Mike Gimenez sized up his Whitney High School football team’s early struggles succinctly.
“When you’re 1-3,” the veteran coach said, “no one wants to watch you play. We were that team, that ‘ah, whatever’ team. The kids fed off that and got better. Once you see us in person, you’re impressed.”
What’s impressive is the seven-game winning streak for the Wildcats, including an unbeaten march through the Capital Athletic League and then toppling Cosumnes Oaks 34-9 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff opener. Next is top-seeded Del Oro, unbeaten in the section and owner of eight section championships and two playoff wins over the Wildcats since 2010. Whitney opened its doors in 2005 and won a section D-IV title in 2008 with Gimenez, who quickly elevated the upstart school in Rocklin to a regional power.
The coach admits, however, his team doesn’t look so imposing.
“We haven’t won a pregame look yet,” Gimenez said. “Everyone looks bigger and faster, but at the end of the game, we do OK. Our kids have been playing really, really well. We do all the little things. We don’t turn the ball over. We tackle well. We finish plays. We compete.”
As for Del Oro?
“Del Oro will be picked to win by 21, 28, 35 points, but our team feeds off that,” Gimenez said. “This team has been special, and we’ve got good players.”
The list starts with quarterback Drew Romo, all-purpose Jordan Traynor and cornerback/return specialist Josh Gallofin. Romo has passed for 1,702 yards and 19 touchdowns. Traynor has rushed for five scores, averages 4.6 tackles at linebacker and is the kicker. Gallofin played superb cover defense on UCLA-bound receiver Alex Van Dyke in the win over Cosumnes Oaks.
Playoff notes – The last time the section had two unbeaten teams meet in the playoffs was in 2009, when Rocklin defeated Grant in a D-II semifinal. It won’t happen this season, as the three section unbeatens are in different divisions – Folsom in D-I, Hilmar in D-IV and Le Grand in D-V.
• Seedings-wise, the biggest playoff upsets last Friday were No. 14 Placer topping one-loss No. 3 Capital Christian in D-IV, and No. 13 Oakdale beating one-loss Patterson in D-III.
• Franklin High’s motto this season before taking the field has been “Shock the World.” The Wildcats and senior standouts Joey Banks, Robert Sanders and Curtis Williams will certainly shock the section if they can topple Folsom this Friday.
• Granite Bay and Oak Ridge meet in D-I play for the third consecutive season, with Granite Bay prevailing twice, including 35-23 in the final last season. This time they’ll meet in El Dorado Hills, where the Trojans are unbeaten this season and have a 10-game home winning streak dating to 2012.
• Pleasant Grove meets Stagg of Stockton in D-I action for the third time and second consecutive season. Last year, the Eagles won 22-21 on a late field goal by Chad Philipps, who is back.
• Grant and Yuba City meet for the fourth time in the playoffs and the first in D-II. Yuba City beat Grant in one of the most thrilling City Championship games in 1987, as Brian Brown and the Honkers held off Bee Player of the Year Aaron Garcia 30-28. Grant beat Yuba City in D-I openers in 1993 and ’97.
Coach reminder – Coaches are urged to send all-league teams to The Bee this week to ensure publication. Coaches also are encouraged to nominate area players for The Bee’s All-Metro team (send to firstname.lastname@example.org).
WHERE’S JOE D?
The Bee’s Joe Davidson will be at Elk Grove High School on Friday night for the Thundering Herd’s game against Burbank in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football playoffs.
SAC-JOAQUIN SECTION PLAYOFFS
All games at 7 p.m.
• No. 8 Franklin at No. 1 Folsom
• No. 12 Jesuit at No. 4 Tracy
• No. 11 Granite Bay at No. 3 Oak Ridge
• No. 7 Pleasant Grove at No. 2 Stagg-Stockton
• No. 9 Whitney at No. 1 Del Oro
• No. 5 Grant at No. 4 Yuba City
• No. 6 Burbank at No. 3 Elk Grove
• No. 7 Vacaville at No. 2 Rio Linda
• No. 8 Christian Brothers at No. 1 American Canyon
• No. 13 Oakdale at No. 5 Sacramento, 1 p.m. Saturday
• No. 6 Vanden-Fairfield at No. 3 Inderkum
• No. 10 Casa Roble at No. 2 Manteca
• No. 8 Colfax at No. 1 Central Catholic
• No. 5 Calaveras at No. 4 Ripon
• No. 14 Placer at No. 6 Center
• No. 10 Escalon at No. 2 Hilmar
• No. 5 Waterford at No. 1 Le Grand
• No. 3 Golden Sierra at No. 2 Mariposa
• No. 4 Brookside Christian at No. 1 Bradshaw Christian
• No. 3 Ripon Christian at No. 2 Woodland Christian