With the regular season over, high school football teams that advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs know they face elimination.
A closer look at five big games on Friday, all of which kick off at 7 p.m.:
Whitney (6-4) at Del Oro (4-6)
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Outlook: After Whitney won the Division IV section title in 2008, it continued to contend for championships until crashing to a one-win season last fall amid injuries. Behind prolific quarterback Hunter Rodrigues and a fleet of receivers, the Wildcats are back. Del Oro, in the playoffs for the 26th time, has won nine section titles, including four under coach Casey Taylor since 2005. How Del Oro deals with Rodrigues, a dynamic pass and run threat, will be the key. And Del Oro quarterback Stone Smartt must avoid mistakes; he’s the first to admit he sometimes forces plays.
Lincoln (6-4) at Inderkum (10-0)
Outlook: Inderkum, making its 10th consecutive playoff appearance under coach Terry Stark, is undefeated in openers and has close losses in section finals in 2008, 2009 and 2014. The Tigers feature all-around speed, and they’re tough, too, with career tackling leader Derrick Henderson leading the way. Lincoln is a dangerous draw. The Zebras are prolific, averaging 46.2 points behind quarterback Elijah Garcia. But can the Zebras keep up with the Tigers, who have rushed for 386.6 yards a game and 54 touchdowns, including 16 from Raekwon Turner and 14 from Henderson?
Burbank (6-4) at Rocklin (7-3)
Outlook: Burbank’s record is misleading because it lost early-season games to powers Folsom, Grant and Oak Ridge, who are a combined 27-3, and later lost the Metropolitan League title game to Sacramento, which is 7-3 (9-1 not counting forfeits). The Titans are in the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season with coach John Heffernan and his potent triple-option attack, led by running backs Michael Roots and Erik Brown. Rocklin might have its best team since 2009, when it went 14-1, losing 33-30 to Servite of Anaheim in a CIF Bowl. The Thunder has three offensive stars: quarterback William Floyd, running back Evyn Holtz and tight end Wesley Preece.
River Valley (8-2) at Placer (10-0)
Outlook: River Valley, which has its best record since the Yuba City school opened in 2005, seeks its first playoff victory behind quarterback Avery Gould and running backs Dante Love and Clarence Pierson. River Valley’s only losses were to Pleasant Valley of Chico and Inderkum, both 10-0. Love and Pierson average a combined 239 rushing yards a game, and Gould averages 175.1 through the air. The trio has accounted for 56 touchdowns. Placer, led by a punishing running game featuring Owen Scott and Oregon-bound lineman Jacob Capra, is in the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year and seeks its first section title since 1981. The Hillmen capped unbeaten regular seasons in 1975, 1977 and 1980 with section championships under coach Bill Miller, the grandfather of current coach Joey Montoya.
Highlands (6-4) at Capital Christian (10-0)
Outlook: Highlands was a large-school football power in the 1980s, sending scores of athletes to major colleges. Now a small school, the Scots reached the Division V title game in 2010 and 2011 and will need a big upset to have a shot at reaching another. They are led by Isaiah Tenette, who has passed for 1,844 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 2,186 yards and 34 touchdowns. Capital Christian was 13-1 last season and hasn’t slowed a bit under coach Phil Grams. The defense, led by linebacker Jack Haney, has allowed just 93 points and shut out three opponents.
High school football coverage
The Sacramento Bee’s print edition features expanded coverage of high school football every Sunday, including insight from Joe Davidson, highlights of the top weekend games, how The Bee’s Top 20 fared, scores and more. Can’t wait until Sunday? Go to sacbee.com after the games on Friday nights for highlights, scores, photo galleries and more.
Where’s Joe D? The Bee’s Joe Davidson will be in Loomis on Friday for Del Oro’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game against Whitney.
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