As if the Sierra Foothill League wasn’t already stacked with some of the top programs in the Sac-Joaquin Section, here come the Grant Pacers.
Realignment moved the storied program from Del Paso Heights into the section’s top league before this academic year for football only. The young Pacers figured to be tested and they figured to flex their familiar muscle, too.
With its youngest team under longtime coach Mike Alberghini, Grant has recorded wins over Granite Bay and Rocklin this season and nearly stunned another Placer County juggernaut, falling to No. 2 Del Oro 22-21 last week. Now Grant welcomes top-ranked Folsom with a chance to really jolt the SFL and region.
Folsom has won 33 consecutive SFL games since entering the league before the 2013 season. Grant beat Folsom handily in the regular season in 2010 and 2011, but lost to the Bulldogs big in the 2010 and 2014 playoffs.
A peek at five games of note:
No. 1 Folsom (7-1) at No. 10 Grant (4-4)
Grant for decades has trotted out the best athletes in the region. Now the Pacers have to deal with Folsom’s array of remarkable skill players. Kaiden Bennett has passed for 2,319 yards and 36 touchdowns with no interceptions in his last seven games. Daniyel Ngata is a terrific runner and blocker, and receivers Elijhah Badger and Joe Ngata each have 12 touchdown receptions. Grant counters with play-making QB Xavier Johnson and RB Christian Kinsey, who has rushed for 10 scores.
No. 18 Ponderosa (6-2) at No. 4 Placer (8-0)
The visiting Bruins could pull a monstrous upset in Foothill Valley League action if they can somehow stall out Placer’s prolific wing-T running attack, headed by Marshall Chapman (1,006 yards rushing, 22 touchdowns) and Hans Grassman (1,106, 17). The Hillmen average 449.1 rushing yards per game on 9.6 yards a carry.
No. 8 Sheldon (7-1) at No. 9 Jesuit (6-2)
Scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m., the Delta League championship hangs in the balance. Jesuit is the defending champion, having run the Delta table a year ago and riding a six-game winning streak this season behind QB Hank Harvego (1,246 yards passing and 17 touchdowns, seven of those to Kendric Bailey) and RBs Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Rutherford, who have scored a combined 13 times. Sheldon is paced by RB Tyrell Smith (1,054 yards rushing, 12 scores) and QB Francisco Salinas, who hands off a lot but also burns defenses with long passing strikes. Sheldon has won seven in a row since falling to No. 3 Monterey Trail.
No. 11 Bear River (8-0) at No. 13 Colfax (8-0)
The Pioneer Valley League title will be decided here by these rivals who played for the first time in 1986, when Bear River was new. Colfax leads the series 17-15, according to Mike Ray of Gold Country Media, with low-scoring shutouts and high-scoring thrillers. Bear River won the last meeting, which decided the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship last season. There could be a rematch again in the playoffs. Bear River relies on the run and Colfax on the pass, and the home setting expects to be electric.
No. 20 Christian Brothers (5-3) vs. Del Campo (2-6)
Playing at Hughes Stadium, Del Campo needs a win here and next week over winless Bella Vista to have a shot at the playoffs for the 16th time in 17 seasons. Aaron Goldfried started the season as co-coach with longtime coach Mike Dimino. He’s now in charge after Dimino stepped aside earlier this season to focus on his health. Dimino said, “We have a great staff. The guys will do just fine.” Levi Markey has been more than fine for Del Campo. The senior RB is coming off games of 328 and 343 yards rushing with eight combined scores in the last two games, both wins. Christian Brothers has won three in a row behind QB Jacob Stewart, including a four-touchdown effort to beat Vista del Lago 33-28.
This week’s schedule
All kickoffs between 7-7:30 p.m. Friday, unless noted.
No. 1 Folsom at No. 10 Grant
No. 2 Del Oro at Rocklin
No. 3 Monterey Trail vs. Laguna Creek
No. 18 Ponderosa at No. 4 Placer
No. 5 Inderkum at Yuba City
No. 16 Granite Bay at No. 6 Oak Ridge
Rio Americano at No. 7 Capital Christian
No. 8 Sheldon at No. 9 Jesuit (1 p.m. Saturday)
No. 11 Bear River at No. 13 Colfax
No. 12 Elk Grove at Cosumnes Oaks
Lindhurst at No. 14 Center
Oakmont at No. 17 Rio Linda
Dixon at No. 19 Casa Roble
No. 20 Christian Brothers vs. Del Campo at Hughes Stadium
Bye: No. 15 Antelope
Bella Vista at Roseville
River Valley at Woodcreek
Franklin at Davis
Lincoln at Nevada Union
Mesa Verde vs. Woodland at Pioneer High School
Pioneer vs. Mira Loma at El Camino High School
Florin vs. Johnson at Monterey Trail High School
Natomas at Cordova
River City at Kennedy
McClatchy at Burbank
Marysville at Foothill
Rio Vista at Golden Sierra
San Juan at Linden
Vacaville Christian at Highlands
El Dorado at Bradshaw Christian
Galt vs. Union Mine
Liberty Ranch at Rosemont
Delta at Foresthill
Western Sierra at Valley Christian
Whitney vs. Paraclete at Littlerock High School
Woodland Christian at Encina (11 a.m. Saturday)
Vista del Lago vs. Sacramento (7:15 p.m. Saturday)