Joe Davidson

Prep games to watch: Down 10 players for fighting, is Grant facing an upset?

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.

Division I

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

Division II

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

Division III

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

Division IV

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

Division V

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

Division VI

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

Division VII

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

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