By Joe Davidson
The Sac-Joaquin Section football playoff brackets have been released, and as expected, the title races in all divisions expects to be a wild, bumpy ride. It's also interesting to note that In Divisions I, II, III and IV, no area team earned a No. 1 seed.
Take your pick of heavyweights in Division I, where parity seems to be a theme, and this: who overcomes injuries to key personnel to survive and advance?
Defending champion Pleasant Grove (9-1) is on the lower bracket and opens with Rodriguez (5-5) of Fairfield. Pleasant Grove has overcome myriad injuries to post its second successive 9-1 regular season under coach Joe Cattolico. The Eagles are physical on the lines, headed by All-American Arik Armstead, and fast everywhere, including tailback Mark Jenkins and terrific corners in brothers Brandon and Desmond Lewis.
Looming in that lower bracket with Pleasant Grove is No. 6 seeded Grant (7-3), which opens against No. 11 Turlock. The Pacers, of course, are led by do-all talent Shaq Thompson, who electrified Franklin on Friday with untouched scoring runs of 81 and 90 yards on Friday.
Grant is back in the D-I race after several seasons in D-II. Grant won four large-school titles under coach Mike Alberghini and two in D-II. Grant's enrollment placed it in D-I this season. Grant could face Bethel (9-1) of Vallejo in a second round contest should Bethel get past Jesuit (5-5), and Grant could meet Pleasant Grove for the first time in a semifinal on Nov. 25. That is provided Pleasant Grove beats Rodriguez and gets past the winner of the Pittman (9-1) vs. West (6-4) meeting.
The D-I upper bracket features top-seeded Lincoln-Stockton, a fast and physical team that is 9-1 and owns a one-point victory over Pleasant Grove in Week 2. It lost only to rival St. Mary's, which lost to Granite Bay.
Lincoln opens at home against Sheldon (5-5), which lost Friday to Delta River League rival Pleasant Grove 63-3.
Also in the upper bracket: Nevada Union (7-3), Franklin (7-3), Granite Bay (8-2), Burbank (9-1) and Oak Ridge (6-4). This bracket is balanced and deep enough that should either Pleasant Grove, Lincoln, Grant, Granite Bay or Nevada Union win it all, no one would be stunned.
In Division II, defending champion Folsom (8-2) starts as a No. 6 seed with losses only to Grant and to Pleasant Grove. The Bulldogs open at home against No. 11 Rio Linda (7-3). Folsom features the state's total offense leader in quarterback Tanner Trosin. How will Folsom's defense hold up? That'll be the key. A year ago, it held up fine and stormed to a state championship.
Buhach Colony of Atwater (10-0) got the No. 1 seed and is in the upper bracket that includes No. 4 Vacaville (9-1), No. 5 St. Mary's (8-2) and No. 3 Inderkum (9-1). Vacaville and Inderkum feature tremendous run games and St. Mary's is the most balanced of the three.
Folsom's lower bracket includes No. 2 Elk Grove (10-0), which sports a dominating offensive line, backs Deon Ransom and Robert Frazier and a defense that includes noseguard anchor Matt Nugent. Elk Grove opens against No. 15 River City (5-5). Folsom and Elk Grove could meet in a semifinal on Nov. 25. Elk Grove has bounced back to form this season after back-to-back 4-win seasons. The Herd has won five D-I titles and seeks their first in D-II. Elk Grove's enrollment was 2,700 in the 1990s and is now 1,700.
In Division III, defending champion Del Oro (9-1) opens seeded second and plays No. 15 Sacramento (6-4). Del Oro will unleash its two 1,000-yard rushers in Nick O'Sullivan and Brandon Monroe - a first in program history - and steady quarterback Bobby Heatherington, who is 38-1 lifetime at Del Oro, losing only this season to state-ranked No. 1 Westlake in overtime in Week 2.
Oakdale looms in the upper bracket as the No. 1 seed at 10-0, eager for a rematch with Del Oro, which won the program's seventh section title with a rain-soaked 21-0 win at Sacramento State.
Del Oro was on the D-II bubble the last two seasons, where it won six section titles.
In Oakdale's bracket: No. 8 Vista del Lago (7-3), No. 9 Woodland (8-2) and No. 5 Casa Roble (8-2). Vista is paced by quarterback Aaron Young and state record-breaking receiver Logan Smith.
Del Oro's side of the bracket includes No. 7 Placer (8-2), No. 3 Manteca (9-1), No. 6 Whitney (8-2) and No. 14 Cosumnes Oaks (7-3). Placer features the balanced wing-T and national recruit defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes. A Placer-Del Oro second-round game would be of major intrigue as former Sierra Foothill League rivals from decade's past.
In Division IV, Escalon (10-0) opens defense of its title - and state D-III crown - as the top seed. Colfax (10-0) is in the bottom bracket.
In Division VI, No. 1 Bradshaw Christian has won nine straight games since losing its opener to Colfax.
All games 7 p.m.
No. 16 Rodriguez (5-5) vs. No. 2 Pleasant Grove at Sheldon
No. 15 Sheldon (5-5) at No. 1 Lincoln-Stockton
All games at 7 p.m.
No. 9 Franklin (7-3) at No. 8 Nevada Union (7-3)
No. 12 Napa (7-3) at No. 5 Granite Bay (8-2)
No. 13 Oak Ridge (6-4) at No. 4 Burbank (9-1)
No. 14 Jesuit (5-5) at No. 3 Bethel (9-1)
No. 11 Turlock (7-3) at No. 6 Grant (7-3)
No. 10 West (6-4) at No. 7 Pitman (9-1)
No. 11 Rio Linda (7-3) at No. 6 Folsom (8-2)
No. 16 Lodi (6-4) at No. 1. Buhach (10-0)
No. 9 Del Campo (7-3) at No. 8 Downey (8-2), 1 p.m.
No. 12 Antelope (6-4) at No. 5 St. Mary's (8-2)
No. 13 Roseville (5-5) at No. 4 Vacaville (9-1)
No. 13 McNair (5-5) at No. 3 Inderkum (9-1)
No. 10 Stagg (7-3) at No. 7 Beyer (8-2)
No. 15 River City (5-5) at No. 2 Elk Grove (10-0)
No. 16 Center (5-5) at No. 1 Oakdale (10-0)
No. 9 Woodland (8-2) at No. 8 Vista del Lago (7-3)
No. 12 Benicia (7-3) at No. 5 Casa Roble (8-2)
No. 13 Vanden (7-3) at No. 4 Los Banos (9-1)
No. 14 Cosumnes Oaks (7-3) at No. 3 Manteca (9-1)
No. 11 Pioneer (7-3) at No. 6 Whitney (8-2)
No. 10 Patterson (7-3) at No. 7 Placer (8-2)
No. 15 Sacramento (6-4) at No. 2 Del Oro (9-1)
No. 16 Marysville (4-6) at No. 1 Escalon (10-0)
No. 9 Bear River (7-3) at No. 8 Sonora (7-3)
No. 12 Modesto Christian (5-5) at No. 5 Central Catholic (8-2)
No. 13 Orestimba (5-5) at No. 4 Argonaut (9-1)
No. 14 Linden (5-5) at No. 3 Hilmar (8-2)
No. 11 Livingston (5-5) at No. 6 Ripon (8-2)
No. 10 Calaveras (6-4) at No. 7 Liberty Ranch (7-3)
No. 15 Dixon (4-6) at No. 2 Colfax (10-0)
No. 5 Delta (6-4) at No. 4 Rio Vista (8-2)
No. 6 Mariposa (6-4) at No. 3 Highlands (8-2)
No. 1 Le Grand (10-0), bye
No. 2 Millennium (10-0), bye
No. 5 Sierra Ridge (5-5) at No. 4 Ripon Christian (6-4)
No. 6 Vacaville Christian (6-4) at No. 3 Elliott Christian (7-3)
No. 1 Bradshaw Christian (9-1), bye
No. 2 Foresthill (9-1), bye