by Will James
Contending teams locked up in tight conference races are charging toward the finish line in hopes that a clutch victory in the final week of the regular season will tip the scale enough to secure a playoff berth.
That’s precisely the case in the rugged Delta League where undefeated #2 Elk Grove (9-0, 6-0) and once-beaten #4 Grant (8-1, 5-1) are guaranteed tickets to the playoffs from a league that will send three, maybe four teams to the post-season.
That leaves #16 Pleasant Grove (5-4, 4-2), #19 Franklin (5-4, 3-3), and unranked Jesuit (5-4, 3-3) in the hunt for one, possibly two remaining playoff spots, with #20 Monterey Trail (4-5, 2-4) hanging around as an ultra-long shot to reach the post-season.
As a result of this traffic jam in the standings, Friday night’s Franklin vs. Pleasant Grove clash at Sheldon High School becomes the pivotal confrontation that will decide the final placement of Delta League contenders.
This match-up is featured as Access Sacramento‘s Hometown Sports Game of the Week, and may be seen on Comcast or Consolidated Communications channel 17, AT&T U-Verse channel 14, and on the Internet at AccessSacramento.org.
Pleasant Grove is in the driver’s seat, holding a one-game lead over the other contenders, and in head-to-head competition the Eagles have already pounded Jesuit. Pleasant Grove also holds the home field advantage and will face a Wildcats’ team playing without its veteran starting quarterback.Jacob Lopez suffered a broken leg in Franklin’s recent loss to Jesuit, sending the Wildcats’ field general to the sideline for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, Jesuit, which got hammered by Monterey Trail last week, must travel to Del Paso Heights as a definite underdog to face a formidable Grant Pacers’ squad that bombarded Davis with 73 points last week.
Because of Lopez’s injury, Mike Johnson‘s Wildcats will rely heavily on versatile two-way star Lamar Jackson to run the show at quarterback. They’ll also need major contributions from RBs Eric Turner and Rahsaan York, and a stellar defensive effort led by LBs York and Kaderro Tamondong in this intense road game.
A Franklin victory and a Jesuit road loss at Grant could place the Wildcats on the bubble should a fourth ticket to the playoffs be allocated to the Delta League.
However, Jason Rossow‘s Eagles will have something to say about that notion. Pleasant Grove has won back-to-back games and enters play with considerable momentum.
QB Jake Ford has passed for more than 1100 yards and 12 TDs, and two-way standouts Darren Chism and Dawson Weber have delivered all-league performances this season. RB/LB Chism has rushed for nearly 1000 yards and 13 TDs and is the Eagles’ leading tackler. WR/DB Dawson is Ford’s favorite target, collecting 34 receptions and 7 TDs, and has stolen three interceptions while patrolling the secondary. Dawson also does the punting.
There’s lots at stake in this dicey match-up. In a game containing multiple significance for both head coaches, emotions will be running extremely high throughout the contest. It will not be difficult for fans to realize this will be a fierce match-up in all regards.