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Could we see an epic foothills showdown?

By: Mike Ray
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If I’ve been asked the question once over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked it 10 times.

It hasn’t mattered where I’ve been: in line at the grocery store, pumping gas, at the golf course, at the bank. At just about every turn, it’s always the same: “Hey Mike, what are the chances of Placer and Del Oro playing each other in football this season?”

Good question.

First, the Hillmen and Golden Eagles are both having great seasons. So outstanding that in the latest Sacramento area rankings, Del Oro sits at No. 3 with Placer at No. 4. In Calpreps.com’s strength ratings, Del Oro is at 38.6 and Placer at 36.4. The Hillmen are averaging 56 points a game, Del Oro 50.

I’ve seen both teams in person. It would be a great game.

However, because the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s football playoffs have now been restructured more towards league success and enrollment, it’s far-fetched that the two could play this season. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

But first, some history between the two .

Although located just 10 miles apart, the two schools have played just once since Placer left the Sierra Foothill League in 2005. That came about in 2011 when both teams landed in the Division III section playoffs, and the Golden Eagles took a 41-12 win.

Prior to that, the two schools had met on the gridiron dating back to the 1970s. Each school has had their streaks. Del Oro won three of the first four games played between the teams (1970-73) before the Bill Miller-Tom Johnson-coached Hillmen juggernauts won seven straight from 1974 to 1980.

Del Oro stopped the Hillmen skein with a 6-0 win in 1981, and from there, the two rivals played it close over the next five years, Del Oro winning three and Placer two. Those games were played as non-league contests as Placer moved into the Capital Athletic League and Del Oro remained in the SFL. There was no game played in 1982.

However, starting in 1986, the tide turned in the series as both in non-league games and again in SFL play, Del Oro stepped off 14 straight wins over the Hillmen. Finally, in 2000, the Hillmen broke through with a 13-12 victory to snap the Golden Eagles’ streak.

Now getting back to the question at hand: could the Hillmen and Eagles play this season?

First, while the two schools are enjoying successful seasons, there is still a long way to go to the postseason. Each team has several rugged league games ahead of them on their respective schedules. Each team has to stay healthy. Each team needs to keep improving.

But Placer and Del Oro meeting in CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff games this season is a remote possibility. In fact, it’s not happening.

Because Del Oro plays in a D-I league, the Golden Eagles, with an enrollment of 1,752, can’t play lower than D-II. If Del Oro wins the SFL, it would have to play D-I, per CIF Sac-Joaquin Section rules.

Placer, on the other hand, with 1,282 students, is a D-IV school per section guidelines. However, if Placer wins the D-III Foothill Valley League this season, the Hillmen fall into the D-III playoffs, per CIF rules.

However, as confusing as the section guidelines sound, the two teams still could meet.

First, each school would have to win respective CIF section championships. Then, by the luck of the CIF State Northern California Regional draw, the two squads would have to be next to each other on the state’s NorCal seeding board.

While the CIF state bowl seeding committee doesn’t like to pair members from the same section playing against each other, it has happened before.

If it does happen between Placer and Del Oro this year, you’d better reserve Hughes Stadium in Sacramento to handle the crowd of 15,000 the game would draw.

If you’re a foothills football fan, keep your fingers crossed.