The football playoffs are here. No more safety nets. No more hiccups.
It’s win or go home.
That’s what makes the playoffs so fun to cover. You can feel the tension on the sidelines and in the stands.
What makes this year fun is we have plenty of teams that have the potential to make a long run. Merced, Hilmar, Stone Ridge Christian, Chowchilla and Dos Palos could all have staying power in their divisions.
If the Bears (7-3) were in Division I or II, they could win one or two games. In Division III, they have the talent to win it all.
Will it be easy?
No, Merced has a tough road. If the Bears get by Beyer this week, they could face a Del Campo team that handed Merced one of its losses. Get by the Cougars in the second round and a potential matchup with top-seeded Oakdale could be waiting in the semifinals.
What Hilmar has done is nothing short of amazing. It’s tough for large schools to replace a starting quarterback or running back. Hilmar has done both this year and still went 9-1 and won a Trans-Valley League championship.
It should be an exciting postseason. Last year, we saw Stone Ridge Christian and Chowchilla make long runs to NorCal and State Bowl Championships.
Will we have any teams do the same this year?
Let’s get past the opening week of the playoffs first.
Beyer (7-3) at Merced (7-3) – The Patriots have size up front that could bother the Bears. However, Merced has too many athletes and too much speed. If the Bears can start fast, they could force the Patriots to get out of their comfort zone. Prediction: Merced.
Colfax (7-3) at Hilmar (9-1) – You have to be impressed with Hilmar’s ability to go into Ripon last week with quarterback Tristan Crowley making his first start and the Yellowjackets winning the TVL championship with a 21-7 victory. Hilmar is going to need its defense to continue to play lights out in the playoffs. Prediction: Hilmar.
Delhi (8-2) at Bradshaw Christian (10-0) – Tough draw for the Hawks, who put together their best season in school history. The Lions are the defending Division VI section champions and feature a tough, physical running attack. It’s going to be tough for Delhi to slow them down. Prediction: Bradshaw Christian.
Delta (4-6) at Stone Ridge Christian (8-2) – The Knights enter the playoffs on a rare two-game losing streak. Last week’s 28-21 loss to Big Valley Christian was as shocking a score as any game this season. Stone Ridge Christian should be able to turn it around this week. CCAA teams have dominated teams from the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League in the past. Prediction: Stone Ridge Christian.
Kern Valley (5-5) at Dos Palos (6-4) – The Broncos closed the season with four consecutive wins, and the West Sierra League earned the top three seeds in the Central Section Division V playoffs. Dos Palos looks like it’s headed for a rematch with Firebaugh in the semifinals and another shot at Mendota in the championship. Prediction: Dos Palos.
El Dorado (8-2) at Los Banos (7-3) – The Tigers have been led by their defense all season, but the offense has scored at least 35 points in three wins to close the season. The Tigers’ secondary will be tested against El Dorado’s passing attack. Prediction: Los Banos.
Last week: 9-2. Year to date: 109-21 (.838).