Joe Davidson

Prep football notes: Vista del Lago, behind QB Jimison, takes 8-game win streak into second round of playoffs

Mike Struebing is a second-year football coach at Vista del Lago High School who also enjoys teaching science.

He explained how athletics and academics can go hand-in-hand for instructors trying to tap into the minds of teenagers.

“I enjoy the classroom, enjoy coaching, and it’s very similar,” Struebing said. “You’re trying to get people motivated, trying to get them to learn, to get them to buy in, how to do things, how to handle themselves. Only big difference is I get to make my football players do push-ups in practice. I can’t do that in biology.”

Perhaps that partly explains the strong arms of quarterback Matt Jimison. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound three-year starter has passed for 2,606 yards and 28 touchdowns this season and has the Eagles riding an eight-game winning streak. His touchdown pass to Blake Martin on the game’s last play two weeks ago beat Christian Brothers 41-35 for the Capital Athletic League title.

Vista (8-3) beat American Canyon 42-28 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener and faces a familiar foe in Oakdale (10-1)on Friday night. Oakdale, the section champion in 2007 and 2012, has beaten Vista twice in the playoffs since 2011.

Struebing isn’t ready for the season to end for Jimison and the other seniors.

“Such a great kid and player,” the coach said. “Such good energy. It’s hard not to smile and laugh around that guy. He works hard, leads by example. Makes my job so much easier. This is why we teach and coach.”

Browning records – Folsom quarterback Jake Browning tied a national prep record with his eight first-half touchdown passes in the Bulldogs’ 70-14 victory over Stagg of Stockton in a D-I opener on Saturday. He did not play in the second half.

With 202 career touchdown passes over three varsity seasons, Browning trails only Maty Mauk of Kenton-Ohio (219 in 2008-11) on the all-time national prep list. Browning has 64 touchdown passes this season, making him the only quarterback in prep history with 60 or more in three separate seasons. He had a state-record 75 last season.

Bradshaw rolling – Bradshaw Christian has won eight consecutive games – last losing to Vista del Lago 56-42 – and will look to use its trademark run game Friday night against Modesto Christian (10-1) in a D-VI semifinal. Bradshaw (8-3) has won four section championships since 2008 and is the defending D-VI champion, controlling the clock with its ground game. The Pride has rushed for 4,486 yards and 51 touchdowns this season. Grant Dragmire has led the way with 1,590 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Back vs. back – The Rio Linda-Sierra D-III semifinal features two of the area’s more dynamic running backs. Junior Mark Paule of Sierra-Manteca (10-1) has rushed for 1,942 yards and 39 touchdowns. Senior Marcel Brown of Rio Linda (9-2) has 1,760 yards and 27 touchdowns. Last week, Brown rushed for 349 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-51 win over Placer. As a junior last season, Brown ran for a school-record 2,031 yards and 26 scores.

Power leagues – Five leagues went unbeaten in opening-round playoff games, with the Delta League’s Grant (11-0), Elk Grove (9-2), Franklin (7-4), Jesuit (9-2) and Monterey Trail (7-4) winning. The Sierra Foothill League went 4-0 behind Del Oro (6-5), Folsom (11-0), Granite Bay (8-3) and Rocklin (9-2).

The Valley Oak League dominated in D-III behind defending champion Manteca (9-2), Oakdale (10-1) and Sierra (10-1).

Perfection pursuits – Of the 78 teams that started section play in seven divisions, three remain undefeated: Folsom in D-I, Grant in D-II and Capital Christian in D-VI.

The last time two unbeaten teams met in the section playoffs was in 2009 when Rocklin stopped Grant late on the goal line and the Pacers missed a last-second field-goal attempt in the D-II semifinals. An undefeated team has won a section title in 18 of the past 20 seasons.

Seeking revenge – Benicia coach Craig Holden ripped the section’s playoff selection committee for the Panthers being given a No. 9 seed in the D-III field, never mind that Benicia won a so-so Solano County Athletic Conference that included Vanden and American Canyon, both of which lost first-round playoff games. Benicia (7-4), looking for its first section semifinal berth since 1982, plays at top-seeded Inderkum (10-1) Friday night. Said Holden to the Benicia Herald: “Giving us a nine seed and sending us on the road was a mistake by the section. We’re going give them a second mistake when we go to Inderkum.”

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