A flurry of surprises on the final day of the regular season shook up the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff football projections.
Teams like Downey moving up to Division 1 and Placer moving down to Division 4 forced the section committee to do some last-minute shuffling. A number of Merced County teams got the short side of the stick when the final pairings were announced on Saturday afternoon.
Some of the slights could be anticipated, others were just head scratchers. The biggest surprise was Le Grand being given the No. 3 seed in Division 5.
The Bulldogs (8-2) were admittedly upset by Ripon Christian on the final day of the regular season, but they still earned a share of the Southern League crown and had the head-to-head edge over top-seeded Waterford (8-2).
Even if the committee could justify dropping Le Grand below Waterford, how No. 2 Golden Sierra (7-3) jumps over the Bulldogs is mind boggling. Both teams are league champs, but Le Grand has the better record and is the two-time defending section champion with three straight appearances in the title game.
While the change may not mean much for the Bulldogs in their march toward a third straight title, it does mean no first-round bye and that they'll have to hit the road should they advance to the semifinals.
"We thought for sure we'd be a 1 or 2," Le Grand head coach Rick Martinez said. "We've been concerned because they've had Waterford and us 1-2 all season, but I never thought we'd fall to three. It's tough because it's just the two leagues, so I understand them wanting to split the leagues up, but it makes no sense that Waterford is No. 1 when we beat them head-to-head.
"We can sit and be upset about it, but at the end of the day the section isn't going to change it and we still have a game to prepare for. So that's what we're going to do."
The Bulldogs weren't the only local team to get a disappointing draw. Merced (7-3) was hopeful of at least a home game after its 14-13 Mayor's Cup victory over Golden Valley, but the Bears also slipped from where they were getting projected.
Downey getting bumped up to Division 1 was likely the biggest reason, knocking Merced down to the No. 9 seed and handing the Bears a tough road trip to No. 8 Lincoln-Stockton.
Atwater knew it was headed toward a tough road test in a loaded Division 2, but the Falcons were jumped by a couple 5-5 teams in Del Oro and Rocklin and a 6-4 Ponderosa team with fewer opponents wins.
That left Atwater with the No. 16 seed and a trip to No. 1 Folsom.
One of the few teams pleased with how Saturday turned out was Division 2 No. 5 Buhach Colony.
The Thunder always had an outside chance at cracking the top four and getting two homes games, but they have a solid chance of reaching at least the semifinals for the third straight year. Buhach will host No. 12 McNair, then has a winnable quarterfinal game against No. 4 Antelope should both advance.
"We're pleased to be in the playoffs," BC head coach Kevin Swartwood said. "The chance for two home games would have been great, but we're pleased to be at home on Friday and then we'll see what comes after that.
"It's very nice having a group that's been through all of this before. Back in 2009 we were just excited to be here. It was a process and we knew it was a process. The kids didn't know what to expect. We were a high seed and St. Mary's spanked us.
"The next year we knew a little more about it and last year we knew a lot. This group has never known anything other than the playoffs and they're excited to see what they can do."
Pacheco is set to make its playoff debut, earning the No. 16 seed in Division 3. The Panthers will face No. 1 Oakdale. Hilmar will also have a tough road test as the No. 16 seed in Division 4. The Yellowjackets will travel to top-seeded Placer. No. 5 Los Banos will open its title hunt at home against No. 12 Summerville.
Chowchilla earned a No. 5 seed in the Central Section's Division 5. The Redskins will host No. 12 Roosevelt.
Sac-Joaquin Section Football Playoff Brackets
No. 16 Nevada Union at No. 1 Franklin Elk Grove
No. 9 Merced at No. 8 Lincoln-Stockton
No. 12 Napa at No. 5 Granite Bay
No. 13 Bethel at No. 4 Downey
No. 14 Enochs at No. 3 Oak Ridge
No. 11 Tokay at No. 6 Pitman
No. 10 Pleasant Grove at No. 7 Stagg
No. 15 Grant at No. 2 Burbank
No. 16 Atwater at No. 1 Folsom
No. 9 Vacaville at No. 8 Rio Linda
No. 12 McNair at No. 5 Buhach Colony
No. 13 Rocklin at No. 4 Antelope
No. 14 Ponderosa at No. 3 Elk Grove
No. 11 Whitney at No. 6 Del Campo
No. 10 Tracy at No. 7 St. Mary's
No. 15 Del Oro at No. 2 Yuba City
No. 16 Pacheco at No. 1 Oakdale
No. 9 Benicia at No. 8 Patterson
No. 12 Christian Brothers at No. 5 Cosumnes Oaks
No. 13 River Valley at No. 4 American Canyon
No. 14 Rosemont at No. 3 Sierra
No. 11 Manteca at No. 6 Inderkum
No. 10 El Camino at No. 7 Sacramento
No. 15 Lincoln at No. 2 Vista Del Lago
No. 16 Hilmar at No. 1 Placer
No. 9 Calaveras at No. 8 Escalon
No. 12 Summerville at No. 5 Los Banos
No. 13 Modesto Christian at No. 4 Capital Christian
No. 14 Amador at No. 3 Ripon
No. 11 Bear River at No. 6 Central Catholic
No. 10 Center at No. 7 Dixon
No. 15 Hughson at No. 2 Argonaut
No. 1 Waterford bye
No. 5 Bradshaw Christian at No. 4 Highlands
No. 6 Rio Vista at No. 3 Le Grand
No. 2 Golden Sierra bye