Two El Dorado County high school football teams are hosting CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoff games tonight. Oak Ridge will host Pitman of Turlock in the section’s Division D-I quarterfinals in El Dorado Hills and Golden Sierra welcomes Le Grand in a D-V contest.
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Pitman (9-2) at Oak Ridge (10-1)
For a second consecutive week, Oak Ridge has the advantage of playing a home playoff game and that suits head coach Eric Cavaliere just fine.
“Our home crowd is an advantage for us,” he said. “It just feels right when our band takes us onto the field. We’re glad not to be on the bus.”
Oak Ridge’s offense averages 167.1 yards passing per game and 162.2 yards per game. Leading the way is Trojans quarterback Jason Samuels, who has completed 132 of 217 passes for 1,805 yards and 20 touchdowns. Three wide receivers have 300-plus yards for the Trojans: Byron Spain (42 receptions for 617 yards), Justin Priest (24-332) and Ross Dwelley (22-301).
If Oak Ridge isn’t passing, then running backs Blake Martin and Josh Wellman are carrying the load. The duo have rushed for 734 and 680 yards, respectively.
Pitman runs the Wing-T offense, relying heavily on the run as most Wing-T teams do. On defense, the Pride runs a 3-4 alignment that Cavaliere said is similar to what Enochs ran last week and Delta River League foe Pleasant Grove does as well.
“They do a very nice job on formations and get numbers on you,” said Cavaliere on Pitman’s offense. “They are a strong run team. They’ve played some good teams (this season). In the playoffs there aren’t any poor teams playing; everyone is dangerous. We’re accustomed to playing real football teams and hope that pays off for us (Friday).”
Pitman finished in third place in the Central California Conference. Its backfield consists of running backs Brent Nelle and Logan Wolfley, plus fullbacks Kody Brackett and Mario Lewis. Wyatt Clapper is the Pride’s signal caller.
An Oak Ridge win returns the Trojans to the semifinals for the first time since 2004 en route to winning the D-II crown over Cordova when both schools were members of the Sierra Valley Conference. A Pitman win means a trek into the semifinals for the first time in its school history. Pitman opened its doors in 2005. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Pleasant Grove-Burbank contest.
Le Grand (9-2) at Golden Sierra (7-3)
Golden Sierra, winners of the Sierra Delta League crown, plays its first home playoff game since 2006 when it beat Delhi, 35-0, in the first round of the D-VI playoffs.
The Grizzlies average 208 yards on the ground per game and 54 yards in the air . Running back Adam Sewell has carried the bulk of the load for the Grizzlies on the ground, rushing 136 times for 817 yards. Golden Sierra also uses multiple backs in Daniel Lesher (454 yards), quarterback Bryson Campbell (310), Cameron Stephens (202) and Brian Cann (132). Campbell has completed 37 of 83 passes for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Golden Sierra is on a six-game winning streak, all league games.
The Bulldogs average 166 yards on the ground per game and 127 yards in the air . Quarterback Mauricio Contreras has completed 71 of 138 passes for 1,259 yards and 21 touchdowns. Christian Williams, a wide receiver and only a sophomore, has 23 receptions for 533 yards and 8 touchdowns. Ryan Martinez carries the Bulldogs on the ground, having rushed 152 times for 1,251 yards.
“After watching La Grand I don’t see how they lost a game,” Golden Sierra head coach John Hilton said. “Offensively they are huge up front. They are a quick strike team that puts points on the board very quickly.”
Hilton continued, “We are going to need to play ball control offense. We need to take care of the ball and keep Le Grand off the field. We must establish the run early and when the opportunity comes have success with our passing game.
“We know at this point all the teams are at high-caliber and the teams that take care of the ball and execute will have the most success.”
Le Grand, tri-champions of the Southern League with Waterford and Ripon Christian, has played in the last three D-V title games, winning the last two. Last year, Le Grand played for the State D-IV Bowl Game last December, losing to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, 34-14 in Carson.
But today, Le Grand makes the 3.5, closer to four-hour bus ride from south of Merced County to Garden Valley.
A Golden Sierra victory advances the Grizzlies to the section championship game for the second time in school history. Back in 1994, Golden Sierra lost to Bear River 3-0 in overtime for the D-III title game. The winner of this game plays the winner of the Highlands-Waterford contest.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or [email protected] Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.