By Will James 

Hometown Sports 

The 12-team field of Division-1 schools in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs was significantly reduced following opening-round results last week.  Specifically, the field was trimmed by one-third, and not surprisingly, the four lowest seeded teams — Pleasant Grove, Gregori (Modesto), Del Oro (Loomis) and Lincoln (Stockton) all fell by the wayside leaving eight D-1 teams still in contention.

These include the four top-seeded teams that swing into action after enjoying an opening-round bye.  Among the Fab-Four trying to reach the Final Four with a victory Friday evening, are two of the most successful teams in the entire field.  Taking center-stage on the Hometown Sports Game of the Week in this D-1 Quarter-Final Round match-up are the #3-seed Inderkum Tigers (10-0, 6-0),  and #6-seed Davis Blue Devils (10-1, 4-1).

The live telecast begins at 7:00 pm and may be seen in Sacramento County on Comcast and Consolidated Communications channel 17 and AT&T U-Verse channel 14.  The game will also be streamed live on the NFHS Network.

This match-up makes for an intriguing, if not compelling contrast in the stories behind the teams.  Terry Stark’s Tigers have dominated their competition in each of the conferences they’ve been placed, while Steve Smyte’s Blue Devils reached the post-season for the first time in more than 20 years.

Smyte returned this season for his second head coaching stint with the Blue Devils, to answer an SOS distress signal that the Blue Devils’ ship was adrift, floundering, and on the verge of sinking.  Smyte and his dedicated staff implemented the right system to rescue and resurrect a once-proud program that had run aground.

In methodical fashion, the Blue Devils systematically registered victory after victory, falling only to high-scoring Elk Grove by seven points, while shocking Delta League front-runners Cosumnes Oaks, Pleasant Grove, and Jesuit to emerge as champions of the rugged Delta League.  Excellent coaching and extraordinary team chemistry are key attributes for Smyte’s ball club, while a host of unheralded standouts have established the Blue Devils’ brand of star power.

Davis’ Junior Quarterback Luke Carrell (52% passing, 18 TDs) has been solid, delivering one clutch performance after another while leading a talented rotation of skill players who have embraced the idea of sharing the load.  Running Backs Taylor Vaughn and Aaron Turner will both surpass the 1000-yard plateau Friday evening, and Wide Receivers Xavier Chambers and Ben Busano have combined for 40 catches and 13 TD.

The Davis defense is physical and rough.  Linebacker Zachary Brooks (106 tackles) is difficult to block and receives plenty of help from a deep corps of active defenders.

Terry Stark’s Tigers are well rested after their bye week, but have they emerged from the bye week in “game-sharp” condition?  The answer to that question always seems to be, yes.  Since 2005, Stark’s amazing 14-year slice of dominant success is equaled by few coaches.  Only once in his tour has Stark’s teams won fewer than 10 games; in his first year at the North Natomas school.

Stark’s imminence is synonymous with his signature offense; the high speed racing engine sometimes called the Wing-T, a run-heavy offense that frequently lights up the scoreboard following long, fast runs by a talented cast of stylish speed merchants.  Running backs Aaron Espero, Dino Watson, and Josiah Tyes have combined for 30 rushing TDs, while Quarterback J.J. Ray has balanced the Tigers’ offense with 15 TD passes, including four each to Tight Ends John Lain and Durrell Wright.

A host of Inderkum blockers lead the way for #2 Aaron Espero after his interception vs. Antelope on Game of the Week earlier this season.

The Inderkum offense averages 46 points-per-game.  When it’s not on the field, the Tigers’ defense is, and that’s bad news for their opponents.  Speedy ball-hawking Inderkum defenders hit hard, and constantly create havoc with a rampaging defense that registered an imposing 43.5 sacks, with nine  interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.  Defensive standouts Michael People, Jalen “J.B.” Bryant, Willie Hardy, Joshua Trezvant, and Durrell Wright should all be considered for All-League honors.

Playing at home, Inderkum must be considered the favorite in this contest, but that comment is not accompanied by a guarantee.  Davis is exactly the type of team that can play beyond its perceived limitations and smash unwarranted assumptions and predictions.

Host Inderkum is undefeated, and the visiting Blue Devils have not lost a road game all season.  Something’s got to give.  So if you’re partial to fierce, flashy, fall football games, better make plans to settle-in and watch this one.