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Ready to Rock: No. 1 Foresthill has a chip on its shoulder

MaxPreps' projected loss has Wildfires pumped
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Coach Jim Herlehy's team loves being perceived as the underdog. 
 
It’s a label the Sacramento Metro Athletic League-winning Foresthill Wildfires have dealt with all season long.
 
Herlehy said his team was motivated in the preseason when coaches selected Woodland Christian as the favorite to win the league over the defending champion Wildfires. Foresthill (9-1, 8-0 SMAL) was also inspired when Woodland Christian coach Bruce Pielstick vocalized his opinion that the Wildfires weren’t as good of a club on the road. 
 
Now, heading into Friday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Div. VI playoff game, the top-seeded Wildfires have been projected to lose at home to No. 4 Ripon Christian.
 
“Our guys love that kind of stuff,” Herlehy said of MaxPrep’s 38-20 prediction in favor of the visiting Knights (9-2). “(It makes them) play with a chip on their shoulder.”
 
That chip has put Foresthill one game away from a repeat visit to the section title game, which it lost last year to Bradshaw Christian, 62-6. As the No. 1 seed in the Div. VI bracket this year, the Wildfires earned a bye week in the first round of the six-team tournament. 
 
The well-rested Wildfires made their way to the top of the field behind a three-headed monster of a running game led by quarterback Tommy Sawyer and running backs Wes Archbold and Rocky Thompson. 
 
Foresthill rushes for 224.5 yards per game but the guys running with the ball believe they aren’t the reason the team has had success on the ground. 
 
“It’s the offensive line,” said Rocky Thompson, the team’s second leading rusher with 557 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 carries. “Most of the time they’re in gear and doing what they’re supposed to. With them pushing guys back it’s not real hard to get the yards.”
 
Said Sawyer: “We’re not an offense without our line.”
 
Linemen Patrick Miles, John Huerta, Nathan Dickson, Nialls Hackley, Brandon Balderas and Tyler Grandy all have helped open holes for Thompson, Sawyer (460 rushing yards, five TDs) and Archbold (926 yards, 12 TDs).
 
Sawyer appreciates having two running backs with varying styles to feed the ball.
 
“It’s really nice,” said Sawyer, who expects to be playing college football somewhere next year. “To me they are different types of running backs and it helps our offense quite a bit — we can be more versatile with our play callings.
 
“Rocky’s style is more ‘I’m going to hurt you and I’m going to pound you.’ Wes is more of a shifty, open-space make-you-miss. And what really helps with having two could-be-starter running backs is the competition every day. That really helps our offense.”
 
Though Sawyer (1,377 passing yards, 25 TDs, three interceptions) averages only 137.7 yards per game in the air, his stats are rather impressive considering almost all of his aerial work has been done in the first two quarters of each contest. Foresthill’s nine wins all came by 17 points or more, including two against Woodland Christian, so the team has had little reason to pass late in many of those games. 
 
The Wildfires head into Friday’s 7 p.m. showdown at full strength thanks to their first round bye. They also seem to understand what their opponent will try to do pretty well.
 
Knowing that Ripon Christian would beat Elliot Christian in the first round of the playoffs, the team said, has given the Wildfires more than an extra week to prepare for the Knights.
 
“I think we got a good jump on it,” Thompson said.  “We’ve been scheming against them.”
 
Reach Matthew Kimel at matthewk@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel