Modesto Panthers vs. Sheldon Huskies 

by Will James

Hometown Sports

The second season has arrived.  It’s the post-season, and playoff time for high school football in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section.  The expectations are high and the field of teams is daunting, certainly in Division-1 bracket, where the 12-seed Modesto Panthers travels north to clash with 5th-seeded Sheldon Huskies Friday evening in opening-round playoff action on Access Sacramento’s Hometown Sports Game of the Week.

This game may be seen at 7 p.m. on Comcast Cable channel 17, Consolidated Communications channel 17, and AT&T U-Verse channel 14.  Online, the game will only be streamed live on the NFHS Network.

Coach Brett Wagner’s unpredictable Modesto Panthers (5-5, 1-4) of the Central California Athletic League have been both dominant and underwhelming with equal efficiency.

In its five victories, Modesto has averaged 40 point-per-game.  In their five losses, the Panthers scored just 14 ppg.  So, which team will show up Friday at Sheldon to play for a spot in the Quarter-Finals?

That remains to be seen, but what is known, is that Modesto likes to run the football.  An imposing corps of Running backs headline the Panthers’ offense.  RBs Zaire Eugene (758 yds.) and James Hayes (612 yds.) lead the way, and Daeveon Graves (390 yds.) and Alonzo Rodriguez (305 yds.) pick up the slack.  Wide receiver and Kick Return Specialist, Jaquile Ingram is a big play game-breaker.

Sheldon’s #8 Tyrell Smith picks up a loose ball after a blocked punt and returns the fumble 17 yards for a TD vs. Franklin Oct. 26

Meanwhile, Coach Joe Cattolico’s Delta League Champion Huskies (9-1, 5-0) will counter with a rushing attack just as formidable.  Tyrell Smith sets the pace with 1328 yds. and 19 TD.  Justin Williams (504  yds., 6 TD) and Ladon Johnson (502 yds., 7 TD) round out a versatile, balanced backfield.  Receivers Dillon Juniel and Michael Graves are high impact receivers and kick returners.

The burden for both clubs rests on their respective defensive units.  Whichever team can slow and contain its opponent to fewer rushing yards should prevail.  However, the wild card is the passing game, which generally provides just a meager contribution in the Total Offense category, but may be the ultimate X-Factor that provides the deciding points and winning margin.

Announcers (from left) Jim Dimino, Will James and Lauren Goodman.

Access Sacramento Announcer’s Will James and Jim Dimino call the action with Lauren Goodman on the sidelines for updates and player or coach interviews. Game of the Week is now in its 21st season providing coverage of Sacramento County high school and college athletics.