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Prep Roundup

Loaded Div. IV Playoff Field Kicks Off Friday

Colfax Hosts Dixon; Bruins Head To Sonora
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Services
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Mark Louriero has been coaching football at Escalon High for over 20 years and has basically seen it all. But the veteran coach said he would have to go back a ways to remember a CIF Sac-Joaquin section playoff bracket as deep and top-heavy as this year’s Div. IV field. “There’s quite a few tough teams out there this season,” said Louriero. “I think our side of the bracket is a little tougher after the first round but there’s no gimmees.” Louriero's Cougars won the Trans Valley league again this season. In a huge title showdown two weeks ago at Hilmar, neither team got in the other team's red zone as Escalon banged out a 10-0 win. "Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would shut them out to win that game," said Louriero. "Hilmar is a very good team." For starters this year’s Div. IV field includes: ·The defending CIF State Div. III bowl champion in Escalon. ·Four teams (Escalon, Central Catholic, Colfax and Hilmar) that combined have 32 section titiles and have appeared in 46 finals. ·Five teams that are averaging more than 40 points a game ·Nine teams that have won seven or more games. ·One of the leading rushers in the state in Liberty Ranch’s John Wiernicki. ·A Pac-12 Division I quarterback commit in Modesto Chrristian’s Nate Sudfeld who has verbally committed to Arizona. When the CIF playoffs kickoff this Friday night (Colfax hosts Dixon and Bear River travels to Sonora) at sites throughout the section, as many as eight to ten teams look like they have legitimate shots at being handed a pennant following the Div. IV championship game on Dec. 2 at Lincoln High in Stockton. Here’s a look at some of the top seeds in this season’s Div. IV tournament: ·Escalon (10-0) – The No. 1 seeded Cougars come into the playoffs riding a 22-game win streak dating back to the early stages of last season. The team’s signature win in that skein of course was the 30-14 drubbing over James Madison of San Diego in last season’s CIF Div. III state bowl game. This year, the Cougars haven’t rested on their laurels. Featuring a line-up that includes several key returnees from last season’s state winning team, Escalon hasn’t missed a beat. Led by a potent 1-2 running game powered by halfback Josh Miguel (1,035 yards, 16 TDs) and fullback Matt Roberson (813 yards, 17 TDs), the Cougars’ wing-T offense has wilted opponents. Crafty quarterback Gino Franeschetti and reliable receiver Alec Von Alvensleben lead the passing game while Tony Vincent, Shane Silveira and Jonathan Costa top a stingy defense that has allowed just 54 points in 10 games. ·Colfax (10-0) – Despite losing a bevy of seniors to graduation from a squad that reached last season’s Div. IV semi-final round, the No. 2 seed Falcons have matured into a well-rounded team that coach Tony Martello seems to have peaking at the right time of the season. In a critical three-game stretch with the Pioneer Valley League title on the line, Colfax defeated Placer, 41-28, Lincoln, 56-14 and Bear River, 48-0 to cap the 5th undefeated regular season in school history. ·Central Catholic (7-3) – Hiding out with the No. 5 seed, the Raiders from Modesto are playing their best ball of the season right now. Central’s only losses this season are to Div. I power St. Mary’s of Stockton, 24-24, and to Div. III toughie Los Banos, 35-28. The Raiders have fine balance led by running backs Craig Jones (963 yards), Sterling Shaw (934 yards) and Ray Lomas (515 yards). Quarterback Chris Sauls (1,237 yards, 16 TDS) is also very capable for the Raiders who are scoring 44 points a game. ·Hilmar (8-2) – If the Yellowjackets’ 10-0 loss to Escalon two weeks ago was any indication, Hilmar has the talent on both sides of the ball to make a serious run at the title. Leading Hilmar’s no huddle style attack are quarterback Andrew Olson (1,307 yards, 18 touchdowns) and a balanced look from running backs Zach Giuliano, Garrett Jericoff and Ryan White. The Yellowjackets are averaging 37 points a game. · Liberty Ranch (7-3) – The No. 7 seed Hawks from Galt, playing only their second season of varsity football with their first senior class, are a team to watch. Leading the Liberty Ranch attack is standout running back John Wiernicki who is one of the top rushers in the state with 2,012 yards. Wiernicki (6-1, 205) averaged nearly 10 yards a carry. Scat back John Kendall, a quick Darren Sproles-type runner, keeps defenses honest and has rushed for 785 more yards. Quarterback Jacob Tibbits has thrown for 1,287 yards and 13 touchdowns. · Ripon (8-2) – Ripon’s lone two losses came in Trans Valley League play to Escalon and Hilmar. The Indians have a balanced offense keyed by quarterback Kyle Wengel (1,135 yards, 20 TDs) and running backs Josh McCreath (1.040 yards) and Anthony Baciocco (980 yards). Six-foot four-inch tight end Jake McCreath and six-foot two inch wide receiver Cole Herrin present match-up problems for opposing defenses. No. 6 Ripon holds a 33-19 win over No. 4 seed Argonaut this season. ·Sonora (7-3) – After finishing in third place in the tough Valley Oak League, the Wildcats look primed to be ready for a run in the Div. IV playoffs. If Sonora can get by Bear River in a first round game, a date at Escalon awaits. ·Argonaut – (9-1) – The Mustangs’ double-wing offense is averaging 42.7 points a game with Austin Cramer (1,132 yards), Colton Merriman (945 yards) and Ryan King (502 yards) forming a solid 1-2-3 rushing punch. Argonaut also has a force in 6-7 270-pound lineman Austin Hoyt who has committed to BYU. · Bear River (7-3) – The Bruins will be looking to get back to the level of play that saw them go toe to toe with Placer in a 10-6 knock-down drag-out battle back in October. Bear River linebackers Cody Heard and Zach Winter could be keys in slowing Sonora’s mid-line option offense Friday