Sometimes, it’s the upsets that shape a season.
Remember last fall when upstart Davis pulled the biggest regional regular-season stunner in years with its 16-14 victory over powerhouse Elk Grove?
Turns out, Davis was pretty good, and that win vaulted it to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Elk Grove, jarred awake, bounced back to finish 11-2.
Upsets are good for the game at all levels – otherwise it becomes too predictable and mundane, and what’s the fun in that? How the teams respond is always telling.
This season’s biggest upset so far happened Friday in Yuba City, where No. 14 River Valley trailed by four touchdowns at the half and fell to Woodland 42-27 in a Tri-County Conference game.
No one outside of Yolo County and those in the Wolves’ bright orange and white saw this coming. River Valley stormed to a 5-0 start with a prolific wing-T and stifling defense.
Back to the whiteboard. The great coaches own up to blunder games, crediting the winners and challenging all hands to recover. River Valley co-coach Dave Humphers said the loss was on him, and team leaders such as quarterback Dawson McPeak countered that the loss was on them. It was on all of them.
Meanwhile, Woodland celebrates. Oscar Sanchez rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns, and the 5-1 Wolves, under second-year coach Chris Smith, are suddenly in the league title chase with their best start since finishing 8-3 in 2011, also the last time the team won more than five games. Sanchez has rushed for 872 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
Woodland has seized the attention of No. 3 Inderkum, which hosts the Wolves on Friday, mindful of how upsets can jolt a season.
More upsets – There were two other Friday upsets in a revved-up Pioneer Valley League, so expect a shuffle in The Bee’s Top 20 rankings.
Lincoln beat No. 19 Bear River 33-13 in Placer County as Tommy Turner passed for three touchdowns to improve to 5-1, a win away from matching the victory total of each of the past two seasons. Turner, a junior, has 16 touchdowns. The lone loss for coach Chris Bean and the Fighting Zebras came to unbeaten No. 12 Antelope, 35-24.
Lincoln, the defending PVL co-champion, next plays Colfax, which is red-faced upset after blowing a 28-7 lead and falling at Placer 41-35. Michael Stuck engineered the rally with three touchdown passes, and Mario Perez ended it with a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 13 seconds left.
Placer seeks its sixth successive PVL title under coach Joey Montoya, and rallies are what make for championship teams.
Season saver/deflater – Woodcreek badly needed a win to keep the wheels from completely falling off, and the Timberwolves delivered a heart-check rally in Grass Valley to salvage a season that still has legs.
As time ran out at Hooper Stadium, Carter Krupp scrambled and unloaded a pass into the end zone, where a sea of players converged. The ball was tipped, and Peyton Allen snatched it with no time left for a 54-53 triumph over Nevada Union.
Among the giddy were Timberwolves co-coaches Kyle Stowers and Brad Hunkins, both of whom could relate to the deflated mood of the Miners and beleaugered coach Dennis Houlihan, whose team was led by Hayden Fay’s 280 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Nevada Union has suffered immeasurably in the Sierra Foothill League, losing 28 straight since 2012 after decades of success. Declining enrollment and the rigors of the SFL have been unkind to NU, whose wins this season were over Placer (43-16) and Napa (14-13).
The Miners close out their final SFL season against top-ranked Folsom, No. 5 Granite Bay and No. 2 Oak Ridge before a realignment shift. Houlihan has gone 8-39 at his alma mater, and no one hurts and feels it more than he does.
More ’Creek – Woodcreek opened with a 63-6 loss to No. 8 Sheldon, responded with a 55-34 win over Davis, agonized over a 35-27 loss to Antelope, hurt some more with a 22-21 setback to Napa and rubbed out welts and bruises from losses to No. 1 Folsom (55-14) and No. 2 Oak Ridge (42-14) in the SFL.
The leader has been Krupp, who was exceptional on Friday with 268 yards passing, 167 rushing, six total touchdowns, seven extra points, two punts of over 40 yards and playing every down on defense in the secondary. That’s a winner by any definition.
Otto-matic – Nate Otto had himself a week. The Oak Ridge senior linebacker received a scholarship offer from San Diego, which gobbles up Trojans student-athletes, and then on Friday helped spearhead a defensive charge that led to a 27-10 win over No. 7 Rocklin.
But Otto was not available at the half when it was announced he was the Homecoming King (he was with his team, plotting and scheming defensive stops). Otto’s mother, Caryn, accepted the crown. No word yet if she handed it to her son in an exchange for a game-worn jersey.