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Prep Roundup

State Bowl Bid In Cards For Hillmen?

Placer Sitting On Div. III-IV Dividing Line
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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Since its inception in 2002, the Pioneer Valley League has crowned five different football champions. For the record, Colfax’s Falcons have won or shared in six of the eight titles, Bear River has a pair of co-titles, former PVL member Whitney had one solo and one shared while another former league team, Oakmont, had a shared crown in 2003. Last season, Lincoln joined the title elite with its first crown. Now, with the 2010 prep season heading towards white- knuckle time, Placer’s Hillmen are knocking on the door of joining the PVL title club. This Friday when the Hillmen venture to Colfax for a 7:30 p.m. Marson Stadium battle with the Falcons, the Auburn gridders will be looking to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the PVL field. A win over Colfax Friday puts Placer in the driver’s seat for this year’s title as every league team – with just two games left to play - would have a blemish on their slate. The Falcons, on the other hand, also at 2-0 in PVL play and flying under the radar for most of the season, are hoping to make some noise of their own and throw a wrench in the Hillmen juggernaut which comes to Colfax averaging an eye-popping 44 points a game on offense. Talking with area prep football observers that have followed the local high school scene over the years, this year’s Placer team is conjuring up images of the Mike McCoy-Ben Galbraith-Chris Pulver led Colfax teams that went 25-1 in 2002-2003 and are generally considered two of the strongest grid squads ever produced by the PVL. While the ’02-’03 Falcon teams were indeed outstanding, as evidenced by respective CIF section title game wins over Manteca and Oakdale, at the time, those Falcons didn’t have the chance to move on and at least be eligible for what is now known as the CIF State Bowl Championships. A few years back, the 2006 Falcons drew some late attention as state playoff officials were on hand when Colfax rallied for 15 points in the game’s final minute to stun Oakdale, 22-21 in a first round playoff game. However, an eventual section title loss to Manteca ended any post season state hopes there. Last year Rocklin joined a list of Sac-Joaquin Section schools which include Grant, Central Catholic and Modesto Christian to compete in a state bowl game. And while there is still a ways to go, and if the cards fall right, don't be surprised if Placer isn't knocking at the state bid door come December. Again, barring any key injuries, the Hillmen, with an enrollment of 1,366 would look to be prohibitive favorites to win the Sac-Joaquin Div. IV crown. Only Union Mine, Sonora and perhaps Central Catholic look like they have enough gas in their tanks to run with the Hillmen this season. Putting it simply, there is no Modesto Christian lurking in Div. IV this season. But before we get ahead of ourselves, the BCS side of the high school playoffs could come into play. Placer (1,366) and Lincoln (1.472) are two PVL teams that look to be right on the dividing line between playing Div. III or Div. IV in the post season. Last season, both schools were in the Div. IV tournament. With that in mind, this year a new CIF section rule comes into play. In the football playoffs, teams playing in Sac-Joaquin Div. III are eligible for only the Div. II state level while teams vying in the Sac-Joaquin Div. IV playoffs are eligible for Div. III state bowl game consideration. Again, only teams who win section championships are eligible to be considered for state CIF games. If the Hillmen happen to end up in the Div. III field, it could include Casa Roble, Yuba City, Benicia, Oakdale, Manteca and perhaps even Del Oro. But before Placer fans start reserving hotel rooms in Carson, here are two things to consider: For the first time this season, two schools with Div. IV enrollments –Christian Brothers and Sacramento High – because of league affiliation must play in the section’s Div. III football playoffs. In that scenario, and both schools look to be playoff bound, the Div. III playoffs’ 16-team field has to make room for two those two teams, consequently, two teams that would usually be in the Div. III tournament drop to Div. IV A. Secondly, while Placer has not appeared in any of the Cal-Hi Sports North bowl rankings before this week - they are on the bubble in Div. III North - the biggest hurdle to a state Div. III game would appear to be an undefeated Marin Catholic team which played in last season’s CIF State Div. III game and heads the current Div. III North rankings. However, there is a lot of rumblings around the state that when in doubt, section commissioners are looking to place more and more public schools in state games. Officials do not want to turn the state playoffs into a private schools party. That’s why a recent straw vote of section commissioners around the state favored expanding the state playoffs to an extra week with a one game regional game added. That change will be voted on at the end of this year for implementation in 2011.