The high school football postseason begins in three weeks. But for most Stanislaus District teams, the playoffs start now.
There are some big games that will have that intense, playoff atmosphere Friday night. We'll have games in nearly every area league with big postseason implications.
In the Modesto Metro Conference, both Friday night games are meaningful. The top four teams in the standings meet, as it's Davis (2-1) at Johansen (3-0) and Enochs (2-1) at Downey (3-0).
Should Johansen and Downey win, we're looking at a winner-take-all MMC championship when these two teams meet in the final week of the season.
Should Davis and Enochs win, we'll have a four-way tie for first place with two weeks to go. How much fun would that be?
The best game in the Central California Conference is in Los Banos, where Pitman and Los Banos face off for what could decide a playoff berth. Both teams are 2-1 in the CCC, and with Merced (3-0) and Turlock (3-1) ahead of them, a second loss most likely would eliminate any postseason hopes.
The top game in the Valley Oak League is also the district's top game. Oakdale (5-2, 4-0 VOL) has won five in a row and plays Manteca (6-1, 3-1) at Guss Schmiedt Field. Either Oakdale or Manteca has represented the VOL in the last seven Sac-Joaquin Section championship games.
It's a must-win for Manteca, which would virtually be eliminated from postseason play with a loss. Should Oakdale win, it sets up a VOL title game against Sierra the following Friday.
The last two undefeated teams in the Southern League face off Friday night. It's Mariposa at Waterford in a Halloween game that could clinch one of the area's first playoff berths.
Should Mariposa win, the Grizzlies would clinch a playoff berth by virtue of their 3-0 league record and victories over Turlock Christian and Le Grand. Should Waterford win, the Wildcats would only need to win one more game to clinch a playoff berth.
MERCED HIGH basketball standouts Allen Huddleston and Deja Mann have verbally committed to NCAA Division I colleges, according to the Merced Sun-Star.
Huddleston, currently the Merced football team's quarterback, will play basketball for University of the Pacific next season.
Mann was one of the top girls basketball players in the area as a sophomore, then tore an anterior cruciate ligament and missed her entire junior year. She played particularly well on the travel-ball circuit, received an offer from and has committed to Arizona State. Mann recently tore her ACL again and will miss her senior season.
Huddleston and Mann will join a handful of local athletes who are expected to sign national letters of intent Nov. 12.
Two high-profile athletes who are expected to sign on that date: Modesto Christian boys basketball star Reeves Nelson, to UCLA; and Turlock golfer Sam Smith, to USC.
SOMETHING ELSE of interest that came out of last week's Sac-Joaquin Section board of managers meeting: It appears the state is going to vote on potentially limiting practice times for all sports.
The number former section president Rick Spears mentioned was "three hours a day, 18 hours a week."
Most high schools also have a last-period physical education class for their athletes. It's a way to start practicing a little earlier than usual.
"I don't know if they're going to count sports (physical education) as an hour or not," Spears said. "They're trying to define exactly what practice time is. It'll be a first reading (discussion item) soon."
Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.