Bouncing around the playoff regions in a forward lean.
Upset city – What are the playoffs – any level, any sport – without an upset thrown into the mix? The Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs didn’t have any upsets in Divisions I, II, IV and V and VII, though the teams that lost were plenty peeved and upset.
In D-III, the bracket took a hit when upstart 7-4 River Valley of Yuba City stunned 10-0 Merced 45-40 in a quarterfinal, making the near three-hour drive home a pleasure cruise. Dawson McPeak was steady at quarterback again, Evan Strickland rushed for three scores and Rex Baker had two rushing scores to power the Falcons, who vow to inflict more damage in the coming weeks.
Two weeks after securing the program’s first playoff triumph, River Valley now visits 11-0 Placer on Friday in Auburn, where two old coaching friends are sure to ham it up before kickoff. Placer coach Joey Montoya got his coaching start under the tutelage of Dave Humphers at Nevada Union in 2000. Humphers is now the co-coach with Brennan McFadden at River Valley, which runs the wing-T, just as Placer does.
Home Digs – Yet another gem unearthed this week by Mike Ray of the Colfax Record and Gold Country News Services is the history of LeFebvre Stadium, home of the Placer Hillmen. This is the 50th anniversary season of the famed venue.
Before the 1967 season, members of the CIF governing body and the State Fair board association toured Placer’s old digs, McCann Stadium at the nearby fairgrounds, Ray wrote. The site was deemed unsafe for competition due to a virtual landmine of bolts, glass and metal debris from so many destruction derbies.
So the plan was put into place for an on-campus stadium, spearheaded with donations from area residents. The first game at the stadium in 1968 was a Saturday contest against Christian Brothers, and the first night game was against Sonoma. LeFebrvre still holds that old-school charm with real grass minus bolts, glass and metal.
Lineman Lore – Folsom is fueled by a Kaden who plays center and a Kaiden who leads the charge at quarterback. Both got into the end zone Friday during a 50-0 first-quarter surge that crippled Edison of Stockton, which lost the Division I game 64-28.
Kaden Richardson scored on a 1-yard plunge – and linemen generally don’t sprint or burst as much as they plunge – in the first quarter out of the team’s “Bull” personnel package. What that means is run with fury, focus and any amount of speed with the hefty guy with perfect grades handling the ball.
“Just another weapon in the Bulldogs’ arsenal,” said Folsom coach Kris Richardson, Kaden’s father. “Kaden showed his acceleration as he broke it off tackle and scooted it into the end zone. Dad was proud and Mom (Kelly) was ecstatic!”
Bennett had three touchdown passes in the first half of the opening quarter before the starters took to the bench. Bound for Boise State, Bennett now has 47 scoring tosses in his team’s 10-game winning streak with no interceptions.
Cruise Control – When Jesuit and Granite Bay met in the season’s second week, Isaiah Rutherford sat out with a tender ankle and the Grizzlies prevailed 27-12.
The rematch Friday in D-II play included the Notre Dame-bound Rutherford, whose 14 rushes, 211 yards and three touchdowns fueled Jesuit to a 42-0 rout in Placer County, the worst playoff setback in the proud history of the Grizzlies. Jesuit’s other national recruit star, Laitu Latu, had three tackles for loss, took a fake punt 38 yards and also scored a rushing touchdown.
The semifinal showdown at top-seeded Del Oro on Friday figures to be an epic one.
Knott blocks – Every successful team has a lineman of note. For 11-0 Inderkum, that’s Brandon Knott, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound pile mover with swelling recruiting interest. He is so good that he was voted as the Capital Valley Conference’s MVP, an award normally for a skill player.
“I don’t know how many linemen who become MVPs of a league,” said Inderkum coach Terry Stark, whose team visits Central Catholic in a D-II semifinal Friday in Modesto. “He squats 500 pounds, benches 350 and cleans 330. His highlight reel is really something to watch.”
Cat Call – Sheldon coach Joe Cattolico appreciates the friendship and coaching abilities of Monterey Trail’s T.J. Ewing and Folsom’s Richardson. Sheldon opened its season with a scrimmage at Folsom, a humbling experience, then opened the regular-season with a crushing loss at Monterey Trail, which inspired the Huskies to improve.
They did, finishing 10-2 after falling 30-29 in the final seconds at St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Cattolico on Ewing’s Mustangs team that is seeded second in Division I and rolling at 11-0: “He’s a great example of a football team and program matching the head coach, the personality. T.J.’s a great role model for kids as a coach and a teacher, a great man and friend. His teams are always disciplined and physical, and you know you’re going to come out of a game with Monterey Trail with bumps and bruises, a testament to the program they have.”
Cat on Dogs – Cattolico is the last area coach to defeat Folsom in league play, in 2011 when he coached Pleasant Grove. Folsom seeks its seventh section banner this decade and ninth trip to a title game.
“One of the biggest things about Folsom, and it’s a testament to Kris and that staff and their kids, is they have a tremendous, tremendous collection of talent all over the field,” Cattolico said. “I can’t think of another team that’s had that level of talent, and I’ve been around Northern California football for 20 years.
“To me, what’s impressive in this day and age is as hard as they play, they’re unselfish. They’re not playing for themselves as individuals. Kris does a great job of getting those kids to buy in. They block for each other, they celebrate each other. They’ve set the bar high for our section and our area, and they’ve set that bar really high. It’s a challenge for the rest of us to work our way to that bar. They keep elevating, and the rest of us have a lot of work to do.”
Stoppers – For all the offensive might of Monterey Trail, football still comes down to stops. The Mustangs had some defensive stalwarts on Friday in beating a 10-1 Pitman team 63-7. Thaddeus Hills had 13 tackles, Marcus Jones 12 and Brandon Hwa 11.
The ball carriers got it done, too. Viktor Oliver told anyone who’d listen on campus he was going to score three times. He went one better, scoring four TDs while rushing for 157 yards.
Jehiel Budgett ran for 130 yards and two scores and still had the energy to make eight tackles and force two fumbles.
Alumni Leaders – Some of the best small-school football in the state can be found in the Northern Section, and that will include Friday when East Nicolaus visits Winters in a Division IV semifinal. East Nicolaus, coached by Spartans graduate Travis Barker, has reeled off seasons of 13-2, 13-1, 13-1 and the current 11-0. Winters and alumni coach Daniel Ward is 10-1.
The Warriors went 12-1 in 2014 and may sport one of the program’s greatest teams now. Same with East Nicolaus. It’ll be an overflow crowd that will include scores of alums trying to squeeze into old letterman jackets. The programs have combined to win 17 section banners.