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Fun’s over: It’s time to play football

By: Mike Ray
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Collectively, it’s not too far off base to say that the playoff mindset this week for the area’s prep football teams is strikingly different from years past.

For these four, because of the new playoff format, first-round blowouts are history.

Each rewarded for their outstanding regular seasons, Placer, Colfax, Del Oro and Bear River all drew top-4 seeds in their respective brackets when the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section unveiled its football postseason slates Oct. 27.

And while the Hillmen, Golden Eagles, Falcons and Bruins all enjoyed the fruits of last weekend’s new CIF playoff first-round weekend off, reality now sets in for the quartet: it’s time to play football.

“The truth of this new playoff system is that right off the get-go, you’re playing a good opponent,” said Placer coach Joey Montoya, whose 10-0 and No. 2 seed Hilmen host No. 7 seed Yuba City Friday. “They are a good football team.”                   

Colfax coach Tony Martello, whose Falcons will entertain Western Athletic League tri-champion Los Banos Friday, echoed Montoya’s sentiments.

“The week off gives you a chance to heal up a bit but you’re hoping that at the same time you don’t lose your fine edge or crispness,” said Martello. “It can be a double-edge sword.”

Bear River co-coach Terry Logue took in Center’s 44-8 first-round win over Dixon and was also impressed by his team’s quarterfinal foe.

“The week off is nice but now you have to realize you’re facing a good team that’s coming off a win,” said Logue. “We’ll have our hands full Friday.”

Del Oro’s Jeff Walters viewed Tracy’s game with Lincoln, a 49-28 win over the Zebras, and also realizes his team has a tough foe Friday.

“They’re very athletic and talented,” said Walters. “This will be a challenge for us.”

For Friday’s winners, a trip to the section semifinals awaits. Here’s a look at the area matchups:

 

Division III

 

Yuba City (7-4) at Placer (10-0), 7 p.m. LeFebvre Stadium

 

The Honkers are no playoff strangers as Yuba City is making its seventh straight trip to the postseason. As far as recent history goes between the Hillmen and Honkers, the two teams split a two-year series, Placer winning in 2012, 42-33, before the Honkers returned the favor in 2013, 48-21.

In last Friday’s 30-28 win over Christian Brothers, the Honkers trailed most of the game before receiving a late score and then surviving a missed Christian Brothers field goal with less than two minutes to go for the victory.

Comparatively speaking, the Honkers blitzed Nevada Union, 39-0, and also handled a good River Valley team, 46-27, while losing a close one to No. 4 D-III seed Antelope, 21-20.

However, Inderkum, which runs the Wing-T offense like Placer, destroyed the Honkers, 49-0.

Yuba City’s multiple-look offense is keyed by three-year varsity quarterback Bryce Rogers, who has accounted for nearly 4,500 yards of total offense and 54 touchdowns in his career. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound senior has thrown for 1,064 yards and 13 scores this season while running for 617 more yards and tallying six touchdowns.

“He makes a lot of their passing plays with his legs,” said Montoya about Rogers. “He just doesn’t sit back in the pocket.”

The Honkers’ 1-2 ground punch is keyed by Major Niccum (854 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Erik Rodriguez (726 yards, 7 touchdowns).

Division V

 

Los Banos (8-3) at Colfax (10-0), 7 p.m. Marson Stadium

 

What a difference a year makes. In 2017, the Tigers from the Western Athletic Conference, were playing in the D-III playoffs and dropped a tough 16-14 first-round game to Rio Linda.

Now, the Tigers, with 1,388 students and the biggest school in D-V, makes the 175-mile trip north to test the No. 1 seed Falcons, the smallest school in the bracket with 601 students.

“They’re a very good team,” said Martello about the Tigers. “They’re just as good as anyone we see in our league.”

The Tigers are coming into the game with Colfax on a roll. Two weeks ago in the WAC championship game against cross-town rival Pacheco, Los Banos scored on a long touchdown pass with less than four minutes to play for a 28-21 win.

Then last week, tied with Orestimba at 31-31 and seemingly headed for overtime, the Tigers’ Justin Incaprera (1,194 yards, 10 touchdowns) busted loose on a 68-yard run for the winning a score with just 2:28 to play.

Los Banos also has an outstanding pass-run quarterback threat in Dasani Tate, who has thrown for 1,194 yards and is averaging 11 yards a carry. Junior Landon Ramos, with 32 catches for 545 yards, is Tate’s favorite receiver.

 

Center (8-3) at Bear River (9-1), 7 p.m. Dave Ramsey Stadium

If the last two Bear River-Center games are any indication, look for the Bruins and Cougars to play another close one in this attractive quarterfinal encounter.

A year ago, Bear River tripped up the Cougars in overtime, 35-27, to get into the playoffs on its way to securing the school’s third CIF section title. This season, on Sept. 28, in the Pioneer Valley League-opener, the Bruins rallied from a halftime deficit to pound out a 16-7 win.

Last Friday, Center showed no ill effects from a heartbreaking one-point loss to Colfax one week prior, erupting for 28 first-quarter points on its way to a 38-8 first-round romp over Dixon.

“They looked good,” said Logue about the Cougars. “They even broke out their old gold pants and looked like UCLA.”  

Bear River will have to focus on containing All-PVL quarterback Michael Wortham, and All-league picks Elias Bonds at running back and Emari White at receiver.

 

Division II

Tracy (8-3) at Del Oro (9-1), 7 p.m. Golden Eagle Stadium

After a close first half, the Bulldogs put their foot down on the gas pedal and pulled away from Lincoln in last Friday’s 49-28 decision over the Zebras.

“They run a flex-bone offense and run it well,” said Walters. “We don’t see that a whole lot, so we’ll have a challenge in front of us.”

Tracy has some big-play athletes, including Trevor Pope II, who has rushed for 803 yards and last Friday broke off a 98-yarder against Lincoln. Elias Williams is another threat with 978 yards on the ground and 17 scores while quarterback Logan Fife has thrown for 2,153 yards and 27 touchdowns.

The Del Oro-Tracy winner will meet the winner of Friday’s Granite Bay-Jesuit quarterfinal clash.