The Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs are here, and normally in Del Paso Heights, this rings of encouraging news.
But the feelings might be a bit mixed this time around for Grant High School.
The Pacers are reeling from the fallout of a brawl from last Friday’s game at Whitney, resulting in a stoppage of play — game over — in the middle of the third quarter. Ten Grant players that left the bench in response to a flood of those from the Whitney side rushing the field will not suit up against Downey of Modesto in a Division II opener.
Section commissioner Mike Garrison exhaustively pored over game film to pick out the players who left the sideline. Players are not allowed to leave their bench or sideline when there is a fight in CIF events, thus leading to a one-game suspensions.
Of those 10 Pacers, eight are starters. Whitney faced no such consequences because its season is over at 0-10.
Grant players and coaches have long used an us-against-the-world mantra, and it’ll ring true here as well. Grant coaches and players are fuming, feeling wrongly portrayed as the instigators in myriad fights this season. Despite claims on social media, Grant has been involved in two in-game incidents, not five or six. Regardless, it takes only one to jar a season.
A closer look at five playoff openers:
Downey (6-4) at Grant (5-5), Division II
The sixth-seeded Pacers are back in the playoffs after missing out last season for the first the time in 26 seasons, and they have a ton to play for. So does No. 11-seed Downey, which has a great opportunity to pull a seedings upset (it has lost twice to Grant in the playoffs, 52-14 in 2013 and 63-21 in 2014).
Elk Grove (5-5) at Vacaville (6-4), Division II
Storied programs meet in Solano County, having faced off in some good showdowns before. In the playoffs for the 33rd time since 1981, No. 10-seeded Elk Grove is 2-1 against Vacaville in the postseason, all since 2004. Seeded seventh, Vacaville is in the playoffs for the 28th time, a good many of those under the late, great Tom Zunino, whose grandson Mike Papadopoulos has done a remarkable job of maintaining a winning legacy. Both teams rely on the run, and the winner heads to No. 2-seeded Central Catholic of Modesto.
Modesto (5-5) at Sheldon (9-1), Division I
Teams big on the run meet for a shot to travel to No. 4-seeded St. Mary’s in Stockton. Fifth-seeded Sheldon is paced by Tyrell Smith, who has rushed for 1,328 yards and 19 touchdowns as a driving force behind the team’s nine-game winning streak. He will be the focal point against the No. 12 Panthers, who are 0-10 all time in the playoffs. A common opponent is Turlock, which lost to Sheldon 41-28 and later beat Modesto 38-13. That all means nothing, which is why we report it anyway.
Davis (6-4) at Pitman (9-1), Division I
Both programs are starving for playoff success. Tenth-seeded Davis last won a playoff game in 1995 and are in the postseason for just the second time since 2007. No. 7 seed Pitman of Turlock has lost five of its last six playoff games, and it had its hopes of a perfect regular season dashed with a 33-0 loss last Friday to Turlock. Davis has made a quantum leap this season under first-year coach Steve Smute, in his second tour with the Blue Devils, who went 0-10 in 2017. Payne Barksdale leads Davis with 867 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
River Valley (5-5) vs. Sacramento (5-5), Division III
Played at Hughes Stadium, these teams bristle if anyone dares call them average, despite their .500 records. Both teams have had big moments, and frustrating ones amid injuries and good opposition. Seeded sixth and led by all-purpose star Javon Felton, Sacramento is in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, seeking a shot at No. 3 Merced (10-0). River Valley, the 11th seed, has yet to win a playoff game, though co-coach Dave Humphers understands the joys of winning, having coached Nevada Union to D-I championships in 1993, ‘94, 2005 and 2009. River Valley runs the wing-T behind QB Dawson McPeak and runners Rex Baker, Niko Tejada and Evan Strickland.
Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs
Openers Friday at 7 p.m., unless noted.
No. 9 Gregori at No. 8 Edison
No. 12 Modesto at No. 5 Sheldon
No. 11 Cosumnes Oaks at No. 6 Turlock
No. 10 Davis at No. 7 Pitman (Thursday)
Byes: No. 1 Folsom, No. 2 Monterey Trail, No. 3 Oak Ridge, No. 4 St. Mary’s
No. 9 Lincoln at No. 8 Tracy
No. 12 Woodcreek at No. 5 Jesuit (1 p.m. Saturday)
No. 11 Downey at No. 6 Grant
No. 10 Elk Grove at No. 7 Vacaville
Byes: No. 1 Del Oro, No. 2 Central Catholic, No. 3 Inderkum, No. 4 Granite Bay
No. 9 Ponderosa at No. 8 Buhach Colony
No. 12 Burbank at No. 5 Manteca
No. 11 River Valley vs. No. 6 Sacramento at Hughes Stadium
No. 10 Christian Brothers at No. 7 Yuba City
Byes: No. 1 Capital Christian, No. 2 Placer, No. 3 Merced, No. 4 Antelope
No. 9 Sierra at No. 8 Pacheco
No. 12 Valley at No. 5 Oakdale
No. 11 Rosemont at No. 6 Patterson
No. 10 Cordova at No. 7 Golden Valley
Byes: No. 1 Rio Linda, No. 2 Vanden, No. 3 Casa Roble, No. 4 Wood
No. 9 Orestimba at No. 8 Los Banos
No. 12 Pioneer at No. 5 Foothill
No. 11 Dixon at No. 6 Center
No. 10 Union Mine at No. 7 Mountain House
Byes: No. 1 Colfax, No. 2 Ripon, No. 3 Bear River, No. 4 Sonora
No. 9 Bradshaw Christian at No. 8 Argonaut
No. 12 Waterford at No. 5 Rio Vista
No. 11 Highlands at No. 6 Calaveras
No. 10 Amador at No. 7 Hughson
Byes: No. 1 Modesto Christian, No. 2 Hilmar, No. 3 Escalon, No. 4 Ripon Christian
No. 5 Millennium at No. 4 Gustine
No. 6 Woodland Christian at No. 3 Golden Sierra
Byes: No. 1 Denair, No. 2 Big Valley Christian