Joe Davidson

Sac-Joaquin Section football playoff selections not an easy game to play

The Folsom High School Bulldogs come onto the field before the game as the Folsom High School Bulldogs varsity football team host the Oak Ridge High School Trojans, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.
The Folsom High School Bulldogs come onto the field before the game as the Folsom High School Bulldogs varsity football team host the Oak Ridge High School Trojans, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. Brian Baer/Special to The Bee

It’s a thankless process, crunching mounds of paperwork with data heavy on scores, enrollments and rankings.

This was the scene at the Sac-Joaquin Section office Saturday afternoon. A seven-person committee of retired coaches and athletic administrators from across the second largest section in California merged minds to seed the 45th annual section football playoffs, which start this week.

Upon further review, it was a job well done.

With an emphasis on strength of league and strength of schedule, and the reminder that seedings are not standings, the 16-team brackets filled out nicely in Divisions I, II and III. The same rings true for the eight-team brackets in the smaller divisions of IV, V and VI.

Now comes the next round of debates, sure to influence gate receipts and concession sales vital to member schools and the section: when to play the games.

Because Friday is Veterans Day, it is up to the schools to decide if they want to play openers Thursday or Friday. The sense is administrators prefer to play Thursday to end the week as soon as possible, while coaches prefer the traditional Friday schedule because of routine. The section will release the official schedule Sunday.

As for the seedings, heavyweight leagues were rewarded, as were top seeds.

Folsom (9-1) was rightfully tabbed the top seed in D-I. The loss was 32-27 to D-II top seed Sacramento (9-1). Quality losses are a factor, and that’s why Oak Ridge (8-2) earned the No. 3 seed in D-I. The Trojans fell to five-time defending Nevada North state champion Reed of Sparks and to Folsom 17-16 on Friday when a late two-point conversion attempt – going for the win – was unsuccessful. That allowed Folsom to take the Sierra Foothill League title outright.

St. Mary’s of Stockton is the second seed in D-I, fairly, as the Rams for all their pedigree do not play in a powerhouse league. St. Mary’s (9-1) lost to national powerhouse Bosco of Southern California in an early season showcase game. Elk Grove (9-1) is the fourth seed, and not higher since its loss was to Davis, the No. 6 seed in D-I.

The Thundering Herd won the uber competitive Delta League, which advanced six teams to the playoffs, and some argue the Delta was stronger than the SFL, but a counter argument is Woodcreek. The Timberwolves didn’t make the playoffs but owned a 31-21 win over Davis, which beat Elk Grove.

The initial head-scratcher was Sheldon (7-3) landing the No. 9 seed in D-I despite wins over Grant and Jesuit. But Sheldon also lost to Davis, which is seeded higher.

Del Oro (8-2) rightfully landed the second seed in D-II, as the Golden Eagles lost to Folsom and Oak Ridge. Antelope (10-0) is the third seed in D-II, and some within the Titans camp may bristle at this, but they shouldn’t. Remember, seedings are not standings. Antelope’s nonleague schedule included non-playoff teams Nevada Union, Ponderosa and Woodcreek.

Still, the Capital Valley Conference, which Antelope won, received a bonus as Del Campo (5-5) got in the D-III field at No. 4. What helped the Cougars was a nonleague win over Merced, the fifth seed in D-III.

Oakdale is the top seed in D-III, and Christian Brothers is the No. 3 seed. Sonora is the top seed in D-V, a field that includes darkhorse No. 4 Capital Christian. Amador and Bradshaw Christian are the top seeds in D-VI.

Davis, Del Campo, Lincoln of Stockton, Modesto Christian, Monterey Trail, Placer and Tracy got in with 5-5 records, having won enough league games to qualify. It’s been common for 5-5 teams to win a game or two in the playoffs. And there is one 4-6 playoff entry – Granite Bay, No. 11 in D-II. The Grizzlies face Grant in a playoff rematch from last season, won by Granite Bay.

And don’t scoff at 4-6 teams from the SFL. Del Oro was 4-6 last season and became the lone area team to win a state championship.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

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