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.
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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.