For some teams sitting on the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff bubble – like Golden Valley, Pacheco and Gustine – the path isn’t confusing. All three teams come into the final week of the regular season with five wins, which means win and you’re in.
The winning part may not be simple. All three are underdogs in rivalry matchups.
Buhach Colony’s postseason chances aren’t as cut and dried. The Thunder have to win the Bloss Bowl against Atwater and hope five wins is enough to make the playoffs.
It could make for a long Saturday for Buhach Colony coaches and players. The Thunder have to root against teams like Golden Valley and Gustine, which are vying for their sixth win. Buhach Colony needs as many five-win teams as possible to lose across the Sac-Joaquin Section.
While many teams are fighting to get in the playoffs, others have conference championships to play for. Hilmar and Chowchilla are trying to wrap up titles in their leagues.
What does all this mean? It should be an exciting final week of the regular season.
Let’s get to this week’s picks:
Golden Valley (5-4, 1-4 Central California Conference) at Merced (6-3, 3-2) – The Battle for the Mayor’s Cup has been dominated by the Bears for the past decade with 10 consecutive victories. The Cougars need to end the streak to qualify for the playoffs. Golden Valley has played well against the top teams in the CCC but fell short in upset bids against Turlock and Pitman. The teams match up well in size and speed. The team that can run the ball with success will likely win. Prediction: Merced.
Atwater (0-9, 0-5 CCC) at Buhach Colony (4-5, 2-3) – The Thunder have to win and hope five wins are enough to get into the playoffs. Buhach Colony should be able to take care of its part, especially coming off a bye and with two weeks to prepare for the Falcons. Prediction: Buhach Colony.
Pacheco (5-4, 3-1 Western Athletic Conference) at Los Banos (6-3, 3-1) – The Panthers’ playoffs started last week with a narrow 42-41 over Ceres. Now, they must win the Crosstown Clash to advance to the real postseason. The winner earns the No. 2 spot out of the WAC. Prediction: Los Banos.
Patterson (1-8, 0-4 WAC) at Livingston (1-8, 0-4) – This is not the way either team hoped this season would play out. It’s hard to believe the Tigers were the consensus favorite to win the WAC coming into the season. Prediction: Patterson.
Hilmar (8-1, 4-0 Trans-Valley League) at Ripon (6-3, 4-0) – The Yellowjackets received bad news this week with quarterback Chase Kindberg out for the season with a knee injury. It’s a tough spot for junior Tristan Crowley to step into at quarterback for Hilmar with the TVL title on the line. Ripon hasn’t given up more than 10 points against any TVL opponent. Prediction: Ripon.
Gustine (5-4, 4-2 Southern League) at Orestimba (8-1, 6-0) – The Reds’ playoff hopes took a big blow with last week’s 26-21 loss to Waterford. Gustine has to regroup and try to upset the Warriors. Orestimba wrapped up its second straight SL championship last week. Prediction: Orestimba.
Delhi (7-2, 4-2 SL) at Ripon Christian (2-7, 1-5) – After winning their first seven games, the Hawks have lost two in a row. Look for Delhi to get back in the win column against the struggling Knights. Prediction: Delhi.
Le Grand (1-8, 1-5 SL) at Mariposa (3-6, 2-4) – Rigoberto Mares returned from an injury last week, and the Bulldogs picked up their first win of the season, 19-14 over Ripon Christian. Mares had two touchdown catches. The Grizzlies’ offense may be too potent this week. Prediction: Mariposa.
Liberty-Madera (6-3, 3-0 North Sequoia League) at Chowchilla (7-1, 2-1) – The Redskins can win a share of the NSL championship and earn a high seed for the playoffs with a win. Chowchilla will have to stop the Hawks’ running back duo of Kaleb Roth and Christian Baker, who have combined for 24 touchdowns. Prediction: Chowchilla.
Dos Palos (5-4, 3-1 West Sierra League) at Avenal (3-6, 0-4) – The Broncos have rebounded from four consecutive loss with three straight wins. Dos Palos should make in four in a row against a Buccaneers team that has been outscored 186-8 in WSL play. Prediction: Dos Palos.
Stone Ridge Christian (8-1, 4-0 Central California Athletic Alliance) at Big Valley Christian (5-4, 2-2) – The Knights are trying to rebound from their first loss of the season. This is a rematch of last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII championship game, won by SRC. The Knights should win easily again. Prediction: Stone Ridge Christian.
Last week: 9-4. Year to date: 100-19 (.840).