Evan Strickland rushed for touchdowns of 28 and 13 yards and caught a 71-yard scoring strike while Dawson McPeak and Rex Baker scored two critical second-half touchdowns Friday night as No. 11 River Valley upset No. 3 seeded and previously unbeaten Merced 45-40 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football quarterfinals in Merced.
The victory moves River Valley (7-5) into next Friday’s semifinals against second-seeded Placer in Auburn.
River Valley’s win ranks as the biggest football victory in the Yuba City school’s history and comes one week the program’s first-ever football playoff win, a 40-14 win against Sacramento.
It didn’t come easy against Merced, one of the section’s most storied programs.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
It was a back-and-fourth battle as the lead changed hands five times before Baker’s 13-yard touchdowns run put River Valley ahead 38-33, before another scoring run early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-33 lead.
Merced (10-1) closed to five points with a touchdown with five minutes to play.
No. 1 Folsom 64, No. 8 Edison 28 in Folsom – Kaiden Bennett completed 5 of 6 passes for 160 yards and touchdown passes to Joe Ngata, Elijhah Badger and Daniyel Ngata and Badger and C.J. Hutton returned interceptions for touchdowns in building a 50-0 first quarter lead over the Vikings (9-3) from Stockton. Daniyel Ngata also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown as the Bulldogs (10-1) advanced to next Friday’s semifinals against St. Mary’s of Stockton at Folsom High School. The Bulldogs are looking to make their ninth consecutive section championship game.
No. 2 Monterey Trail 63, 7 Pitman 7 in Elk Grove – Viktor Oliver rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns; Eli Mirza had a 65-yard kickoff return to the end zone, Jehiel Budgett sizzled on scoring runs of 52 and 39 yards, and Prophet Brown raced in from 79 yards for the Mustangs (11-0) as they walloped the Pride (10-2) and remained unbeaten. Monterey Trail will host Oak Ridge in next Friday’s semifinals.
No. 3 Oak Ridge 27, No. 6 Turlock 9 in El Dorado Hills – Matt Jenner and Merrill Sawyer hooked up for an 11-yard touchdown and Jenner also rushed for a touchdown as the Trojans (8-3) topped the Bulldogs (8-4). Justin Lamson blocked a punt and Trent Dyer had an interception for the Trojans.
No. 4 St. Mary’s 30, No. 5 Sheldon 29 in Stockton –Noah May threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Joe Fontes with 16 seconds, then Eddie Sanchez booted the PAT from 35 yards after an excessive celebration penalty to knock the Huskies (7-4) out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Francisco Salinas and Michael Graves combined for a 25-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion attempt to put Sheldon ahead 29-23 with 54 seconds to play. Tyrell Smith rushed for two touchdowns and Dillon Juniel returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown for Sheldon (10-2).
No. 1 Del Oro 36, No. 8 Tracy 7 in Loomis – Aiden Foster rushed for touchdowns of 29, 18 and 6 yards and Jaden Gravett added two 13-yard touchdown runs as the Golden Eagles (10-1) scooted past the Bulldogs (9-3) and into the D-II semifinals. Del Oro will host No. 5 Jesuit this coming Friday.
No. 2 Central Catholic 49, No. 10 Elk Grove 7 in Modesto – Dalton Durossette threw 45- and 35-yard touchdown passes to Sithri Price, while Minaya Olivo and D’Angelo Bellamy each rushed for two touchdowns as the Raiders (10-1) whipped the Thundering Herd (6-6).
No. 3 Inderkum 69, No. 11 Downey 29 in Natomas – Aaron Espero and Raymond Brown each scored three times and Javi Daniels had a 90-yard kickoff return as the Tigers (11-0) beat the Knights (7-5) from Modesto. Inderkum will play at Central Catholic of Modesto in next Friday’s semifinals.
No. 5 Jesuit 42, No. 4 Granite Bay 0 in Granite Bay – Notre Dame commit Isaiah Rutherford rushed for 211 yards and touchdowns of 52, 47 and 42 yards on 14 carries, and Cade Cunningham returned an interception 50 yards for a score as the Marauders (9-3) shocked the Grizzlies (5-6) and moved on to next Friday’s semifinals against top-seeded Del Oro. Jesuit lost 27-12 to Granite Bay, last year’s D-II champions, in a non-league game on Aug. 31. Jesuit’s Laitu Latu had 10 quarterback hurries, three tackles for losses and also ran for a touchdown.
No. 1 Capital Christian 55, No. 8 Buhach Colony 0 in Rosemont – D’Marcus Ross rushed for three touchdowns; Cooper Crick and Max Rodarte combined for two touchdown passes; and Justin Hope had an interception and fumble recovery as the Cougars (11-0) walloped the Thunder (9-3) from Atwater. Capital Christian will host Antelope in next Friday’s semifinals.
No. 2 Placer 52, No. 7 Yuba City 19 in Auburn – Michael Stuck completed 6 of 8 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns – two to Louis Fudge – and the Hillmen (11-0) rolled up 739 yards of total offense in beating the Honkers (6-5) and moving on to the semifinals against No. 11 River Valley next Friday.
No. 4 Antelope 20, No. 5 Manteca 8 in Antelope – Nathan Lucero’s 1-yard run in the first quarter got the Titans (7-4) off to a good start in their win over Buffaloes (8-4), who came into the game riding a seven-game winning streak.
No. 1 Rio Linda 77, No. 8 Pacheco 63 in Rio Linda – Cameron Skattebo rushed for 277 yards and six touchdowns on 22 carries; Tyson Ibarra was 3 of 4 for 129 yards with two touchdowns and also rushed for 52 yards and had an interception; and Abraham Banks and Jeremiah McCoy returned kickoffs for 84 and 75 yards, respectively, as the Knights (9-2) held off the Panthers (9-3) in an offensive slugfest. Rio Linda will play host to No. 5 Oakdale next Friday.
No. 2 Vanden 54, No. 10 Cordova 12 in Fairfield – The Vikings (8-3) used a 34-point second quarter to throttle the Lancers (6-6) and advance to the semifinals against Casa Roble.
No. 3 Casa Roble 52, No. 6 Patterson 10 in Orangevale – Two early touchdown runs by Devin Carmona helped ignite the Rams (10-1) as they overwhelmed the Tigers (7-5).
No. 1 Colfax 56, No. 8 Los Banos 21 in Colfax – Alex Weir threw six touchdown passes – three to Colton Reeves – and Reeves added an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to lead the Falcons (11-0) past the Tigers (8-4) and into next Friday’s D-V semifinal against Sonora. Weir did most of his damage in the first half – completing 11 of 16 passes for 246 yards and five touchdowns – as Colfax built a 49-14 lead. Peter O’Brien returned an interception 42 yards for a score and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.
No. 3 Bear River 28, No. 6 Center 13 in Lake of the Pines – Hunter Daniels rushed for three touchdowns for the Bruins (10-1) to counter a 61-yard touchdown run by Elias Bonds and 57-yard scoring run by Michael Wortham for the Pioneer Valley League rival Cougars (8-4).
No. 4 Sonora 28, No. 5 Foothill 27 in Sonora – Jake Gookin’s 4-yard touchdown pass followed by the successful PAT with five minutes to play rallied the Wildcats (7-4) past the Mustangs (8-4), who were led by William Goebell’s four rushing touchdowns.
No. 3 Golden Sierra 24, No. 2 Big Valley Christian 14 in Modesto – The Grizzlies (8-4) of Garden Valley scored a touchdown in each of the first three quarters, then added an insurance field goal in the fourth to beat the Lions (9-2) and advance to the D-7 championship game against No. 1 Denair on Saturday, Nov. 17 at Liberty Ranch High School in Galt.