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Falcons Brace For Explosive Liberty Ranch
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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The preliminaries are over. Now, the yards start to come a little bit tougher. The passes start getting a little harder to hang on to. The tackling must be sure and crisp. Coach decision-making becomes a little more critical. Self-inflicted wounds can be devastating. Footing on a wet field can be treacherous. Every penalty flag can change a season. If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s mid November and although Thanksgiving is a week away, the Colfax Falcons and the other remaining seven survivors in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s Div. IV playoffs definitely have full plates. Basically, for the eight remaining Div. IV teams , they’ve all reached a point of no return. “There are eight good football teams left out there and we’re glad to be one of them,” said Colfax coach Tony Martello who for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons has his Falcons in the section’s “elite eight”. Three of Friday’s four CIF Div. IV quarterfinals – Liberty Ranch at Colfax, Sonora at Escalon and Central Catholic at Argonaut - take on “Game of the Week” type monikers while the fourth match-up – Livingston at Hilmar – is the Cinderella contest pitting two schools located just nine miles apart. Here’s this Friday’s Div. IV match-ups and how they shape up: Liberty Ranch (8-3) at Colfax (11-0) - Two high-powered offenses, each averaging over 40 points and more than 500 yards a game, collide for a berth in the semi-finals. Both the Hawks and Falcons have a host of offensive standouts but this game will probably come down to which team can play better defense, especially if the Friday forescast for rain – and or snow - holds true. Both teams seem to be playing well as Colfax closed Pioneer Valley League play with a 48-0 romp over Bear River and then handled Dixon, 42-21 while the Hawks downed Cosumnes Oaks, 28-15, one week before CO upended Manteca in the Div. III playoffs. The Pick: Colfax, 28-24. Sonora (8-3) at Escalon (11-0) – Make no mistake about it, the Cougars have their sights set on a return trip to the Home Depot Center Dec. 16 for the CIF State Bowl Championships. But to do it they’re first going to have to weather the Wildcats who placed third in the tough Valley Oak League behind Oakdale and Manteca. In last week’s 49-7 playoff opening rout of Marysville, Escalon quarterback Gino Franceschetti was a perfect 7 for 7 passing for 177 yards and two touchdowns. In 56 pass attempts this season, Franceschetti has yet to throw an interception. Sonora, meanwhile, will counter with running back Brandon Chandler who gashed Bear River for 317 yards rushing and five touchdowns last week in a 42-20 win. The Pick: Escalon, 23-14. Central Catholic (8-2) at Argonaut (10-1) – The word spreading through coaching circles is that the Raiders, the section’s No. 6 seed, are playing right now perhaps the best of any remaining Div. IV team. Led by a potent three-pronged rushing attack and a passing game that is also effective, Central entered the playoffs with a 58-22 dismantling of Patterson and the last week opened the post season with 57-8 rout of Modesto Christian. Argo is all about ball control and its “box” offense. The Pick: Central Catholic 33 Argonaut 20. Livingston (6-5) at Hilmar (9-2) - Saying that the Wolves have persevered is an understatement. Livingston won its first five games of the season but then lost its final five in a row. However, because the Wolves had two league wins and a high opponents win total, they were able to squeeze into the post season as an at-large team. Then, making the most of their opportunity, Livingston, the No. 11 seed stunned No. 6 seed Ripon, 12-10. Hilmar, meanwhile, took advantage of a bye in week 10 and came back to roll to a 41-14 rout of Linden. The Hilmar-Livingston winner gets the Colfax-Liberty Ranch in the semi-final round Nov. 25. The Pick: Hilmar, 33-14.