It started back with practices in the heat of July and now after 13 weeks of the season, the prep football playoffs start getting a little more intense and physical, not to mention prolonged.
But now in California, if a football team wants to play into December, it’s what you do in November that counts.
Last Friday, because of unhealthy air quality due to the lingering smoke from the recent Camp Fire in Butte County, four area prep grid teams still alive in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs had to put their postseason dreams on hold.
With unsafe air forcing many of the section teams to cancel practices or go indoors for workouts, the section office postponed all semifinal round games to this weekend.
At stake in Friday’s games will be berths into next weekend’s (Nov. 30–Dec. 1) tentatively scheduled CIF section championship games to be played at either Sacramento State or Lincoln High in Stockton.
Area teams in play Friday have Placer hosting River Valley in a Division III semifinal while in D-V, Colfax hosts Sonora and Bear River will play at Ripon.
Del Oro, a D-II semifinalist, picked up a forfeit win last Friday over Jesuit, which had notified the CIF that they had used an ineligible player in opening playoff wins over Woodcreek and Granite Bay. The Jesuit forfeit vaults Del Oro into the D-II championship game against the winner of Friday’s Inderkum-Central Catholic game being played in Modesto.
Here’s a look at Friday’s games.
Sonora (7-4) at Colfax (11-0), Marson Stadium, 7 p.m.
Sonora comes to Colfax riding a seven-game winning streak, but the Wildcats’ had to come up with some final-minute heroics to turn back upset-minded Foothill, 28-27, two weeks ago in Sonora.
In the Foothill game, Sonora trailed the Mustangs for 3 1/2 quarters before a Jake Gookin touchdown pass to Evan Bearden and ensuing extra point with about five minutes left gave the Wildcats their first lead.
However, on the ensuing Foothill possession, after the Mustangs were pushed inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard line and had a touchdown called back because of penalty, the win wasn’t cemented until Sonora’s Bryan Wynne came up with a game-saving pass interception in the end zone with less than a minute to play.
A year ago, the Falcons and Wildcats staged a memorable back-and-forth semifinal shootout in Sonora with Colfax coming away with a wild 56-55 victory.
Running the Air Force “triple option” offense, the Wildcats dented Colfax’s defense last season for nearly 500 yards as Gookin called his own number and rushed for 265 yards and scored five touchdowns, including scores on runs of 51, 63 and 68 yards.
Is there another shootout on the horizon?
“I sure hope not,” said Colfax coach Tony Martello. “We’re playing a lot better on defense this season but Sonora poses a lot of problems with what they do. They are a very good football team.”
Bear River (10-1) at Ripon (10-1), 7 p.m.
For the third time in the past four seasons, the Bruins and Indians will line up against each other in the playoffs. In 2015, Bear River traveled to Ripon and pulled off a 20-7 win while a year ago, the Bruins held off Ripon for a tough 14-7 victory at Lake of the Pines.
“We’re getting to know them pretty well,” said Bear River co-coach Terry Logue. “Watching them on film, this is the best Ripon team that we’ve seen.”
In last week’s second round, Ripon built a 42-6 halftime lead over a 10-1 Mountain House team before rolling to an eventual 49-20 win.
Senior quarterback Ryan Daggett is a double threat for the Indians as he has passed for 1,022 yards and 14 touchdowns while also running for 739 more yards and an additional 11 scores.
Daggett’s supporting cast in the Indians’ balanced offense includes running backs Derric Roy (522 yards, seven touchdowns), Roland Davis (402 yards, eight touchdowns) and Danny Hernandez, a dual weapon at receiver and running back.
“We’ve seen Bear River on tape and they look very good,” said Ripon coach Chris Musseman, who has been with the Indians’ program 17 years, the last three as the team’s head coach. “They’ve made it to the section finals in three of the last four years. That’s the trait of a solid program.”