Five area high school football teams will compete for CIF Northern California Regional championships this week.
One will travel because Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Mike Garrison said he “will not reward our schools for bad behavior,” and another received a bye for unique and unfortunate reasons.
Defending Division I-AA NorCal and state champion Folsom will play a familiar foe on the road Friday. The Bulldogs (12-1) play at Central Section power Central of Fresno (13-0) on Friday night in a rematch of last season’s NorCal final, when Folsom prevailed 54-35 at home.
Folsom did not receive a home game this time despite being ranked higher in NorCal and the state. Rankings and strength of schedule do not determine where teams play in the NorCals. Folsom routed Monterey Trail 63-25 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final Saturday night at Sacramento State, the program’s seventh section banner this decade. Kaiden Bennett accounted for seven touchdowns, four passing and three rushing.
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“We’ve said from the very beginning, the first year we did the regionals (in 2012), that the host team is not determined by a higher seed,” CIF Associate Executive Director Ron Nocetti said. “Our goals for these NorCal games is to do the best we can to spread the games among the sections.
“We do our best so that teams don’t always host or always travel. Folsom has hosted several times, and Central is a section champion that will host this time.”
In Division 2-AA, Del Oro (12-1) will host Saint Francis of Mountain View of the Central Coast Section on Friday.
The Lancers (11-2) lost in overtime to Valley Christian of San Jose in the CCS Open Division II final. Because that section allows both of its Open Division finalists to advance, Saint Francis still has a season to play for. Del Oro is coming off an emotionally charged 20-17 victory over Central Catholic of Modesto in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II final.
In Division 3-A, Capital Christian (13-0) will play at Wilcox (12-1) of Santa Clara on Saturday in the surprise meeting of all the regional games.
The Cougars are coming off a 25-22 Sac-Joaquin Section title win over Placer after Kenyon Bower kicked a 29-yard field goal with 53 seconds left. Capital now plays a team that is coming off a Central Section Division I Open Division title loss to Menlo-Atherton, 33-28. Capital Christian appeared to be a logical host team, but Garrison, the section commissioner for regional schools, said he had an “issue with that.”
Garrison has said throughout the later part of this season that the inordinate amount of player ejections across the Sac-Joaquin Section alarmed him. In addressing section finalists during a pre-championship breakfast on Dec. 26 in Lodi, Garrison stressed that boorish behavior and ejections will not be tolerated and he would take action if needed.
When he learned a Capital Christian player was ejected against Placer - for showboating - he said, “I had to make a stand.”
“It was a really tough decision (to suggest Capital Christian travel),” Garrison said. “I’m not going to reward our schools for bad behavior. If our schools behave, I’ll support them to the hilt. We’ve dealt with a lot of craziness with behavior this season. I was talking to one referee who said this was by far the worst season for fights he’s seen in his 30 years. We need our players to behave better.”
Capital Christian coach Casey Taylor would only say, “We’re just happy to be playing.”
In Division 5-AA, Rio Linda will play at West Valley in Cottonwood on Friday. Rio Linda won its first section title since 2004 as Cameron Skattebo scored seven touchdowns in a 63-14 rout of Casa Roble.
In Division 5-A, Colfax gets a bye to a state title game at its home field Dec. 15 for complex reasons. The Falcons beat rival Bear River 31-28 in double overtime to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title.
In an unprecedented move, because a smoky sky from the Camp Fire in Butte County pushed games back two weeks in the North Coast Section, those schools had to decide whether to play out their section title games next weekend (thereby forgoing a NorCal berth) or use a coin flip to decide who would advance.
Colfax was slotted to play a North Coast Section team.
One coin-flip example was Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa and Eureka. Eureka won the coin flip and will play Menlo-Atherton in the NorCal Division 3-AA final. Cardinal Newman’s season ends.
In Division 6-AA, four-time defending Northern Section champion East Nicolaus will play Hilmar on Friday in Atwater. East Nicolaus won a state title in 2016.
In the prestigious CIF Open Division state championship, De La Salle will play Mater Dei on Saturday at Cerritos College at 8 p.m.
De La Salle’s North Coast Section and Mater Dei’s Southern Section completed their brackets without delays. Winners from those Open Division section rounds receive automatic bids to the Open state final.
The CIF state finals originally were scheduled for this coming weekend. They will now be held Dec. 14-15 at Cerritos College for Divisions 1 and 2 and at NorCal home sites for Divisions 3-6.