Predictions and writeups by Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens and Harold Abend.
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OPEN DIVISION: Saturday at Sacramento State
De La Salle (Concord) 37, Folsom 28
If the Spartans’ last two playoff games are an indication – 49-0 over Amador Valley of Pleasanton and 52-7 over James Logan of Union City – it looks like they are close or are about to get close to the level they were at when they dominated both Servite of Anaheim (48-8) and Westlake of Westlake Village (35-0) in the last two CIF Open Division state bowl games.
Folsom has stepped it up this year as well, particularly in a 44-18 win last week over Elk Grove for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title. And although the Bulldogs are 14-0, they just don’t quite seem to be at the same level they were at in 2010 when they won the CIF Division II state crown. To us, they still seem like a year away from being on the elite national level.
The Folsom offense will be the best DLS has faced since perhaps Corona Centennial in the 2008 CIF Division I bowl game (the Spartans lost). QB Jake Browning could break or tie state records for TD passes in a season and passing yards in a season. Facing the DLS veer offense can be just as difficult, however, and the DLS defense is loaded with four Division I players – LB Michael Hutchings, LB Victor Egu, DE Austin Hooper and LB D.J. Moffett – who were all on the field in last season’s shutout of Westlake (which like Folsom was averaging nearly 50 ppg).
The second time around may be the charm for Folsom if this game gets played again next season. This year, though, it’s likely going to be too much of the same thing NorCal fans have seen for so many years.
DIVISION I: Friday at Sacramento State
Granite Bay 28, St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 14
One of the hottest teams going into this weekend is the Grizzlies. They started the season 1-3 and have won 10 straight after knocking off undefeated Franklin of Elk Grove 37-7 and then Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills (one loss only to Folsom coming in) 35-23 behind a powerful rushing attack that gained 549 yards in the CIF-SJS Division I championship.
The Wildcats have won just four straight, but last week they took down Bellarmine of San Jose 13-10 in overtime in the state’s biggest upset of the weekend. Bellarmine was going for its fourth CCS Open Division title in the last four years.
We expect the Wildcats to slow down the Grizzlies’ offense but their own offense doesn’t look to be explosive enough to put up the points necessary to hang with Granite Bay. The key for SI is not to turn it over since the talented Granite Bay defense has excelled in recent weeks at forcing key turnovers and coming up strong near the goal line.
DIVISION II: Saturday at Lincoln (Stockton)
Clayton Valley (Concord) 34, Oakdale 21
Not many people can probably say they have seen both of these two teams play in person this season. We can after seeing Oakdale go on the road and defeat Sierra of Manteca 49-7 and then later seeing Clayton Valley go into Concord and pick up a 49-6 win over Olito Thompson and the Minutemen.
In the wins, both teams showed a great ability to stop the run as the Eagles held Washington State-bound Thompson to a season low 35 yards rushing while the Mustangs held Anthony Cota of Sierra to a season low 45 yards.
Despite both teams showing they can stop the run, they have both been on fire on offense as well. We give the nod to Eagles since they seem to have the better rushing game, led by senior Joe Protheroe, who earlier this postseason rushed for a school-record 427 yards.
DIVISION III: Saturday at Harrison Stadium (Oroville)
Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 31, Sutter 14
It probably will not be that close but the chatter around the Northern California prep football community is a lot of fans from Redding to the Yuba City/Marysville area, and parts beyond in the far north, are talking about showing up to see if the CIF Northern Section can get some respect, since the section’s only other Bowl appearance was the 2008 Hamilton of Hamilton City debacle when that team got clobbered 59-7 by St. Margaret’s (San Juan Capistrano) in the CIF Division IV Bowl Game.
For the somewhat home field advantage and the fact the Huskies have a 34-27 win on the road at Redding Enterprise, they have to get some respect. Marin Catholic, on the other hand, lost to a very solid Vacaville team on a fumble while trying to run out the clock, and beat CCS Open Division Champion and CIF NorCal Division I Regional finalist St. Ignatius of San Francisco. They finished NCS play by overcoming the elements and a very talented El Cerrito in the D3 title game.
Sutter has never seen anything like El Cerrito, nor have the Huskies ever seen any signal-caller like Marin Catholic’s 6-foot-5, 195-pound Cal-bound quarterback Jared Goff, although NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers is from nearby Chico.
If El Cerrito couldn’t really run the ball on Marin Catholic’s stiff defense and NCS D4 champion Justin-Siena could only muster 135 yards rushing on 30 carries in a 47-7 loss to the Wildcats, it doesn’t make sense the Sutter wing-t offense is going to bring down the house and rush for its 300-yard per game average. Plus, Marin Catholic has a running game of its own led by D1 prospect Akili Terry.
It wouldn’t be an upset of epic proportions if Sutter wins, but it would be a big upset, considering that Marin Catholic is ranked No. 2 this week overall for the entire Bay Area behind De La Salle.
DIVISION IV: Friday at Lincoln (Stockton)
Central Catholic (Modesto) 42, McClymonds (Oakland) 20
This one is tricky to pick because essentially you have to look at early-season scores and ask questions such as: Is Central Catholic as good or better than the Oak Grove of San Jose team that McClymonds battled and then lost 27-20?
Both teams, however, have improved a lot since those early scores so comparing the two that way just isn’t going to work that well.
It’s more telling how Central Catholic rolled in its last three CIFSJS D4 playoff games. The Raiders took out an 11-0 Ripon team 40-21, then ousted a Center of Antelope squad that was nearly the equal of Auburn Placer 34-13. Finally, coach Roger Canepa’s club rocked 2010 CIF D3 champ Escalon 52-10. Escalon also is the same team that beat Placer in overtime in its semifinal game and Placer was 12-0 with an earlier win over Central Catholic (which didn’t have RB Ray Vega available at the time).
McClymonds isn’t your typical D4 team. Its three losses were all to bigger schools and it’s a squad built on speed. Don’t think, though, that the Raiders have never faced speed before. St. Mary’s of Stockton was very quick and even Center had two runningbacks who could fly.
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