Now the games have extra importance.
Most area high school football teams begin league play this week. Teams have to win at least two league games to warrant postseason consideration in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Teams that have compiled strong records in nonleague games have stalled in league play when the competition heats up. Five notable games this weekend:
No. 1 Folsom (4-0) at No. 5 Granite Bay (3-0)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Teams with championship traditions collide with plenty at stake in the Sierra Foothill League. Folsom won CIF State titles in 2010 and 2014, and Granite Bay won a state crown in 2012. The winner may have the edge in the SFL, among the most competitive leagues in Northern California. Folsom has prevented its versatile quarterback, Jake Jeffery, from being sacked and Granite Bay has surged under backup quarterback Kyle Kraft, who dazzled in a win over Vacaville after replacing injured starter Brad Fina in Week 2. Quietly, the defenses have been strong for both schools, helping Folsom extend its state-leading regular-season winning streak to 36 games and Granite Bay to muscle past Jesuit and Cosumnes Oaks.
No. 2 Grant (3-0) vs. No. 10 Franklin (2-1)
When: Friday, 7:15 p.m. at Cosumnes Oaks
Outlook: Some of the section’s best athletes highlight this matchup. This is especially true when Grant running backs Deshawn Collins (rushing totals of 605 yards, eight touchdowns) and Mike Green (272 yards, three TDs) confront Franklin defensive back Lamar Jackson, an Under Armour All-America selection who had his honorary game jersey presented to him on campus Sept. 17. Jackson, a national recruit, has 25 scholarship offers. Grant has two defensive stoppers in Elijah Orr and Jemil Johnson to track Franklin quarterback Jacob Lopez, an effective passer. Quarterbacked by Mike Cook, Grant is the defending Delta League champion.
No. 7 Oak Ridge (3-1) at Woodcreek (4-0)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Woodcreek is understandably wary, yet eager for this. The Timberwolves were 4-0 for the first time in school history last season before tumbling in SFL play. Woodcreek lost to Oak Ridge 38-20 a year ago, beat Nevada Union and then lost its final four games. First-year Timberwolves coaches Kyle Stowers and Brad Hunkins are preparing to reverse that trend with a run-heavy offense headed by tailbacks Anthony Mahr (380 yards, four TDs) and Tyler England (367 yards, five TDs). Oak Ridge is balanced, led by quarterback Ian Book (1,201 yards, 15 TDs) and receivers Kevin Kassis and Tommy Dunnigan, who had 10 receptions for 217 yards and four touchdowns in a 54-42 loss to Reed of Nevada (4-0).
Del Campo (2-1) at No. 19 Roseville (2-1)
When: Friday, 7:15 p.m.
Outlook: Del Campo quarterback Ben Purcell had two touchdown passes last season to beat the visiting Tigers, who will be led by quarterback Blake Rayback in this Capital Valley Conference opener. Roseville’s Ben Zahniser is a player to watch. He has made plays at running back and on kickoff returns and defense. The CVC race includes Bee-ranked Antelope, Cosumnes Oaks and Whitney, but not all five will make the playoffs, adding urgency to every league game.
Golden Sierra (2-1) at San Juan (2-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Sierra Delta League is deeper than ever. All seven teams have winning records, including Bradshaw Christian and Highlands at 3-1 each. San Juan quarterback Tony Murphy’s favorite target is receiver Romeo Johnson (16 receptions, 272 yards, five TDs) on a Spartans team that hopes to end a postseason drought lasting more than 25 years. Golden Sierra has reached the playoffs four times since 2010 with a section small-school finals appearance in 2013. The Grizzlies are rushing for an average of 297.5 yards a game behind Skyler Watson, Brenden Nutt and Reily Prine.