It’s make-or-break time in high school football.
Week eight of area action features a series of games packed to the brim with league title implications. St. Mary’s High hosts Tracy tonight in a 7:15 matchup that could decide the Tri-City Athletic League champion.
Elsewhere in town, Edison plays at McNair in a battle of the last unbeaten San Joaquin Athletic Association teams. And further south, Ripon puts its perfect 7-0 record on the line against Escalon.
Standing in the center of it all are the Rams, three straight wins removed from an 0-4 start. The strength of competition didn’t exactly help matters early on, but head coach Tony Franks said the team took their lumps, learned from them and has started to play better ball at just the right time.
“We’re in a battle for a league title. Each week matters,” Franks said. “This is a time of the year where teams get developed, come together and play well. There’s a lot at stake.”
Both St. Mary’s (3-4, 2-0 TCAL) and Tracy (5-2, 2-0 TCAL) are winners of three straight, and both seemed to have carved out respective offensive strategies. The Rams have a three-deep backfield with junior Taj Morris (424 rushing yards), sophomore Tyrei Washington (410) and senior William Brown (332).
The Bulldogs’ offense, meanwhile, starts with junior quarterback Logan Fife (1,255 passing yards, 178 rushing yards) and is flanked by talented teammates like Trevor Pope II (468 rush yards, 372 receiving) and Trevion Shadrick-Harris (531 receiving yards).
Franks said Tracy is a talented, well-coached bunch, and stopping them on offense will be a challenge. The Rams’ answer, as plain as it sounds, will be executing fundamentals.
Franks wouldn't quite say the Rams are putting polish on parts of the playbook. There's too much work left to be done to get where St. Mary's wants to be.
“We’re not at a place where it requires polish,” Franks said. “It requires a hammer and a saw and a screwdriver.
“We want to look up at the end of the day and say we’re playing good football.”
Edison (5-2, 2-0 SJAA) at McNair (4-3, 2-0 SJAA), 7:15 p.m.: Much has been said of both the Vikings’ freshman running back Raleek Brown and their stout defensive unit, and deservedly so. Brown has 897 rushing yards, 471 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns, and the defense has allowed more than 19 points just once.
The play of junior quarterback Treyvon Breckenridge, however, has been just as impressive. The backup at season’s start, Breckenridge stepped in after an injury sidelined Edison starter Davis Raya-Ruiz and proceeded to complete 70 percent of his passes for 988 yards and 14 touchdowns against a single interception.
The Eagles are the team tasked with shattering Edison’s four-game winning streak, not to mention propelling their own three-game climb. They have the talent to do so, with senior Rafael Lara’s 1,061 passing yards and 10 touchdowns pacing the offense and a defense that loves to pressure the quarterback, led by senior Ricke Branch and his six sacks.
Ripon (7-0, 3-0 Trans Valley League) at Escalon (5-2, 1-2 TVL), 7:30 p.m.: Senior signal caller Ryan Daggett sets the tone for Ripon. The QB has nearly as many passing yards (605) as rushing (614) and has 17 total touchdowns between his arm and legs.
That, combined with a defense that’s recorded four shutouts, makes for a tall task to take down. The Cougars will take their own crack at it, led by a running trio composed of sophomore Luke Anderson (464 yards) and juniors Colton Panero (307) and Kaden Christensen (333).
Stagg (4-3, 1-1 SJAA) at Bear Creek (4-3, 0-2 SJAA), 7 p.m.: The Delta Kings bounced back nicely, though expectedly, from a league-opening loss to Edison by winning big over Franklin.
Stagg may have to win out the rest of the way to have a chance at the SJAA crown. The Delta Kings have proven they’ve got the fire power to do just that, with senior quarterback Cameron DeVille’s 1,695 yards and 25 touchdowns as a testament.
They first have to get past Bear Creek, losers of two straight at the hands of Chavez and Edison, respectively. The Bruins are still capable of rattling off some wins to close the season, with standouts like seniors Terry Holmes (697 rushing yards, 11 TD’s) and Chaz Davis (613 receiving yards, nine scores).
Stone Ridge Christian (4-3, 2-1 Central California Athletic Alliance) at Brookside Christian (5-2, 3-0 CCAA), 7 p.m. Saturday at McNair: The Knights started the season 2-2, but have won three straight to position themselves in a tie for first place in the CCAA.
Junior Michael Knight has been an integral part of that, running for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns while also intercepting a pair of passes on defense.
MORE AREA GAMES
7 p.m. kickoffs: Chavez (5-2, 1-1 SJAA) at Franklin (1-6, 0-2 SJAA), Johansen (2-5, 1-3 Western Athletic Conference) at Lathrop (2-5, 2-2 WAC), East Union (2-5, 1-2 Valley Oak League) at Sierra (3-4, 1-2 VOL), Rio Vista (6-1, 2-0 Sierra Delta League at Linden (3-4, 1-1 SDL), Weston Ranch (0-7, 0-3 VOL) at Manteca (4-3, 2-1 VOL), Calaveras (4-3, 2-0 Mother Lode League) at Argonaut (5-2, 1-1 MLL). 7:15 p.m. kickoffs: Lodi (1-6, 0-2 TCAL) at West (3-4, 1-1 TCAL), Tokay (0-7, 0-2 TCAL) at Lincoln (1-6, 1-1 TCAL), Mariposa County (2-5, 1-3 Southern League) at Ripon Christian (7-0, 4-0 SL).
5 p.m. kickoffs; Amador (6-1, 1-1 MLL) at Sonora (3-4, 2-0 MLL). 7 p.m. kickoffs; Bret Harte (2-5, 0-2 MLL) at Summerville (2-5, 0-2 MLL), Kimball (3-5, 1-3 VOL) at Oakdale (6-2, 3-1). 7:30 p.m. kickoffs, Mountain House (7-0, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference) at Pacheco (6-1, 4-0 WAC).