The high school football regular season lasted 10 weeks, from the heat of late August to the fall chill, and we’re just getting warmed up.
Regional programs with the goal of a Sac-Joaquin Section championship expect to compete for another four weeks, and those with CIF State Bowl aspirations are looking at six more weeks of fun, so long as they follow this simple formula: Keep winning.
The section announced the 78 teams in the playoff scramble spanning seven divisions – small-, medium- and large-school levels – that start Friday. In Divisions I through VI, there were 44 automatic bids for league champions and second-place finishers (and third-place teams in the Delta and Sierra Foothill leagues) and 28 at-large berths.
As expected, Bee No. 1 Folsom was the easy call for the top seed in Division I as the Bulldogs capped their third successive 10-0 regular season and seek a section three-peat. The last area team to produce three consecutive 10-0 regular seasons was Grant from 2008 2010. The Pacers are 10-0 again and top-seeded in D-II.
Grant nearly inched into the D-I field, but there were 16 entries with higher enrollments that occupied the large-school field, thus the slide to D-II. In some cases over the years, D-II has been more competitive than D-I as the gap between those divisions became largely equal. Though an anticipated Folsom-Grant showdown like the 2010 D-II section final won’t happen this season, the teams could meet in the NorCal D-I final next month, provided both win section titles. Only section champions are eligible for NorCal bowl consideration. If Folsom and Grant are 14-0 as section winners, it would make for a compelling argument for such a showdown for the CIF Bowl selection committee.
Folsom is led by record-breaking quarterback Jake Browning, who has 3,507 passing yards and 56 touchdowns. Grant is a run-heavy team led by DeShawn Collins, who has rushed for 1,755 yards and 23 touchdowns. Grant led the area in victories in the 1990s and 2000s with six section titles and a state title in 2008. Folsom leads the region in victories this decade to go with three section titles and a state championship in 2010.
For now, Folsom and Grant coaches are stressing the immediate. Folsom opens against No. 16 Stagg of Stockton and is in the opposite bracket of No. 2 Jesuit (8-2) and No. 3 Granite Bay (7-3).
The D-II field includes Grant, No. 4 Del Oro (5-5) and No. 5 Vacaville (8-2) on one side of the bracket, opposite No. 2 Elk Grove (8-2), No. 3 St. Mary’s of Stockton (9-1), No. 6 Rocklin (8-2) and No. 7 Burbank (7-3). Winners of three section titles since 2010 with two CIF State Bowl visits, Del Oro muscled in with a .500 record after beating Granite Bay 20-7 Friday to finish second in the Sierra Foothill League, and its overall strength of schedule – the best in the section –was also a factor.
D-III is also deep with No. 1 Inderkum (9-1), No. 8 El Dorado (10-0) and No. 5 Sacramento (8-2) opposite No. 3 Oakdale (9-1), No. 6 Vista del Lago (7-3), No. 7 Placer (8-2), No. 10 Rio Linda (8-2) and No. 2 Sierra (9-1). El Dorado, coming off its first perfect regular season in school history, didn’t get a higher seed because the Sierra Valley Conference was not viewed as especially strong, nor was the Cougars’ nonleague schedule.
The D-IV field includes two-time defending state small-school champion and No. 1 Central Catholic of Modesto (7-3). At No. 4 is eight-time section winner and one-time state winner Escalon (7-3). The field also features an upstart, No. 8 Natomas (6-4), which entered the season with a state-leading 32-game losing streak. The Nighthawks open at Central Catholic.
Bear River (8-2) is the top seed in D-V opposite Pioneer Valley League rival and No. 2 Colfax (6-4).
Capital Christian, with its first 10-0 regular season, earned the top seed in D-VI opposite No. 2 Modesto Christian (9-1), which lost to Capital Christian 23-22 in a season opener.
The D-VII field is headed by co-No. 1 seeds Elliot Christian (9-1) and Delta (6-4).
The section playoffs started in 1971 and have grown from three divisions to seven to keep up with the massive growth in the section, the second largest of the 10 in the state at 197 member schools. Never have so many divisions featured such balance.
No. 2 Grant 52, No. 3 Jesuit 14 at Jesuit – Collins rushed for 270 yards and four touchdowns, and Mike Green ran for 102 yards and two scores as the Pacers rolled to the Delta League championship with their fourth 10-0 regular season since 2006 and 10th overall under coach Mike Alberghini since 1991.
Collins scored on runs of 20, 4, 1 and 42 yards, Donovan Brown threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Cox, and Green powered in for scoring runs of 11 and 6 yards as Grant scored on every possesion.
The Marauders’ Beau Bisharat had a 26-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 21-7, and Cole Brownholtz dived over from the 1 as time ran out.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
SAC-JOAQUIN SECTION PLAYOFF PAIRINGS
All games start between 7-7:30 p.m. Friday unless noted
▪ No. 16 Stagg at No. 1 Folsom
▪ No. 9 Franklin at No. 8 Modesto
▪ No. 12 Monterey Trail at No. 5 Cosumnes Oaks
▪ No. 13 Tokay at No. 4 Merced
▪ No. 14 Chavez at No. 3 Granite Bay
▪ No. 11 Pitman at No. 6 Napa
▪ No. 10 Turlock at No. 7 Tracy
▪ No. 15 Gregori at No. 2 Jesuit, Saturday, 1 p.m.
▪ No. 16 Patterson at No. 1 Grant
▪ No. 13 Roseville at No. 4 Del Oro
▪ No. 9 Antelope at No. 8 Downey
▪ No. 12 Yuba City at No. 5 Vacaville
▪ No. 14 River Valley at No. 3 St.Mary’s
▪ No. 11 Del Campo at No. 6 Rocklin
▪ No. 10 Wood at No. 7 Burbank,
▪ No. 15 Vintage at No. 2 Elk Grove
▪ No. 16 Valley at No. 1 Inderkum
▪ No. 9 Benicia at No. 8 El Dorado
▪ No. 12 CBS at No. 5 Sacramento, Saturday, 1 p.m.
▪ No. 13 Vanden at No. 4 Manteca
▪ No. 14 Pacheco at No. 3 Oakdale
▪ No. 11 American Canyon at No. 6 Vista del Lago
▪ No. 10 Rio Linda at No. 7 Placer
▪ No. 15 Rosemont at No. 2 Sierra
▪ No. 8 Natomas at No. 1 Central Catholic
▪ No. 5 Center at No. 4 Escalon
▪ No. 6 Dixon at No. 3 Los Banos
▪ No. 7 Marysville at No. 2 Sonora
▪ No. 8 Orestimba at No. 1 Bear River
▪ No. 5 Le Grand at No. 4 Hughson
▪ No. 6 Amador at No. 3 Mariposa
▪ No. 7 Summerville at No. 2 Colfax
▪ No. 8 Vacaville Christian at No. 1 Capital Christian
▪ No. 5 Ripon Christian at No. 4 Golden Sierra
▪ No. 6 Gustine at No. 3 Bradshaw Christian
▪ No. 7 Rio Vista at No. 2 Modesto Christian
▪ Brookside Christian at Woodland Christian
▪ Foresthill at Stone Ridge Christian
▪ Byes: Elliot Christian, Delta