by Will James
Hometown Sports
With post-season play set to begin in less than two weeks, both Delta League teams in Access Sacramento’s Hometown Sports Game-of-the-Week match-up Friday evening, are in their typical position at this stage of the season; contending for a solid seeding in the rapidly approaching playoffs.
Familiar foes Elk Grove and Franklin will tangle at Cosumnes Oaks High School Friday at 7:00 pm to determine which of these 3-2 teams, currently deadlocked in a 3-way tie along with Monterey Trail, will move past the other with just one game remaining in the regular season that concludes next week.
This live telecast may be seen on Comcast or  Consolidated Communications cable channel 17, and AT&T U-Verse channel 14.  The game will also be streamed from and on the NFHS Network.
For the first time after 19 seasons guiding Burbank, new Elk Grove Head Coach John Heffernan is experiencing the week-to-week peril of the formidable Delta League gauntlet that’s annually stocked with five ranked playoff teams.  This awakening is a far cry from Heffernan’s annual cake walk through the Metro League while coaching the Titans.
Despite enduring a rough season, Elk Grove (3-2, 4-4) is still in a position to continue forging a two or three-way tie and possible emergence into the post-season depending upon the outcome of this Friday’s tie-breaker scenario.
With a virtually non-existent passing attack, Heffernan’s typically run-heavy triple option offense has remained intact.  The Herd’s rushing average accounts for 283 of Elk Grove’s 329 average total yards per game.  Two seniors — RB Zion Thomas and QB Jake Jordan — lead the way with a combined 1643 yards and 21 TD thus far in the season.
Elk Grove maintains a respectable 29.5 scoring average, but unlike Elk Grove teams of the past couple decades, a porous defense has been a glaring weakness this season; a sobering campaign that has seen the Herd surrender an average of 33.2 points.  Linebacker George Spithorst leads a vulnerable defense.  The Senior Captain has registered 81 tackles and forced four fumbles and recovered three.         
On the flip side, veteran Head Coach Mike Johnson finds his Franklin Wildcats (3-2, 6-2) in an all too familiar status coming down the stretch as they approach their Week-9 contest.  Johnson has guided the Wildcats to nine playoff appearances in 12 seasons.

Franklin’s #4 Jalen Lampley on Game of the Week earlier this year.

Unlike Elk Grove, Franklin has a well balanced offense that generates averages of 132 yards passing and 229 on the ground.  The rushing tandem of Jalen Lampley and Daniel Ross are a formidable combo, combining this season for 1391 yards and 14 touchdowns.  Sophomore QB Brandon Rundgren is maturing rapidly.  He’s completed 56% of his passes for more than 1000 yards and 10 TDs, finding his favorite target, Brady Johnson, 24 times for 456 yards and four TDs.

Top tacklers for Franklin are LB John Montgomery, DL Jershon Cocker, and DB Ryan Ortez, who have totaled 173 stops for a stingy defense that allows an average of just 13.8 points.
Expect a raucous crowd in attendance for this pivotal contest whose outcome will preserve playoff hopes for one of the teams, and dismiss the other from post-season contention.  It will be a war.