Video: Breaking down Sac-Joaquin Section Divisions I, II, III football championships
Rocklin’s offense is led by its big three, both in stature and their importance to the Thunder’s success.
Tailback Evyn Holtz, only 5-foot-8 but powerfully built at 190 pounds, has rushed for 1,651 yards and 30 touchdowns. Quarterback William Floyd, who’s 6-3, has passed for 2,805 yards and 30 touchdowns. And tight end Wesley Preece, 6-6 and 230 pounds, has caught 11 touchdown passes.
The seniors have led the Thunder to its second Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game since 2009, when it beat Del Oro in a thriller and advanced to a CIF Bowl game. The teams are matched up again Friday at 7 p.m. at Sacramento State, with the winner landing a spot in a NorCal Regional game.
Rocklin (10-3) also has two senior defensive anchors in linemen Chase Hatada and Jonah Wehrli, making the Thunder difficult to contend with on both sides of the ball. The Thunder beat Del Oro 28-3 in a Sierra Foothill League game on Oct. 9, but Del Oro (7-6) has won five in a row after a four-game losing streak.
That October victory is ancient history, Rocklin coach Greg Benzel said Sunday, and he’s challenging his seniors to step up again.
Benzel said, “Floyd has peaked at the right time,” Holtz also has bolstered the defense with his playmaking abilities in the secondary, and Preece is a throwback tight end who can block, catch and run.
Preece, who has committed to UC Davis, had a good excuse for missing the section’s annual playoff dinner Sunday at Sac State.
“He told me, ‘I allotted that time to prepare for my AP Econ class,’ ” Benzel said. “ ‘OK. Take care of that!’ We know it’ll be an intense game against Del Oro. It always is.”
Unbeatens collide – Saturday’s Division I title game at Sac State features the top two seeds, both 13-0. Folsom, which has a state-best 29-game winning streak, is ranked fourth in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, and Elk Grove is sixth.
It’s just the second time in section playoff history that 13-0 teams are playing for a title. In 1989, Merced beat Nevada City 31-29 for the Division I championship.
Folsom is 2-1 against Elk Grove in the playoffs, winning 42-28 in a 2011 Division II semifinal and 44-18 in the 2012 Division II title game. In a Division I playoff game in 2006, Elk Grove routed Folsom 54-10.
That defeat prompted Folsom coaches to evaluate its program and schemes, and the Bulldogs slowly started inserting new offensive looks, evolving from a power offense with undersized linemen to a spread offense. Since 2010, Folsom has the area’s best record at 82-6, and the Bulldogs have won four section and two CIF titles. Since 2012, Folsom is 56-2, with both losses to national power De La Salle of Concord.
“What I see in them on film is what I always see, an incredible team,” Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon said.
Folsom coaches anticipate a close game after studying Elk Grove’s power running game that features Northern California rushing leader Ryan Robards (2,723 yards, 40 touchdowns) and stout defense.
“We have an incredible challenge,” Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor said. “They have a great team, very physical, well-coached, sound, quick. It’ll be a lot of fun.”
Cross country – The Davis High girls placed second in Division I in the 29th CIF State Cross Country Championships in Fresno, losing by two points to powerhouse Great Oak of Temecula.
Two-time defending state champion Fiona O’Keeffe placed eighth in 17 minutes, 42 seconds, which was all the more impressive considering the Stanford-bound senior has not competed since early October because of a foot injury. She drew an ovation for her gritty effort from scores of onlookers. Blue Devils teammates Sofia Castiglioni placed ninth, Abigail Fisk 11th and Olivia O’Keeffe, sister of Fiona, 13th.
The Bella Vista girls placed second in D-II behind Saugus. Kendall Derry finished fourth in 17:43 and Cessair McKinney was 24th in 18:19. Kathryn Loken of Del Campo was 12th in the D-II race. Top St. Francis runners in the D-II race were Sydney Vandergrift (17th place), Ariane Arndt (27th), Chase Worthen (28th) and Emily Skahill (30th).
Jesuit placed third in D-I boys behind Great Oak and Dana Hills of Dana Point. The Marauders were paced by Sean Kurdy, who placed 16th in 15:27. Benjamin Holland placed 17th for Jesuit.
Davis finished in eighth place in D-I and was led by Michael Vernau, who was eighth overall in 15:06 with teammates Kellen Browning (24th) and Nick Borrowski (29th) adding team points.
Sac-Joaquin Section football championships
- Division I: Folsom vs. Elk Grove, Saturday, 6 p.m., Hornet Stadium, Sacramento State
- Division II: Rocklin vs. Del Oro, Friday, 7 p.m., Hornet Stadium, Sacramento State
- Division III: Central Catholic vs. Oakdale, Friday, 7 p.m., Lincoln High School, Stockton