Sac High, Christian Brothers to meet in section football semifinals

One program had never tasted a postseason victory before this spirited run but talked of how savory it would be to practice during Thanksgiving week.

The other hadn’t won a playoff game in 27 years and now wants to practice well into December.

Next Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal in Oak Park just as well be called the Breakthrough Bowl as one-time Metro League rivals Sacramento and Christian Brothers face off for a shot at the title.

Sacramento, which entering this season was 0-5 in the playoffs, which began in 1976, is riding a seven-game winning streak. A week after beating Benicia in a playoff opener, the Dragons defeated defending section and Northern California champion Oakdale 40-21 on Saturday.

In attendance were CBS coaches, still glowing from the Falcons’ 30-27 triumph over top-seeded American Canyon of Napa County on Friday night. CBS is also 2-0 in this playoff scramble after losing its previous 12 postseason games dating to 1986. CBS is the No. 8 seed and Sacramento No. 5, and both stand as proof that darkhorses are having a say in the title races.

“It’ll be fun, right here, next week,” Dragons coach Paul Doherty said moments after excitedly telling his team at midfield that history was being made.

Scores of alumni have come to Sac High and CBS games of late, squeezing into lettermen’s jackets, some as far back as the early 1960s. These are two of the oldest schools on the West Coast, located 1 1/2 miles apart.

Both teams relied on defensive stands and more steady quarterback play to advance. CBS stopped American Canyon inside the 1 midway through the fourth quarter, and then Chris Guillen hit Brandon Thompson for a national-record-tying 99-yard touchdown pass. Guillen threw for three touchdowns and ran for one.

The longest playoff play in regional history – and a national-record-tying effort – was a 99-yard touchdown run by Valley’s Damen Wheeler against Grant in 1995. Wheeler is an assistant coach at Sac High, and he delighted in watching his son Damen Wheeler II catch a 60-yard touchdown pass from Caden Voges on the Dragons’ first play from scrimmage and seal it with a 2-yard scoring reception from Voges, who also ran for two 3-yard scores.

Honker heaven - The last time Yuba City won a playoff game that meant this much and resulted in hugs and tears was in 1987, a last-minute City Championship triumph over Grant.

So imagine the cross-generational emotion Friday when the Honkers honored the ’87 team before facing Grant in a D-II quarterfinal game, then prevailing 27-12.

The Honkers stopped the Pacers five times on downs and came up with three turnovers to storm to a 27-6 lead and earned a shot at another storied program, top-seeded Del Oro . Scotty Azevedo, Devin Pettengill, Austin Thompson and Jaylon Deas led Yuba City’s defense, and Omar Herrera rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Yuba City coach John Ithuburn was a lineman on the ’87 team. His brother Mike is the Honkers’ defensive coordinator.

Stoppers - Oak Ridge pitched a second-half shutout for the third consecutive week, thanks largely to the efforts of leaders Trent Buenzli and Thomas Mahlman. In a regular-season finale at Jesuit, the Trojans roared back from a 42-21 halftime deficit to win 45-42 in overtime. In a D-I playoff opener against Napa, Oak Ridge trailed 7-0 in the second quarter before rolling to a 31-7 victory.

Friday against two-time defending section champion Granite Bay, Oak Ridge won 28-17 after trailing 17-14 at halftime. The Trojans’ Victor Bunce made two second-half interceptions.

• Elk Grove had 18 first downs to Burbank’s five in the Thundering Herd’s 18-12 D-II win and had the ball for 34 minutes. Spencer Sheff played well at linebacker for Elk Grove and also rushed for 66 yards.

• Ryan Robards has one of the strongest legs in the section, though luck isn’t always on his side. The Elk Grove sophomore missed left by inches on two 42-yard field-goal attempts that had plenty of distance against Burbank.