Joe Davidson

What to watch in Sac-Joaquin Section high school football semifinals

Ryan Robards of Elk Grove will attract plenty of attention from Oak Ridge in their playoff game on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Robards has rushed for a school-record 2,501 yards and scored a school record 45 toucdowns.
Ryan Robards of Elk Grove will attract plenty of attention from Oak Ridge in their playoff game on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Robards has rushed for a school-record 2,501 yards and scored a school record 45 toucdowns. aseng@sacbee.com

Three of the top four seeds are still standing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I high school football playoffs, while the D-II field includes upstarts with championship pasts and a newcomer to this round. The D-III field has the top four seeds remaining, including three 12-0 clubs.

Here’s a closer look at all six of Friday’s semifinal games. All games kick off at 7 p.m. (seedings listed, with records in parenthesis).

No. 5 St. Mary’s (10-2) at No. 1 Folsom (12-0)

Division I

Outlook: Folsom, the top seed, has won a state-leading 28 consecutive games and has won 14 consecutive section playoff games with these key ingredients: dominant line play on both sides of the ball, exceptional offensive execution and top fitness. And, of course, quarterback play, led by Jake Jeffrey, who is coming off a five-touchdown gem in beating Franklin 49-21. He has passed for 3,035 yards and 41 scores, and run for 617 yards and eight TDs. The Rams, of Stockton, are coming off a 28-14 win over previously unbeaten Napa as quarterback Jake Dunniway hit Keaton Hampton for four touchdown passes. Folsom seeks a section-title four-peat, including three in a row in D-I, and St. Mary’s is aiming to pull the upset of the postseason.

No. 3 Oak Ridge (10-2) at No. 2 Elk Grove (12-0)

Division I

Outlook: These tradition-rich programs, with a combined eight section titles, meet in the postseason for the first time. Elk Grove is simple in its approach with a strong offensive line leading the way for Ryan Robards, who has school records of 2,501 rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns. At quarterback, Jayden Machado has been effective with 1,445 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. On defense, Elk Grove must deal with Ian Book, Oak Ridge’s versatile senior quarterback who has passed for 2,798 yards and 28 touchdowns, and rushed for 754 and 12 for his team from El Dorado Hills.

No. 3 Rocklin (9-3) at No. 2 Antelope (12-0)

Division II

Outlook: Antelope is enjoying its finest season, having eliminated West of Tracy 49-21 and Sacramento 31-24. Rocklin is in the midst of its best run since going 14-1 and winning the D-II section crown in 2009 and reaching a CIF Bowl game. The Thunder has bounced Burbank 34-14 and Del Campo 42-6 behind quarterback William Floyd and tailback Evyn Holtz (1,670 rushing yards, 30 touchdowns) with his best outings coming in recent weeks. Antelope counters with backs Elijah Dotson (1,512 yards, 15 TDs) and Devaughn Silver (1,011, 11), and quarterback Montel Aaron (2,123 passing yards, 26 TDs). Antelope produced nine sacks against Sacramento, two each by Josh Cook and Nick Hanson.

No. 9 Granite Bay (7-5) at No. 5 Del Oro (6-6)

Division II

Outlook: This is a rematch of a Week 10 Sierra Foothill League contest in which Del Oro of Loomis defeated its Placer County rival 17-14 to secure a playoff berth. The Golden Eagles have since defeated Whitney 31-28 and Wood 59-33. Granite Bay has eliminated Downey of Modesto 42-31 and top-seeded Grant 24-21, scoring the final 21 points in a furious fourth quarter against the Pacers behind quarterback Brad Fina and receivers Scotty Henrichs and Isaiah Lewis, and team MVP Sam Cusano, who plays virtually every down on offense, defense and special teams. Del Oro has a deep threat in receiver Trey Udoffia, who can also hurt defenses running the ball. He also makes plays in the secondary, as do three-year starters Justin Burrage and Mason Hurst. Camrion Davis has run hard for Del Oro down the stretch, including 127 yards and three touchdowns against Wood. These programs have combined to win 11 section titles since 1992.

No. 5 Placer (12-0) at No. 1 Central Catholic (12-0)

Division III

Outlook: Placer’s prolific offense, averaging 46.8 points, takes on the defensive might of the three-time defending CIF State D-IV champions who moved up a classification this season. Central Catholic, winner of a record 18 section titles, has posted playoff shutouts of 42-0 over El Camino and 63-0 against Christian Brothers. Placer, of Auburn, beat River Valley 56-41 and Patterson 65-52 behind running backs Owen Scott (1,473 rushing yards, 21 TDs), Jared Halbert (1,146 yards, 18 TDs) and Waylen Cozad (858, 10), and quarterback Marcus Ante (1,505 passing yards, 18 TDs). The Raiders of Modesto counter with Justin Rice (1,685 rushing yards, 18 TDs), Jared Rice (898, 12) and quarterback Hunter Petlansky (1,371 passing yards, 658 rushing yards, 25 total TDs).

No. 3 Inderkum (12-0) at No. 2 Oakdale (11-1)

Division III

Outlook: In a battle of wing-T, run-heavy teams, Inderkum of Sacramento will have plenty of motivation. These teams met for the section championship last season, and Oakdale rallied from 20-0 down to win 27-23, Inderkum’s third crushing title loss since 2008. Though Inderkum runs with Raekwon Turner (1,498 yards, 18 TDs), it was the effort of quarterback Trajon Cotton that earned the Tigers a 43-18 win over Manteca in a quarterfinal, with the junior passing for three touchdowns and running for two. Oakdale rolled Benicia 42-14 behind Brad Aquino’s 150 rushing yards and four scores.

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