TVL rematch tops list of anticipated high school action

These are the games we've been waiting for since it became apparent the Stanislaus District had four elite teams.

The quartet locked up their berths in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs late in the season, but there were questions to answer before we could get too excited about tonight.

Would Escalon be put in Division 4A with larger schools, or 4B with traditional rivals Central Catholic, Modesto Christian and Summerville?

Would they get the top four seeds, setting up high-profile semifinals, or might two be paired in the opening round?

After that, would the four win their first-round games?

Yes, yes ... and, finally, yes.

Which brings us to tonight: Fourth-seeded Escalon (10-1) at No. 1 Modesto Christian (11-0), a rematch of the Trans-Valley League title game, and No. 3 Summerville (10-1) at No. 2 Central Catholic (10-1).

The games kick off at 7, but section officials suggest arriving early to beat the long line.

The winners meet next Friday for the Division 4B title, and the survivor of that game advances to the D4 final — to likely Lincoln (11-0), Placer (10-1) or Sonora (8-3), larger schools with up to 1,430 kids. The average enrollment for the D4B schools is 600 kids.

Tonight's games have it all.

The region's leading dropback passers battle: Summerville junior Zach Roberson and Central's Dylan Swartz.

Their combined stats are intimidating: 266 of 459 (58 percent) for 4,710 yards, with 64 TDs and nine interceptions.

Swartz has 28 TDs, and just last week threw his first interception of the season. Roberson has 2,261 passing yards.

Central lost to state power St. Mary's and Summerville fell to Ripon, but avenged the defeat by pounding the Indians 31-0 in last week's opener.

The region's most fierce small-school rivals meet: Escalon and Modesto Christian have been battling for TVL titles since MC moved up from the Southern League in 2006. MC won league titles in '06 and this season, and Escalon was the champ in '07 and '08.

They met in Week 9 in Salida, with MC winning 21-16 on a late defensive stand. MC is averaging 49 points a game and Escalon has six shutouts.

The Crusaders have the top assortment of skill players in the district and no one in this group can touch their speed.

As much as MC tries to play the no-respect card, no one's buying it: With Isaiah Burse taking the snaps, MC has the bracket's most dynamic player and will be a favorite each week — including tonight.

"This, by far, is the best football team Modesto Christian has ever had," Escalon coach Mark Loureiro said. "MC plays at a very high offensive tempo and they strike quick from anywhere at any time.

"The scary part is I thought we did a very good job against (Burse) last time and still lost. We only hope to contain him and not let him go off. He is the most explosive athlete the TVL has ever seen."

There are State Bowl implications, too, for Central Catholic and Modesto Christian.

If Central Catholic wins the section, it has a strong case for the Division 3 Bowl in Carson. Same with MC, which would be a heavy favorite to go to the small school game.

Only section champs are eligible for a State Bowl, so only one — if either — can go on.