High School Sports

It’s not just Folsom: Sac-Joaquin Section football rankings for small and large schools

We merged minds, Julian Lopez and me, amid sandwiches and refills of iced tea.

Our skull session included mounds of paperwork but did not include helmets, so we emerged concussion-free, or so we hope.

Lopez is the Modesto Bee sports guru, the Southern California native tracking teams and talents in the 209 area code for just over a year while I do the same in the Sacramento region, going on season 31. I’m a Bay Area native whose high school years were spent in the mountains of eastern Oregon. We have been accused by grouchy parents of surely being a graduate of Elk Grove, Grant, Jesuit or, heavens, St. Francis, an all-girls school. You catch the drift.

The Sac-Joaquin Section – which Lopez and I cover inside and out in football – is the second-largest of the 10 sections that make up the California Interscholastic Federation, which has nearly 200 schools. For the first time, our news outlets will run Bee Section Rankings.

We will do so for small schools and large, reflective of the depth of teams dotted across the Central Valley. A lot of these teams meet in nonleague games and/or the playoffs, adding to the argument of why this is a must.

The Bee’s Large School rankings will consist of teams in divisions I-IV, with the Small School rankings for programs in divisions V-VII.

The southern part of the section is heavy on small-school powers, including Hilmar and Denair, each coming off CIF state championship seasons.

The northern part of this section is heavy with large-school heavies.

Folsom, Del Oro, Rio Linda and Colfax each reached the CIF finals in 2018, with Folsom repeating and Rio Linda also prevailing. That title-game haul marks the most successful season in section history, and we project more of the same, if not better, for 2019.

Folsom was the clear preseason section No. 1 and has had a stranglehold on The Sacramento Bee rankings for seven years.

The Bulldogs have an opening-night bye this week, then play Jesuit at Sacramento State on Aug. 30.

The Bee’s Large School No. 2 and 3 teams are Central Catholic of Modesto and St. Mary’s of Stockton, storied programs that meet Sept. 6 in the 209 version of the Holy Bowl (the 916 version is Jesuit vs. Christian Brothers on Sept 14 at Hughes Stadium, the 50th meeting between the rivals).

Central Catholic on a roll

Central Catholic has won a section-leading 19 championship banners in 21 title-game appearances, mostly in smaller divisions, though the Raiders have fared just fine since moving up to Division II. The program is led by one of the state’s most charismatic characters in coach Roger Canepa.

And more intrigue: Central Catholic hosts Northern California No. 1 De La Salle on Aug. 30 in the biggest nonleague meeting in that part of the section since De La Salle visited Merced in 1991.

Central Catholic’s showdown with De La Salle comes two weeks before the Spartans of Concord visit Folsom, so we will find out soon enough how this section fares with the NorCal standard of football. De La Salle has not lost to a NorCal team (north of Fresno) since 1991, a run of 299 games.

This decade, De La Salle has topped St. Mary’s four times, Folsom three times, Del Oro three times and once each over Central Catholic, Granite Bay and Jesuit.

The highest-ranked Large School team in Lopez’s immediate coverage is Turlock, led by lineman Everett Johnson, a Cal commitment. The collective push is on for the Merced/Modesto/Turlock schools to clear the 916 hurdle in the Division I finals.

A Sacramento-area team has won the D-I section championship 23 of the last 25 years with St. Mary’s winning three times in that stretch under longtime coach Tony Franks, a UC Davis graduate.

Folsom has seven section titles this decade, five in D-I, and nine overall since 1989. Del Oro has won 12 section titles in D-II or III in 19 title-game appearances. Grant has seven D-I or II banners since 1991, all under coach Mike Alberghini, and Granite Bay has six in D-II.

Eight-time small-school section champion Escalon tops The Bee’s first Small School collection, followed by Hilmar, Colfax and Bear River (with those three combining for 16 titles).

Escalon returns three running backs who each rushed for more than 800 yards last season, and the Cougars are eager to topple Hilmar after two successive playoff losses to the Yellowjackets. Escalon opens Friday at home against Union Mine, a team shaken by the illness of beloved coach Chic Bist, who is in hospice, battling cancer.

Ripon Christian is ranked fifth, coached by Randy Fasani, the most accomplished player in the history of Del Oro and one of the section’s most dynamic quarterbacks – another example of how the entire section is intertwined one way or another.

THE BEE’S TOP 10

Sac-Joaquin Section

Small Schools (last year’s record)

1. Escalon (9-3)

2. Hilmar (13-2)

3. Colfax (13-1)

4. Bear River (11-2)

5. Ripon Christian (12-1)

6. Sonora (7-5)

7. Center (8-4)

8. Denair (12-1)

9. Ripon (10-2)

10. Bradshaw Christian (6-5)

- Julian Lopez/Joe Davidson



THE BEE’S TOP 20

Sac-Joaquin Section

Large Schools
(last year’s record)

1. Folsom (14-1)

2. Central Catholic (11-2)

3. St. Mary’s (7-5)

4. Monterey Trail (12-1)

5. Oak Ridge (8-4)

6. Vacaville (6-5)

7. Turlock (8-4)

8. Tracy (8-4)

9. Capital Christian (13-1)

10. Rio Linda (13-2)

11. Del Oro (13-2)

12. Oakdale (9-4)

13. Inderkum (11-1)

14. Granite Bay (6-5)

15. Jesuit (9-4)

16. Downey (7-5)

17. Grant (5-6)

18. Manteca (8-4)

19. Edison (9-3)

20. Buhach Colony (9-3)

- Joe Davidson/Julian Lopez



Football schedule

All Friday games start between 7 and 7:30 p.m.

Rocklin at Antelope

Truckee at Bear River

Casa Roble at Bella Vista

Cosumnes Oaks at Capital Christian

Christian Brothers vs. Burbank at Hughes Stadium

Vista del Lago at Cordova

Pleasant Valley at Del Oro

Western Sierra at Delta Charter

Bethel at Dixon

Encina at El Camino

Argonaut at El Dorado

Inderkum at Elk Grove

Union Mine at Escalon

Placer at Eureka

Coral Academy at Foresthill

Franklin vs. McNair at Cosumnes Oaks

Woodland Christian at Galt

Colfax at Golden Sierra

Davis at Grant

Valley Christian at Incline Village

Johnson at Liberty Ranch

Pleasant Grove at Kennedy

Laguna Creek vs. Valley at Cosumnes River College

Natomas at Marysville

Merced vs. Del Campo at Golden Valley

Mesa Verde vs. Lindhurst at San Juan

Granite Bay at Monte Vista

Yuba City at Nevada Union

Lincoln at Oak Ridge

Rodriguez at Oakmont

Center at Rio Linda

Ponderosa at River City

Woodland at River Valley

Bear Creek at Roseville

San Juan at Delta

Monterey Trail at Sheldon

Woodcreek vs. Rio Americano at Del Campo

Paraclete at Whitney

Liberty at Vacaville

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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.
Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.
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