By Joe Davidson
We offered our final regular-season rankings last week and will have a final rankings following the playoffs, but for kicks, let's offer up a Top 20 now with updates and a peek ahead.
1. Pleasant Grove 10-1
In opening defense of their Division I Section title, the Eagles blasted Rodriguez 57-13 with yet another fourth-quarter running clock to win its ninth consecutive game since losing to Lincoln-Stockton by a point. Mark Jenkins, D.J. Dunn, Tyler Slavich, Cody Demps and Brandon Lewis played well. Next is a Pitman team of Turlock that has been fast and physical, but it hasn't competed in the same sort of league as Pleasant Grove, nor is it nearly as playoff tested
Playoff history: Winners of 7 of last 8 playoff games, 1 D-I title.
Next: vs. vs. Pitman (10-1)
2. Del Oro 10-1
The Golden Eagles led Sacramento 42-0 at the half in a D-II opener and played the reserves the entire second half. Brandon Monroe and Nick O'Sullivan each rushed for two touchdowns and Bobby Heatherington hit Daniel Thomas for a score to keep the machine rolling. Fans and players are excited about a showdown with Placer, with old alums debating about who has sported better teams over the decades.
Playoff history: 22 appearances, 7 titles
Next: vs. Placer (9-2)
3. Elk Grove 11-0
The Thundering Herd rolled River City 49-0 in a D-II opener as Deon Ransom rushed for 176 yards and five touchdowns - he has 10 scores in the last two games - and Tommy Arnold had two touchdown passes. And the D? Still stuffing teams. All the ingredients are there for a title run.
Playoff history: 26 appearances, 5 D-I titles
Next: vs. Beyer (9-2)
4. Granite Bay 9-2
The Grizzlies lead 10-7 at the half against Napa in a D-I opener, prompting coach Ernie Cooper to rant a bit in the locker room for more offensive production. Message received. Arik Byrd, Michael Bertolino and Brendan Keeney led the charge. The defense, stretched at times this season, was superb in the second half and will need to keep it up against an impressive running team in Oak Ridge.
Playoff history: 13 consecutive playoff trips, 3 D-II titles.
Next: vs. Oak Ridge (7-4)
5. Grant 8-3
Enrollment placed the Pacers back into the D-I playoff field after competing in D-II in recent years and it looked like yesteryear with a 38-0 rout of Turlock. Marquise Carter rushed for three touchdowns, Isaiah Adams had two interceptions, Charlie Vue set a state-career PAT scoring mark with 262 points and Terry Shine tossed a touchdown pass. The only downer was Shaq Thompson being slowed by an ankle injury, though it is not deemed serious. He'll play against Bethel in a fun matchup of speed vs. Shaq Speed.
Playoff history: section-leading 21 successive trips, 6 section, 1 state title.
Next: at Bethel (10-1)
6. Folsom 9-2
The Bulldogs opened defense of their D-II title by blasting Rio Linda 56-19. Folsom led 56-0. Tanner Trosin hit Carson McMurtrey for four first-half touchdowns and J'Juan Muldrow scored on a 41-yard touchdown run. Trosin's 4,992 total yards this season better the section marks previously held by Dano Graves of Folsom and Ryan Dimino of Del Campo. Now it's Inderkum, a team designed to control games with the run.
Playoff history: 4th straight appearance; 3 section, 1 state title
Next: at Inderkum (10-1)
7. Franklin 8-3
The Wildcats are sky high after earning their first D-I playoff win, beating host Nevada Union 41-16 in a contest that was tied at 10 at the half. Nathan Di Donato led a defensive charge, Blake Owensby had a 60-yard touchdown pass to Treyvon Lampley and Steven Rogers and Dionte Young returned interceptions for scores. Now a great test at top-seeded Lincoln of Stockton, coach Mike Johnson's old school. The pressure isn't on Franklin. It's on Lincoln.
Playoff history: Four playoff appearances, one win (Friday) for relatively new school
Next: at Lincoln-Stockton (10-1)
8. Colfax 11-0
The Falcons opened D-IV play with a 42-21 rout of Dixon with Austin Young tossing touchdowns to Sam Quinlan and David Mowbray, Hunter Perez rushing for 134 yards and three touchdown and Benton Brown making 10 tackles. This offensive balance will make Colfax hard to beat the rest of the way.
Playoff history: 4 titles in 7 appearances
Next: vs. Liberty Ranch (8-3)
9. Casa Roble 9-2
The Rams outlasted Benicia 57-41 in D-III play in your typical Casa shootout. Mitch Samson had four first-half touchdowns with no interceptions. Kody Jones rushed for 180 yards on 21 carries. Receivers Tyler Jones and Frankie Patalano each went over 100 yards, including Young hauling in a 79-yard scoring bomb. Cameron Buell had 16 tackles and Max Corry two sacks. Los Banos provides a major challenge, of course, but has LB played near the schedule as Casa Roble? No sir.
Playoff history: 9 appearances in 10 years, 1 D-III title
Next: vs. Los Banos (10-1)
10. Placer 9-2
The Hillmen opened D-III play with a 48-28 win over Patterson with the wing-T churning out 478 yards rushing, including 286 for Brad Spangler and Peter Denham passing for two touchdowns on his two completions. Eddie Vanderdoes and Colton Davenport combined for six sacks, and all hands will have to play their best to topple Del Oro.
Playoff history: 7 title appearances, 5 titles
Next: at Del Oro (10-1)
11. Inderkum 10-1
The Tigers erupted for a 69-14 rout of McNair of Stockton in a D-II opener to set up an intriguing showdown against Folsom. The wing-T attack produced 561 yards, with D.J. Myart going for 220 yards, Eric Walters 116 and Jose Montes 76. Hunter Royal passed for 176 yards on 4 of 6 passing as the Tigers amassed an amazing 737 yards of offense. Can Inderkum's wing-T keep Folsom's prolific offense off the field?
Playoff history: 6th straight postseason year, 2 title game appearances
Next: vs. Folsom (9-2)
12. Oak Ridge 6-4
The Trojans were impressive in beating host Burbank in a D-I opener, rallying from a 16-3 deficit to prevail 30-28. Shay Mueller and Preston Dean provided a terrific 1-2 running attack, and they'll have to maintain that against Granite Bay.
Playoff history: 22 appearances, 6 in a row, 4 D-II titles
Next: at Granite Bay (9-2)
13. Nevada Union 7-4
The Miners lost to Franklin in Grass Valley 41-16 in a D-I game that was tied 10-10 at the half. It marked the end for senior leaders such as Alec Sarner, Gabe Humphers, Tyler Houlihan, Josiah Paye and Jake Hofheinz. Returning impact players include Kyle Cota, Tanner Vallejo and Hank Humphers.
Playoff history: 23 playoff appearances, 7 section title appearances, 4 titles.
Next: season complete
14. Burbank 9-2
The Titans lost a heartbreaking D-I playoff opener to Oak Ridge 30-28, struggling to stop the run and on two-point conversions. Key leaders who bid farewell include Reymond Norton, Kareem Green, Tim Johnson and Maile Fainu. The new stadium injected even more pride for the program and the community.
Playoff history: 7 consecutive appearances, 1 title appearance
Next: season complete
15. Whitney 9-2
The Wildcats rolled Pioneer 48-21, breaking it open with a 28-point second quarter. Jake Rodrigues accounted for five touchdowns and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was dominant on both sides of the ball to earn a second home game. Coach Mike Gimenez said his team is playing its best ball of the season, and perfect timing with upstart danger team Cosumnes Oaks coming for a visit.
Playoff history: Five successive appearances, 2 title games, 1 title.
Next: vs. Cosumnes Oaks (8-3)
16. Vista del Lago 8-3
The Eagles earned their first playoff victory in opening D-III play with a 25-21 triumph of Woodland. Aaron Young passed for 336 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Chris Cooper five times for 139 yards and two scores. Logan Smith had 15 catches for 138 yards to obliterate the state single-season receptions record. He had the regular-season record of 122, which tied him for the state mark receptions in an entire season. He now has 137, and he played superb defense in the secondary. Vista recorded seven sacks, three by Andrew Whitney. Now the ultimate challenge: top-seeded Oakdale.
Playoff history: 2nd appearance for new school.
Next: at Oakdale (11-0)
17. Liberty Ranch 8-3
Hard-charging RB John Wiernicki rushed for 190 yards and four touchdowns and the defense came up with just enough stops to down Calaveras 48-35 to record the program's first playoff victory. Next is a date with tradition in the form of Colfax.
Playoff history: 1st appearance with 1st senior class
Next: at Colfax (11-0)
18. Del Campo 8-3
The Cougars went on the road to bruise Downey of Modesto 34-12 in D-II play behind 441 yards of rushing yards. J.D. Milan and Anthony Rodrigo rushed for 183 yards each and combined for five touchdowns. This ground and pound approach now takes on top-seeded Buhach Colony.
Playoff history: 14 appearances, 2 D-II titles
Next: at Buhach (11-0)
19. Cosumnes Oaks (8-3)
The Wolfpack ignored any conventional wisdom that No. 14 seeds are supposed to struggle on the road at a No. 3 seed. CO bounced once-beaten Manteca in D-III with a 14-0 triumph to earn the program its first playoff win. Marcus Rios had two interceptions to pace the defense and Andrew Williams and Tavon Willis paced the ground game. CO coaches and players don't fear anyone in this field, though the field is suddenly aware of the Wolfpack.
Playoff history: one appearance for new school.
Next: at Whitney (9-2)
20. (tie) Woodland 8-3
The Wolves lost a crusher at Vista 25-21 in a D-III opener. Senior impact star Dalen Jones, he of the pass, run and end zone pursuits, will be sorely missed as he takes his myriad skills to college next fall.
Playoff history: Best team of 1970 (10-0) didn't have playoff format; this was best team since: 1996.
Next: season complete
20. (tie) Jesuit 5-6The Marauders fell at 10-1 Bethel of Vallejo 24-17 in a game they felt they had. Losing quarterback Thomas Sperbeck to a late-hit spearing hurt. That Jesuit hung in there was a testament to team pride.
Playoff history: 20 appearances, 2 D-I titles
Next: season complete
Others: Bradshaw Christian (9-1); Highlands (9-2); Foresthill (9-1); Roseville (5-6); Sheldon (5-6); Union Mine (5-4); Pioneer (7-3); Rio Linda (7-4); Antelope (6-5); Center (5-6); Bear River (7-4); Woodcreek (5-5).