Now the real season starts.
If some of the twists and turns that defined a fun fall are any indicator, then we’re in for another wild ride in the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs.
The brackets for seven divisions were released from the section’s headquarters in Lodi on Saturday afternoon as a seven-person committee crunched win-loss records, strength of schedule, strength of league and head-to-head results when applicable. Teams with 10-0 records were not automatically awarded No. 1 seeds if their league and overall schedule were not deemed as strong as teams with losses.
Because Friday will be recognized as the Veterans Day holiday, the first round begins Thursday. Teams can play on Friday or Saturday if both sides agree. This scheduling quirk happens twice every seven years, including last year when more than half the opening games were on Thursday.
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All told, 78 teams will advance to the 46th section playoffs spanning divisions based on enrollment. This section is the second largest of the 10 in the state.
The Sierra Foothill League, far and away the most formidable conference in Northern California, is well represented with high seeds.
Bee No. 1 Folsom is the top seed in Division I after it beat Oak Ridge 42-28 on Friday to win the SFL with an overall 10-0 record. The Bulldogs seek their sixth section banner this decade. Oak Ridge (9-1) was awarded the No. 2 seed based on its body of work, and defending champion St. Mary’s (8-2) is the No. 3 seed having lost to national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana and to Central Catholic of Modesto in nonleague play.
In Division II, Granite Bay (8-2) earned the top seed in reaching the postseason for the 19th consecutive year despite placing third in the SFL. But the losses were 14-7 to Oak Ridge in overtime and 35-14 to Folsom. Also looming in D-II is No. 6 seed Rocklin (6-4), which lost to Folsom, Oak Ridge and Granite Bay.
“Sweet,” Folsom coach Kris Richardson said of hearing of the SFL seedings. “Great for the SFL.”
The section D-I and II finals are at Sacramento State on Dec. 2.
Oakdale, ranked No. 1 by The Modesto Bee, is the top seed in D-III, its only loss coming to Folsom early in the season. The Mustangs (9-1) solidified their cause with a 21-7 win over Central Catholic on Friday to win the Valley Oak League. Central Catholic (8-1) is the No. 3 seed in D-II behind No. 2 Inderkum, which joins No. 4 Del Campo as 10-0 entries.
Pioneer Valley League champion Placer (9-1) is the No. 1 seed in D-IV, opposite of upstart Casa Roble (5-5).
Sonora (8-2) is the top seed in D-V with Calaveras (9-1) seeded second and defending champion Capital Christian (7-3) the No. 3 seed.
Five-time champion Bradshaw Christian (7-3) is the No. 1 seed in D-VI, opposite of No. 2 Escalon (6-4), and Rio Vista (7-3) is the top seed in D-VII.
Rematches make the section playoffs all the more intriguing, and that could happen in D-I with Folsom and Oak Ridge, much as it did in 2013 when Folsom handed Oak Ridge its only two losses, including in the section finals.
“We’ve had that discussion that we could play Oak Ridge twice,” Richardson said. “That’s a very possible scenario.”
Said Oak Ridge quarterback Marco Baldacchino, “We’ll see Folsom again.”
Jesuit (8-2) is the No. 4 seed in D-I, having won eight consecutive games since opening with losses to Folsom and Granite Bay. One of the wins was in the Holy Bowl over Christian Brothers (8-2), which hasn’t lost since and earned the No. 3 seed in D-III.
No. 6 Sheldon (8-2) looms as a dark horse on the bottom of the D-I bracket with one in-state loss to Jesuit and a defeat to unbeaten Reno, 28-21.
The D-II bracket is especially deep with No. 5 Sacramento and No. 4 Del Campo looming in a potential second-round game. Sacramento (6-4) has one on-field loss – 28-19 to Folsom – but was hit with three forfeit losses due to playing a seldom-used player in games.
Inderkum reached the section finals last season and features perhaps the fastest player in the section in national-recruit receiver Isaah Crocker. No. 7 Del Oro (5-5) had to beat Woodcreek on Friday to earn a playoff berth, and the two-time defending section champion Golden Eagles open against No. 10 Lincoln (8-2) in an all-Placer County showdown.
“The D-II bracket was far and away the most discussed about how to seed teams,” section assistant director Will DeBoard said. “There are a lot of good teams.”
Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs
Thursday openers (unless noted as Friday is Veteran’s Day holiday)
No. 16 River City at No. 1 Folsom
No. 9 Turlock at No. 8 Tracy
No. 12 Monterey Trail at No. 5 Vacaville
No. 13 Modesto at No. 4 Jesuit, Saturday, 1 p.m.
No. 14 Edison at No. 3 St. Mary’s
No. 11 Cosumnes Oaks at No. 6 Sheldon
No. 10 Franklin-Elk Grove at No. 7 Gregori
No. 15 Lincoln-Stockton at No. 2 Oak Ridge
No. 16 Burbank at No. 1 Granite Bay
No. 9 Elk Grove at No. 8 Antelope
No. 12 Wood at No. 5 Sacramento
No. 13 Buhach Colony at No. 4 Del Campo
No. 14 Stagg at No. 3 Central Catholic
No. 11 Downey at No. 6 Rocklin
No. 10 Lincoln at No. 7 Del Oro
No. 15 Vintage at No. 2 Inderkum
No. 16 McNair at No. 1 Oakdale
No. 9 Vanden at No. 8 Yuba City
No. 12 Cordova at No. 5 Vista del Lago
No. 13 East Union at No. 4 Patterson
No. 14 Benicia at No. 3 Christian Brothers
No. 11 Rio Linda at No. 6 Los Banos
No. 10 River Valley at No. 7 American Canyon
No. 15 Rio Americano at No. 2 Manteca
No. 8 Natomas at No. 1 Placer
No. 5 Woodland at No. 4 El Dorado
No. 6 Dixon at No. 3 Center
No. 7 Union Mine vs. No. 2 Casa Roble
No. 8 Highlands at No. 1 Sonora
No. 5 Colfax at No. 4 Orestimba
No. 6 Bear River at No. 3 Capital Christian
No. 7 Ripon at No. 2 Calaveras
No. 8 Western Sierra at No. 1 Bradshaw Christian
No. 5 Gustine at No. 4 Modesto Christian
No. 6 Hilmar at No. 3 Summerville
No. 7 Mariposa at No. 2 Escalon
No. 5 Big Valley Christian at No. 4 Woodland Christian
No. 6 Brookside Chritian at No. 3 Stone Ridge Christian
Byes: No. 1 Rio Vista, No. 2 Ripon Christian
For complete brackets: cifsjs.org