With every section now in playoff mode, we continue our look around the region. This week, we hit on a prospect laden game in the Sac-Joaquin Section and the start of the Central Coast Section Open Division.
North Coast Section
Freedom traveling to James Logan on Saturday night is the marquee second round matchup in Division I. There is a pair of Division I commits with Freedom's Darrell Daniels (Washington) and Logan's Warren Miles Long (Northwestern). There is also Rivals250 running back Joe Mixon of Freedom. Look for De La Salle, San Ramon Valley, California and Freedom to advance. The East Bay Athletic League went 3-1 last week.
Rancho Cotate, Clayton Valley, Northgate and Casa Grande all return to action after first round byes. Casa Grande has the toughest test against No. 5 seed Concord in a matchup of teams considered the top two programs in NCS Division II to start the year. Concord boasts Washington State running back commit Olito Thompson while Casa Grande counters with junior quarterback JaJuan Lawson and Washington commit Elijah Qualls. Look for Concord to get the road win along.
The only "seed" upsets were Bishop O'Dowd over Acalanes and Encinal beating Novato in the first round of Division III. Top seed El Cerrito faces a tough second round test with Bishop O'Dowd as the toughest draw from the top four seeds. The Gauchos and Marin Catholic were in discussion to be moved into the NCP Top 20 this week. The top four seeds advance to set up two very good semi-final games.
After beating Salesian in the regular season finale, Valley Christian-Dublin was shocked in the first round of the Division IV playoffs in an 18-13 loss to Drake. A predicated final of Justin-Siena and Salesian still looks promising, but top-seed Justin-Siena will have to beat No. 9 seed St. Mary's-Berkeley on Saturday. 2-star receiver Caleb Coleman had 719 yards and nine touchdowns for the Panthers in the regular season.
Ferndale continues to be the overwhelming favorite in Division V after beating Upper Lake 35-8. This week, it plays a St. Bernard's team it beat twice in the regular season by a combined 47 points.
Division I is highlighted this week by a playoff rematch between Franklin-Elk Grove and Lincoln-Stockton. Lincoln will certainly challenge the top seed behind the running of USC commit Justin Davis, but the balance and athleticism of Franklin will eventually win out. Burbank will also have a test with No. 10 seed Pleasant Grove. While Pleasant Grove was picked to reach the section finals last week, you can't discount an undefeated Burbank coming off a second win over Grant. I will be out at Granite Bay-Downey, where Aaron Zwahlen and company will try to dethrone the defending champions. The Grizzlies may be the most dangerous team in the bracket.
Maybe the best bracket in Northern California this week, Division II features four quality games. Folsom takes on Vacaville after losing in the section finals last year. Buhach Colony and its potent running game travel to Antelope, led by three-star athlete Tyler Winston. Elk Grove hosts Del Campo after posting a narrow 20-16 regular season win in a game Del Campo might have outplayed the Thundering Herd. In the best game of the bracket, St. Mary's-Stockton hosts Del Oro. St. Mary's has the athleticism advantage while the Golden Eagles will try to establish the running game behind Brandon Monroe. Go with Folsom, Buhach Colony, Elk Grove and St. Mary's to reach the semi-finals.
American Canyon and Cosumnes Oaks meet up in a 4-5 matchup and brings plenty of college prospects. American Canyon boasts Oregon commit Chris Seisay and UNLV commit Charles Spencer to go with a talented 2014 class. Cosumnes Oaks has a pair of Top 50 prospects in defensive lineman Sam Smith (who has battled injuries this year) and offensive lineman Kyle Saxelid to go with high-profile 2014 wide receiver Alex Van Dyke. On the general landscape, Oakdale remains the favorite after an easy first round with over Pacheco.
Placer takes on 2010 Division III state champion Escalon. The Hillmen looked closer to a Top 10 team last week in a 59-3 win over Hilmar. On the other side of the bracket, Central Catholic goes on the road to play undefeated Ripon and two-loss Center takes on 11-0 Argonaut. The depth of this division is apparent as all eight remaining teams have at least a decent shot at reaching the semi-finals this week.
The only surprise out of Division V and VI was Big Valley Christian knocking off Woodland Christian 19-12. Woodland Christian had been ranked in the Division IV bowl rankings for much of the season. Both brackets are in semi-final play.
Central Coast Section
The Open Division is once again deep with talent and provides good first round matchups. Serra travels to Palo Alto after a 24-0 loss to St. Francis-Mountain View while St. Ignatius plays preseason Top 20 ranked Palma and Oak Grove hosts Mitty. Oak Grove enters the rankings this week at No. 18 as the best public school in the CCS. Can they make up for a first round exit in 2011? Bellarmine is the favorite to win this division and will beat Oak Grove in the finals.
Division I is paced by Milpitas and 4-star recruit Vita Vea as the clear top team. Coming battle tested from the De Anza League, Milpitas is the pick here in beating No. 2 Salinas in the finals. The winner of this bracket will be eligible for the Division II regional bowl game.
St. Francis-Mountain View is the top seed in Division II and comes into the playoffs after beating Serra 24-0. The Lancers will have to contend with Los Gatos and Wilcox, which have both been in the mix for the Division II state rankings this year. In a fairly even division at the top, go with Los Gatos to repeat in Division II by beating the Lancers out of the West Catholic Athletic League.
The top seed in Division III is Monterey at 8-2, but maybe the most dangerous team is Valley Christian-San Jose at 4-6. The Warriors have running back Ryan Severson and have lost all six games by a combined 36 points. Monterey has only lost to Palma and Seaside while Aptos sits at No. 5 with an eight game winning streak. It has lost to Encinal and Top 20 ranked Oakdale. Go with Valley Christian over Aptos in the finals.
If Seaside can win Division IV, it could be in line for a Division III regional bowl bid. However, it will be tested with Sacred Heart Prep and Carmel among others. Six of the eight teams in this bracket have at least eight wins. Seaside has wins over Palma and Monterey and should win this division by beating Carmel. The Padres were Division IV runner-ups last year.
It is a good semi-final lineup in Division I with Enterprise-Chico and Foothill Palo Cedro-Paradise. Enterprise and Paradise won the regular season meetings and the playoff rematches should produce similar results. However, without a dominant team this year, it is hard to pencil teams into the finals with certainty.
Sutter was a runaway winner in Division II to keep its hopes alive for a Division III regional bowl bid. The Huskies take on Orland this Friday with Central Valley-West Valley playing in the other semi-finals.
Undefeated Pierce is in the semi-finals of Division III after beating Durham 37-12 following a one point regular season win over the Trojans. Pierce did have a pair of seven point wins to end the regular season and will play Willows this week.
Chester and Portola come off byes to play Fall River and Maxwell respectively in the semi-finals of Division IV. This division doesn't have big state bowl implications with Chester and Portola on a collision course for the finals.
McClymonds is likely two wins away from getting a regional bowl berth in Division IV. The Warriors open up the playoffs against Fremont-Oakland, which they beat 50-0 in the regular season.
San Francisco Section
In a four team playoff, Lincoln hosts Lowell and Mission plays Galileo. Lincoln went undefeated during league play in beating teams by an average of 30 points. Both games will be played on Thursday.