The 2-AA and 2-A matchups should be very interesting and are very hard to predict. The 2-AA game pits teams with similar styles while the twist in a the 2-A game is one team is on a CIF Bowl Game winning streak while its opponent is looking for its first trip to one of the big dances in four tries.
Northern Regional Division 2-AA Preview
Elk Grove (10-4) at Clayton Valley-Concord (8-5), Friday, 7:30pm
The match-up of host Clayton Valley and Elk Grove is between two teams that took some lumps during the regular season but come playoff time each has taken care of business.
CIF North Coast Section Division 2 champion Clayton Valley only won one league game after being moved into the East Bay Athletic League – Mountain Division but since a 56-14 loss to De La Salle to end league play the Cal-Hi Sports No. 49 Ugly Eagles, who are also No. 67 in the power rankings, rolled in the playoffs with lopsided win over Napa and Foothill-Pleasanton. They got a bit of a tussle last week in the section title game against Campolindo-Moraga as the game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but the Ugly Eagles blanked the Cougars in the second half to pull away for a 27-7 victory.
The grind it out style of Coach Tim Murphy continues to have success and Omari Taylor continues to put up huge numbers, as the junior running back scored twice on the ground and once on a pass reception and finished with 152 yards rushing for the game. He comes into the game with Elk Grove with 1,217 yards and nine TDs rushing in nine games after missing part of the season with an injury.
About the only negative last week is the Uglies did lose three of five fumbles in the rain and weather may be a factor again this week.
The rain didn’t seem to bother junior quarterback Jake Kern as Murphy let him go to the air in the second half and he had three key completions, including a 10-yard TD pass to Taylor midway through the third quarter that gave Clayton Valley a 14-7 lead and the defense did the rest.
It was the fourth CIFNCS championship for Clayton Valley but the first since 2015 when Murphy led the Uglies to a second consecutive state CIF Bowl Game runner-up finish, in Division II in 2014 and 1-A in 2015.
To get back to the big dance Murphy and his boys will have to beat and big and physical Elk Grove team that in No. 47 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings and No. 46 in the power rankings.
Like Clayton Valley, Elk Grove did not win its league but tied for second place with a 4-2 record, and they came into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 playoffs off losses to Cosumnes Oaks and CIF 1-AA NorCal representative Oak Ridge, and also as the No. 6 seed, but in they went on the road to cross-town No. 2 Cosumnes Oaks and reversed a 23-12 Delta League loss at home with a 28-20 semifinal victory. From there they rolled past Whitney-Rocklin, 35-0 in the title game after Whitney had upset top-seeded Rocklin and the No. 4 seed Jesuit-Carmichael. To say the Thundering Herd is stampeding into Concord may be an understatement.
Elk Grove likes to run the ball with a triple option and they have three 1,000 yard rushers led by senior Carter Harris (1,877 yards rushing, 26 TDs). The other two are senior Hunter Hall (1,221 yards rushing, 17 TDs) and senior Damian Allen (1,027 yards rushing, 13 TDs. All told the rushing offense of Coach Jon Heffernan has rushed for a whopping 5,533 yards and 75 touchdowns, so Clayton Valley is going to have its hands full with a running game whose total yards is already in the top 10 according to the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book, but considerably behind the top spot as well as No. 2 Clayton Valley’s 7,051 yards rushing in 2014.
“They are one of the bigger teams we’ve faced and they run the triple option really well,” Murphy remarked. “Their defense moves very well and has very good speed. We have to take good angles on our blocks and take care of the football. Five fumbles in the first half like last week won’t get it done against these guys, they’re too good.”
“The kids are very hungry but so is Elk Grove and every team playing in these regional games,” continued Murphy. “It’s going to come down to turnovers and penalties like most games that are good match-up.”
It’s probably also going to be a battle partially won in the trenches and either the Ugly
Eagles will soar to victory or the Thundering Herd will stampede their way to Cerritos next week for the state CIF 2-AA title game.
Northern Regional Division 2-A Preview
Manteca (11-2) at McClymonds-Oakland (10-0), Saturday, 6:00 pm
Three time defending state CIF Bowl Game champion McClymonds will be looking for a chance to four-peat, but unlike the last three when the Warriors were 5-AA, 5-A and 4-A champions, respectively, the CIF bumped Coach Michael Peter and his boys up four divisions instead of one like the past three years.
It’s now a public school battle but it’s also a David and Goliath match-up as McClymonds has an enrollment of around 300 whereas Manteca has a 1,500 kids.
McClymonds had little trouble once again winning the CIF Oakland Section after shutting out five of its six opponents and outscoring them 440-9 for a 10th straight section title and 70th consecutive win against section opponents.
That isn’t what’s important in this match-up, but what’s important to look at is who Coach Michael Peters and his boys took on in their non league schedule, and beat. That would be three teams that played for CIF North Coast Section championships, Marin Catholic-Kentfield in D4, Campolindo-Moraga in D2 and Encinal-Alameda in D3. All three lost otherwise some analysts felt McClymonds could have been placed higher, possibly 1-A.
McClymonds has gotten some solid performances in the games against the tough teams from sophomore quarterback Dreyan Paul and he will have to play well.
The two players the Warriors really key off of are the wide receiver/defensive back duo of senior and D1 prospect Da’Veonne Sanders and junior Montrell Smith, and when they make the big plays the Warriors have been winning.
Manteca is a little different type of team than McClymonds has faced this season, possibly similar to Marin Catholic and Campolindo in their use of the pass and run, and not only that but the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions have been hot in recent weeks winning eight straight starting with five straight Valley Oak League victories that gave the Buffaloes a share of the league title. From there they drew the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and after a bye beat Vista del Lago-Folsom followed by a pretty big 20-14 upset of top-seeded Capital Christian-Sacramento, and then another upset in a convincing 33-14 victory over No. 2 seed Placer-Auburn.
The two losses for Coach Mark Varnum and his boys were in overtime at Downey-Modesto in a 54-48 shootout, and 27-26 to Central Catholic-Modesto for their lone league loss.
Last week against Placer, the Buffaloes trailed 14-13 at the half before scoring 20 points in the third quarter while the defense pitched a second half shutout. Host Placer had no answer for Manteca running back Trabon Russell. The 5-9, 160-pound senior rushed for 221 yards and had touchdown runs of 59, one, 55 and 48 yards. Whether he can do that against McClymonds remains to be seen, but Varnum has a very capable passer in 6-2, 162-pouns senior quarterback Ryan Ward if he wants to go to the air.
While Manteca may be somewhat different than what McClymonds has seen this season, on the flip side the Warriors style of play is likely nothing like what Manteca has seen this season, Peters is a very solid coach, and beating the Warriors at home is no easy task.
If Manteca can pull it off it certainly won’t be an upset and will help erase the disappointment of three previous CIF Northern Regional losses, to Enterprise-Redding in D2 in 2013, in 3-A to Menlo-Atherton-Atherton in 2016, and in 2107 in 3-A to St. Francis-Mountain View.