There is no disputing the staying power and pedigree of the Sierra Foothill League.
But the Delta League – one coach in particular is stressing – is no pushover. It might be the second strongest, deepest and most talented in the 190-school Sac-Joaquin Section with only the Valley Oak League in the argument with Central Catholic of Modesto, Manteca and Oakdale.
“They’re not going to like me saying this (in the SFL), but the SFL is more finesse (than the Delta),” said Franklin coach Mike Johnson, whose team is Bee-ranked No. 8 at 4-0. “I think of our league as the black-and-blue league. We have teams that just get after it. There are a lot of defensive-minded coaches who just get after it every week.”
The SFL has produced four CIF State champions since 2009 in eight title-game appearances with Folsom winning two and one each for Del Oro and Granite Bay. The Delta has one state championship program in Grant, which became the section’s breakthrough winner in 2008.
Folsom played in the Delta when it won its first state title in 2010. The Bulldogs switched to the SFL via section realignment before the 2014 season.
The entertainment value of the Delta is equal to that of any league, be it skill players or those in the trenches. And the respect among the veteran coaches within the Delta runs deep. Each runs their own offense and each has their own brand.
Grant is storied. Franklin is consistent. Sheldon is the sleeping giant. Monterey Trail is gritty. Elk Grove is tradition. Jesuit is Big Red. Pleasant Grove is eager after some down seasons followed some championship ones (Pleasant Grove is the last area team to beat Folsom in league play, in 2011).
No. 8 Franklin is coming off a 17-9 win over Grant in a Delta opener and now plays at No. 10 Sheldon, which pitched a second-half shutout to beat Monterey Trail 35-20 to move to 3-1.
“We beat Grant and coach Mike Alberghini and run into Sheldon and Joe Cattolico,” Johnson said admiringly. “That’s the biggest thing – a letdown. If you let down, you lose.”
Revenge without bitterness also inspires the Delta coaches. Grant beat Franklin 56-0 a year ago, and Franklin beat Sheldon 20-17 last season, though the Huskies recovered to make the playoffs. Franklin finished 5-5 and missed the postseason but is now a victory away from matching its 2016 total.
Among the returners from that team are running backs Jalen Lampley and Daniel Ross, each of whom scored against Grant.
Here are five Friday night games of note (all kick off between 7-7:30 p.m.):
No. 1 Folsom (5-0) at No. 2 Granite Bay (5-0) – The host Grizzlies aim to disrupt the Bulldogs’ massive momentum: a 19-game SFL winning streak and a regional stranglehold pretty much this entire decade.
No. 8 Franklin (4-0) at No. 9 Sheldon (3-1) – For all the speed, skill and defensive tenacity here, the unsung performers have been the offensive lines and the quarterbacks – Francisco Salinas of the host Huskies and Brandon Rundgren of the Wildcats.
No. 13 Elk Grove (2-2) at No. 10 Grant (2-2) – It’ll be a track meet with the speed backs of the Thundering Herd and the skill players of the host Pacers, but who wants to play defense? That’s your winner.
No. 18 Whitney (2-2) at No. 15 Del Campo (4-0) – One of the most spirited rooting sections in the region – Del Campo’s Cougar Crew – is ready to devour the Wildcats a year after Whitney torched Del Campo with seven touchdown passes.
No. 16 River Valley (4-0) at Rio Linda (4-1) – The visiting Falcons are roaring toward a Tri-County Conference showdown with No. 4 Inderkum Oct. 20, but danger lurks aplenty, starting with the upstart Knights, off to their best start since 2013 and 2014.
This weekend’s schedule (Sept. 29-30)
All games start between 7- 7:30 p.m., unless noted.
No. 1 Folsom at No. 2 Granite Bay
No. 3 Oak Ridge at Woodcreek
Yuba City at No. 4 Inderkum
Nevada Union at No. 5 Del Oro
No. 8 Franklin at No. 9 Sheldon
No. 13 Elk Grove at No. 10 Grant
No. 11 Capital Christian at Coeur d’Alene-Idaho
Oakmont at No. 14 Antelope
No. 18 Whitney at No. 15 Del Campo
No. 16 River Valley at Rio Linda
Pleasant Grove at No. 17 Monterey Trail
No. 19 Christian Brothers vs. Stagg at Hughes Stadium
Byes: No. 7 Rocklin, No. 20 Bear River
Ponderosa at Bella Vista
Roseville at Cosumnes Oaks
Mesa Verde at Dixon
Bret Harte at Winters
Valley at Kennedy
Argonaut at Calaveras
Sonora at Amador
Foresthill at Quincy
University Prep at Union Mine
Valley Christian at Incline
Woodland Christian at Esparto
River City at Pioneer
Golden Sierra at San Juan
Delta Charter-Tracy at Delta
Franklin at Galt
Natomas at Center
Rio Americano at Highlands
Johnson vs. McClatchy at Rosemont
Encina vs. Bradshaw Christian at El Camino
Laguna Creek vs. Burbank at Cosumnes River College
Florin at No. 6 Sacramento, 1 p.m.
Davis at No. 12 Jesuit, 1 p.m.
Ferndale at El Dorado
Lindhurst vs. Marysville at Yuba College