The Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs arrive a day early.
Because Friday is Veterans Day, most playoff openers spanning the seven divisions will be played Thursday night. The holiday affects the section playoffs every seven years, and the host schools determine the game’s day. Only Divisions I, II and III have 16-team brackets, twice as many as Divisions IV, V and VI while small-school D-VII has a four-team field.
No team has an easy road. Take No. 1-ranked Sacramento. The Dragons are the top seed in D-II, but their home grass-turf field was deemed unplayable. After being unable to find another local venue to rent, Sacramento will play at Stagg in Stockton on Friday night.
Here’s a look at some other first-round games:
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26 Consecutive playoff appearances by Grant
Davis (5-5) vs. Cosumnes Oaks (7-3)
When: Friday at Davis, 7 p.m.
Outlook: This is a matchup of good teams from strong leagues. The most misleading number is Davis’ victory total. The sixth-seeded Blue Devils, in the playoffs for just the third time since 1995, hail from the Delta League, where they beat fellow D-I playoff teams Elk Grove and Sheldon. Davis is led by quarterback John Lagattuta (1,156 passing yards and nine touchdowns and 357 rushing yards and seven scores) and running back Ish Perez (1,213 rushing yards, seven touchdowns). Eleventh-seeded Cosumnes Oaks, from the Capital Valley Conference, is in the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. The Wolfpack feature quarterback Austin Greer (1,264 passing yards, 15 touchdowns) and running back Jacob Trach (830 rushing yards, eight scores).
Grant (7-3) vs. Granite Bay (4-6)
When: Friday at Grant, 7 p.m.
Outlook: This is a rematch of last season’s emotional second-round playoff game, won by Granite Bay in the wake of the Pacers coping with the shooting death of teammate JJ Clavo hours before an opening-round game in Del Paso Heights. Grant’s losses, all in Delta League play, have come by seven points to Elk Grove, six to Sheldon and three to Jesuit. The sixth-seeded Pacers extended their section record for consecutive playoff appearances to 26 behind the big-play ability of quarterback Cam Davis, running back Tyree Marcelle and wide receiver Lawrence Hardy, who wears No. 5 this season in Clavo’s memory. Eleventh-seeded Granite Bay, seeded 11th, had to win its final three Sierra Foothill League games to reach the postseason for the 18th consecutive season. The Grizzlies are averaging 162.7 rushing yards and will test for the Pacers’ stout defense.
Whitney (6-4) vs. Inderkum (8-2)
When: Thursday at Inderkum, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Both teams are prolific. Ninth-seeded Whitney has 36 touchdown passes, 25 by Jake Cruz. Eighth-seeded Inderkum has 38 rushing touchdowns, including eight by Deo Robinson and seven by Leevi Lafaele. Inderkum has two major college recruits, quarterback/defensive back Trajon Cotton and tight end/linebacker Josh Falo. The teams have combined to make the playoffs 20 times since 2006.
Christian Brothers (8-2) vs. Cordova (7-3)
When: Friday at Hughes Stadium, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Christian Brothers was lights-out good Friday – pun intended – in scorching Vista del Lago 74-32. The Hughes Stadium lights flickered out with 10 minutes to go and returned within 15 minutes. The third-seeded Falcons are a big-play team with quarterback Tyler Vander Waal (2,168 passing yards, 19 touchdowns) and versatile playmakers Jamarri Jackson, Carlos Stahl and Matt Marengo. Cordova, seeded 14th, is in the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. The Lancers are led by quarterback Xavier Johnson (1,862 passing yards, 19 scoring passes, six rushing touchdowns) and running back Deante McCullough (1,339 rushing yards, 16 scores).
18 Consecutive playoff appearances by Granite Bay
Liberty Ranch (8-2) vs. Placer (5-5)
When: Friday at Placer, 7 p.m.
Outlook: It’s old school vs. newer school in what shapes up to be a high-scoring game on the grass field at Placer’s historic LeFebvre Stadium. Placer, which opened in 1897 in Auburn, is in the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. The second-seeded Hillmen have a punishing running attack that is averaging 290.1 yards and has scored 37 touchdowns. Mario Perez leads the ground game with 1,031 yards and 14 touchdowns. Liberty Ranch, which opened in 2009 in Galt, already has its fourth playoff team and reached the section final last season. The seventh-seeded Hawks also like to run, led by Kamil Jones (1,090 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns).
Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs
All games Thursday unless noted
All games at 7 p.m. unless noted
No. 16 Kennedy at No. 1 Folsom, Friday
No. 9 Sheldon at No. 8 Napa, Friday
No. 12 Lincoln-Stockton at No. 5 Turlock
No. 13 Gregori at No. 4 Elk Grove
No. 14 River City at No. 3 Oak Ridge
No. 11 Cosumnes Oaks at No. 6 Davis, Friday
No. 10 Monterey Trail vs. No. 7 Pitman at Turlock, Friday
No. 15 Modesto at No. 2 St. Mary’s
No. 1 Sacramento at No. 16 Stagg-Stockton, Friday
No. 9 Whitney at No. 8 Inderkum
No. 12 Downey at No. 5 Central Catholic
No. 13 Tracy at No. 4 Jesuit, Saturday, noon
No. 14 Central Valley at No. 3 Antelope
No. 11 Granite Bay at No. 6 Grant, Friday
No. 10 Vacaville at No. 7 Roseville, Friday
No. 15 Laguna Creek at No. 2 Del Oro
No. 16 McNair-Stockton at No. 1 Oakdale
No. 9 Vanden at No. 8 Vista del Lago
No. 12 Beyer vs. No. 5 Merced at Golden Valley
No. 13 East Union-Manteca at No. 4 Del Campo
No. 14 Cordova vs. No. 3 Christian Brothers at Hughes Stadium, Friday
No. 11 Burbank vs. No. 6 Benicia at Vallejo
No. 10 Lincoln at No. 7 Yuba City
No. 15 El Camino at No. 2 American Canyon
No. 8 Dixon at No. 1 Manteca
No. 5 El Dorado at No. 4 Los Banos, Friday
No. 6 Center at No. 3 Sierra-Manteca
No. 7 Liberty Ranch at No. 2 Placer, Friday
No. 8 Modesto Christian at No. 1 Sonora
No. 5 Ripon at No. 4 Capital Christian, Friday
No. 6 Marysville at No. 3 Calaveras, Friday
No. 7 Colfax at No. 2 Hilmar
No. 8 Denair at No. 1 Amador, Friday
No. 5 Bret Harte at No. 4 Orestimba
No. 6 Rio Vista at No. 3 Argonaut
No. 7 Delhi at No. 2 Bradshaw Christian
No. 2 Delta at No. 1 Stone Ridge Christian-Merced
No. 2 Brookside Christian at No. 1 Woodland Christian