The warmups are over, in the books.
Now the real fun starts.
League play begins Friday for most regional high school football programs, a six-week sprint to the playoffs, which could last an additional six weeks for those still standing for the CIF State championships, where the upper-division games will be housed at Sacramento State.
The Sierra Foothill League and Delta League tower over the Sac-Joaquin Section – again – and the SFL is casting a larger shadow than ever.
Combined, top-ranked Folsom, No. 2 Granite Bay, No. 3 Oak Ridge, No. 5 Del Oro and No. 6 Rocklin went 18-2 in nonleague games. The setbacks were to out-of-area programs of renown.
Del Oro has a loss to Utah power Timpview, and Rocklin on Friday fell at Fresno Bee No. 4 Clovis West, resting starters in the second half as it readies for the rigors of league play.
Delta teams ranked by The Bee went 11-7 in nonleague play, including No. 8 Grant losing to Rocklin 24-14 in an opener. Presumptive preseason Delta favorite Jesuit, ranked 12th after starting the season No. 2, has losses to Folsom (55-9) and Granite Bay (31-21). Del Oro on Friday beat No. 17 Monterey Trail, 28-6.
No. 10 Franklin is 3-0, No. 11 Sheldon is 2-1 (lost to unbeaten Reno 28-21) and No. 13 Elk Grove is 1-2 with setbacks to No. 4 Inderkum and Bay Area power Serra of San Mateo.
Gaping gap – An indicator of the gap between the higher-ranked teams and the lower-ranked ones is clear in early results. Jesuit beat then-No. 19 Christian Brothers 43-14 in the Holy Bowl, and CB – with dynamic duel-threat quarterback Gunnor Faulk and Oregon-bound tight end Spencer Webb – may not get seriously challenged until Week 10 and the Capital Athletic League finale against Vista del Lago. Vista is led by national recruit lineman Andrew Cokley, a pancake specialist, and prolific running back Dominick Norris.
Vista started the season No. 20, lost to Oak Ridge, 49-0, and also fell to Monterey Trail, 42-14.
Other races – Inderkum and No. 16 River Valley are a combined 8-0, and the clubs expect to be a combined 8-0 when they meet in Yuba City on Oct. 20 to decide the Tri-County Conference.
No. 7 Sacramento showed it can play with the best, falling to Folsom 28-19 in a game that separated only when Kaiden Bennett scored on a 10-yard keeper with 49 seconds left.
The Metropolitan Conference outside of Sacramento is a combined 2-19.
“We needed a game like Folsom,” Sacramento coach Joe McCray said, knowing well that Burbank, Florin, Johnson, Kennedy, Laguna Creek, McClatchy and Valley may have effort, but otherwise lack in roster numbers, sheer athletes and experience that the Dragons feature. “We can get better from this.”
The Capital Valley Conference also figures to be a good race again with defending champion No. 14 Antelope (3-0), No. 15 Del Campo (3-0), No. 18 Whitney (1-2), bubble-ranked team Oakmont (3-0) and playoff regular Cosumnes Oaks (0-3).
Whitney has losses to Granite Bay and Rocklin.
No. 9 Capital Christian should roll through the Golden Empire League that has just two teams with winning records, including Natomas (3-1). Capital Christian lost to Grant 19-0 while displaying some of the best athletes in the region.
The Pioneer Valley League has one ranked team in Bear River at No. 20, and the Bruins are 4-0, as is Colfax. Lincoln and Placer are each 3-1 and Center is 2-2, making for another terrific league race.
Folsom-Sac vibes – It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch with turnovers, blocked kicks and penalties, but it was fun, and Folsom and Sacramento look the part of serious title contender, the Bulldogs in Division I and the Dragons in Division II.
“Sometimes you gotta win ugly,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said. “But we woke up (Saturday morning) 4-0 against great competition. We are excited to get into SFL play.”
So is Oak Ridge, which lost in the final seconds to Folsom in Week 10 last season and hosts the Bulldogs in Week 10 this season, in what could be a meeting of 9-0 teams.
“We’re ready,” said Oak Ridge quarterback Marco Baldachinno of the SFL grind after sparking a 24-21 win over Nevada power Reed of Sparks.