1) in the D-I final. Folsom (13-0) is in a section final for the fourth consecutive season, having won D-II crowns in 2010 and 2012. Oak Ridge, a four-time D-II section champ ranked No. 8 in the state, is in the D-I final for the second season in a row, having fallen to Granite Bay last December.
Folsom beat Oak Ridge 35-0 in a Delta River League game that seemed closer as Cole Thompson returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Jake Browning uncharacteristically was intercepted four times. Browning has a state-record 69 touchdown passes this season.
The winner is expected to draw the North Coast Section D-I champion in the NorCal Open playoff. That will be either four-time defending state Open champion De La Salle of Concord or California of San Ramon.
“We couldn’t have drawn it up any better, another game with Folsom,” Oak Ridge linebacker Trent Buenzli said.
Said Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson: “We know how good Oak Ridge is. It’ll be a great challenge and a great game.”
Record setter – Damen Wheeler’s 380 receiving yards in Sacramento’s 48-38 win over Christian Brothers in Saturday’s D-III semifinal is a state record, according to Mark Tennis, the editor of Cal-Hi Sports. Wheeler had four touchdown catches, including a 99-yarder, from Dragons quarterback Caden Voges.
Friday blues – The D-III title game between No. 5 seed Sacramento and No. 2 Manteca is Friday night at Lincoln High in Stockton, but Dragons coach Paul Doherty joked that he’d love to switch to Saturday, as his Dragons are 3-0 in the playoffs this season, all day games.
“We love Saturday games, and it was special to have three of them for our fans and community,” said Doherty, whose team beat Benicia, Oakdale and Christian Brothers on the Oak Park campus. “We’re so excited to be here, we’ll play any day.”
Champs again – Bradshaw Christian beat Ripon Christian 35-28 to win the D-VI title Saturday in Lodi, the fourth championship for coach Drew Rickert since 2008. Kyle Betts rushed for three scores and Grant Dragmire one, and Jakobe Hawkins put it out of reach with a 45-yard touchdown run.
In the D-V championship, Le Grand beat Golden Sierra 20-13 for a section four-peat. In a moving postgame speech to his team, Golden Sierra coach John Hilton talked of how this was a memory of a lifetime and that handling defeat with dignity was just as important as appreciating victory.