Placer High School has one of the most explosive offenses in the state this season.
Entering Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal against River Valley in Auburn, the second-seeded Hillmen had section-leading totals of 56.8 points and 550 total yards per game running their vaunted wing-T.
But on a rainy night and a muddy field against an upset-minded opponent well-versed in the machinations of Placer’s well-designed offense, the Hillmen had to revert to old-fashioned smashmouth defensive football to prevail 7-6 over the 11th seeded Falcons.
Colton McElroy smothered an errant River Valley PAT attempt after Dawson McPeak scored on a 19-yard run with 4:36 to play, then the Hillmen stopped the Falcons on downs in their final possession to advance to their fifth section championship game since 2008.
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Placer will play top-seed Capital Christian on Saturday.
Placer’s Joey Montoya and River Valley co-coach Dave Humphers are good friends. Montoya got his start as an assistant to Humphers at Nevada Union, when the Miners were a wing-T powerhouse.
River Valley also runs the wing-T, and the two teams scrimmage each other on a regular basis in the preseason.
“We battled through a lot tonight with the mud and the rain,” said Placer quarterback Michael Struck. “They know our offense inside and out, and we know there’s inside and out. So every inch was tough to gain.”
Placer relied heavily on the hard, between-the-tackles running of 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back Hans Grassmann. The junior rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries and scored Placer’s lone touchdown on a 10-yard burst in the second quarter. Zac Rhode’s successful PAT would prove the difference.
Junior defensive end Jaden White led a River Valley defense that wasn’t intimidated by Placer’s formidable offensive line, anchored by Oregon recruit Joey Capra. The Hillmen defenders were just as stingy, with senior linebacker Chase Laguana Scott making life miserable for River Valley’s offense. Ian Howes had an interception and Brad Bishop a fumble recovery for Placer.
Despite its low seeding, River Valley proved to be the real deal in the postseason. The Yuba City school beat No. 6 Sacramento and No. 3 and previously unbeaten Merced to advance to the semifinals. They also were the first football playoff wins in the school’s history.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Humphers,” said Montoya, in his 12th season at Placer. “Because of him, I got my first head coaching job at 23 at Pioneer High School.”
No. 1 Folsom 52, No. 4 St. Mary’s 7 in Folsom – Kaiden Bennett completed 19 of 37 passes for 363 yards and five touchdowns and also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown, and Joe Ngata had eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs (12-1) rolled the Rams (7-5). Folsom will play the winner of Saturday’s late Oak Ridge-Monterey Trail game for the championship Dec. 1 at Sacramento State.
No. 2 Central Catholic 31, No. 3 Inderkum 30 in Modesto – Dawaiian McNeely and Kyle Jacklich each scored two touchdowns and the Raiders stopped a go-ahead two-point conversion pass attempt by the Tigers after they had scored on Aaron Espero’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Javi Daniels with a 1:35 to play to advance to the championship game against top-seeded Del Oro at Sacramento State. Espero also had a 96-yard touchdown run and Raymond Brown rushed for two touchdowns for the Tigers.
No. 1 Capital Christian 32, No. 4 Antelope 12 in Rosemont – D’Marucs Ross rushed for 126 yards and Cooper Crick threw 45 and 74 yard touchdown passes to Max Rodarte and Trey Jones to lead the Cougars (12-0) past the Titans (8-5) in a bitter battled that had nine personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
No. 1 Rio Linda 31, No. 5 Oakdale 28 in Rio Linda – Johnny Serrano returned an Oakdale (9-4) fumble 28 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, then the Knights (10-2) booted a field goal in the final 44 seconds to rally past the Mustangs and advance to the D-IV title game against the winner of Saturday’s Casa Roble-Vanden game. Cameron Skattebo rushed for touchdowns of 16 and 48 yards and Tyson Ibarra had a 44-yard touchdown run for Rio Linda.
No. 1 Colfax 51, No. 4 Sonora 7 in Colfax – Jake Green caught touchdown passes of 51 and 35 yards and returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown; Alex Weir threw four touchdown passes and Colton Reeves had a 20-yard touchdown catch and ran 33 yards for another score as the Falcons (12-0) walloped the Wildcats (7-5). The game was a lot different than last year’s semifinal matchup between the two teams, in which Colfax won a 56-55 thriller.
No. 3 Bear River 27, No. 2 Ripon 14 in Ripon – Calder Kunde threw touchdown passes of 45, 28 and 4 yards to Dylan Scott, Josiah Cregar and Tre Maronic and Jared Baze returned a blocked punt 33 yards for a score as the Bruins (11-1) beat the Indians (10-2).