Five games to watch in the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs

The Bee’s Joe Davidson previews five of tonight’s Sac-Joaquin Section playoff games (all 7 p.m.)


The host Bulldogs are 25-1 the past two seasons and haven’t lost at home since the 2010 opener against Grant, a streak of 27 games. In this Division I game, Franklin defensive standouts Joey Banks, Curtis Williams and Robert Sanders must apply pressure on quarterback Jake Browning (4,378 yards passing 62 TD passes) to have a chance. Browning is bearing down on the state passing touchdown mark of 65 (he owns the NorCal record of 63 from last season). But Browning is not a one-man show, with running backs Bailey Laolagi, Bryan Weldy and Tre Green each averaging 7 or more yards a carry. Franklin quarterback Lamar Jackson is a pass-run threat whose speed will test the strong Folsom defense, headed by linebacker Eddie Flores.


The longtime powers have met in the postseason before: Oak Ridge won the D-II section title in 2002 and Granite Bay captured the D-II title in 2000. Last season, Granite Bay beat the Trojans 35-23 in the D-I section finals, and they meet in D-I again with the Grizzlies riding a three-year, 11-game playoff winning streak. Oak Ridge has shown it can rally big, beating Jesuit 45-42 in overtime in the regular season after trailing 42-21, and that it can overcome a slow start, beating Napa 31-7 in a playoff opener. Quarterback Ian Book will again look for targets Trent Buenzli, Jacob Sipes and Justin Priest, and hand off to a healthy running back in Josh Wellman. The Grizzles will throw with quarterback Josh Neal, who looks for Dylan Keeney and Brian Graber. Luke Bussey and Cam Smith anchor a strong defense for Granite Bay.

GRANT (8-3) AT YUBA CITY (10-1)

These D-II teams prefer to run, though both can pass. Grant quarterback Donovan Brown has thrown to Ariyon Huff for nine touchdowns. Yuba City quarterback Isaac Lessard has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Grant has a massive offensive line to block for running back Deandre Whittington-Grays (1,177 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Mike Green, TieNeal Martin and Zay Cato. Yuba City has rushed for 45 touchdowns, 21 by Omar Herrera (1,473 yards). This is the biggest playoff game for Yuba City since it beat Grant in the 1987 City Championship game in D-I.


This is the first meeting between the D-II programs since they were Metro League members in the early 1970s, and neither is fancy as run-heavy clubs. The Thundering Herd has superb line play in a wing-T scheme that must deal with the power of Titans defensive tackle Ngalu Tapa to spring running back Wadus Parker (1,535 yards, 22 touchdowns). Parker carried 35 times for 178 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-7 win over Atwater last week. Spencer Sheff (607 yards, nine touchdowns) is also a running threat, and he is part of quick defense headed by Noah Letuligasenoa Ta’amu (15 sacks) and B’won Canada (six sacks). Burbank counters with the triple-option offense that features quarterback Ernest Jenkins (860 passing yards, eight touchdown passes, 1,206 rushing yards, 19 TDs), Benji Jones (1,032 yards, nine TDs), Calvin Green (816 yards, eight TDs) and Harrison Anderson (567 yards, six TDs). Burbank has 63 sacks, 141/2 by Tapa and 12 by Gerald Pliman.

WHITNEY (8-3) AT DEL ORO (9-2)

The Wildcats’ mantra in facing the D-II top seed is: “Why not us?” To win, the Wildcats have to play the sort of defense they did in bottling up Cosumnes Oaks 34-9 last week, and quarterback Drew Romo and running back Kwane Wilkinson have to maintain offensive balance. Del Oro’s line, headed by Brandon Johnson, Tanner Woods and Emileo Campos, has bulldozed all section foes for running back Dylan Kainrath (1,331 yards, 21 TDs), and QB Michael Moore has quietly had a strong season with 1,673 yards passing, 16 touchdown passes. Del Oro beat Whitney in the 2010 and ’11 playoffs and is unbeaten in the section this season.