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POSTED November 5, 2009 2:53 a.m.
Valley Oak League
Sierra (4-1, 7-1) at Oakdale (5-0, 8-0)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m.
• Last year: 31-21, Oakdale
• Key matchup: Sierra LBs vs. Oakdale RBs. Sierra’s physical linebackers will be put to the test against 6-foot-2, 220-pound fullback Tim House and speedsters Devin Brooks and Blake Raham. The trio amassed 364 yards in a 35-23 victory over Manteca last week.
• Closer look: Sierra made its first-ever playoff appearance last year and went on to win its first postseason contest. The Timberwolves can accomplish more “firsts” at The Corral, as they look to beat Oakdale for the first time and earn a share of its first VOL title. QB Jonathan Davis was impressive in his return from an ankle sprain last week against Ceres, completing 12 of 17 passes for 202 yards and four TDs. His play will be key after Manteca kept Oakdale’s stout defense off balanced through the air.

East Union (1-4, 3-5) at Ceres (0-5, 0-8)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7:15 p.m.
• Last year: 30-14, Ceres
• Key matchup: East Union WR/DB T.J. Brown vs. Ceres WR/DB Justin Canatsy. Canatsy leads the Bulldogs with 477 yards and six TDs on 39 receptions and has three picks on defense. Brown is EU’s best downfield threat, as he averages 22.4 yards per catch and has 470 total to go with seven scores. He also has two interceptions.
• Closer look: Injury-plagued Ceres will look to avoid a second winless season in three years but will have to find ways to limit the Lancers’ passing game. Ceres has given up no less than 34 points in a game, and East Union QB Dennis Johnson (63 percent passing, 1,119 yards, eight TDs) is back from an ankle injury after missing Week 7. East Union has a chance to win four games in a season for just the second time since 2004.

Central Valley (1-4, 3-5) at Manteca (3-2, 5-3)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m.
• Last year: 32-14, Manteca
• Key matchup: Manteca front seven vs. Central Valley RB Vince Lopez. Lopez (830 yards, seven TDs) is a big play to happen in every facet having scored multiple times from scrimmage, on defense and special teams. After yielding 364 yards to the league’s top running team in Oakdale, the Buffaloes hope to get the defense back to form for a likely playoff run.
• Closer look: With a share of the VOL championship no longer a possibility, Manteca can still earn a postseason bid by winning out. The Buffaloes will look to junior Matt Burrows to fill in for Matt Barber (concussion) at QB, while workhorse Marquis Miller continues to carry the load on the ground. Central Valley, coming off its first league win of the season, lost big to the VOL’s other top teams but were in each game for a half.

Weston Ranch (2-3, 3-5) at Sonora (4-1, 7-1)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7:15 p.m.
• Last year: 40-33, Sonora
• Key matchup: Weston Ranch front seven vs. Sonora RB Dan Link. It took Link just seven carries to rush for 164 yards and two TDs last week against East Union. Link is the VOL’s leading rusher with 1,200 yards and 12 scores and hasn’t been held under the century mark yet.
• Closer look: Weston Ranch has given Sonora fits in recent years and could ruin the Wildcats’ bid for a title share with a stunning victory on the road. The Cougars hope to shake off last week’s poor performance against Central Valley, which notched its first league win of the season. Jason Steele, operating out of the Wildcat offense, became Weston Ranch’s third starting QB this year as the Cougars look for creative ways to jump start the offense.

Trans Valley League
Riverbank (0-3, 2-6) at Ripon (2-1, 6-2)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
• Last year: 47-0, Ripon
• Key matchup: Ripon RB Nick Curtice vs. LB Jose Moreno. Moreno is a playmaking beast at 6-2, 270. Curtice (869 yards, rive TDs) is coming off his best offensive performance of the year in which he rambled for 219 yards and three scores against Ripon Christian.
• Closer look: Ripon can clinch an automatic playoff berth for the first time since 2006 with a win and could still be in line for the title. Modesto Christian, which was given its toughest challenge by Ripon in a 21-13 win on Week 7, squares off with defending champion Escalon — Ripon’s final regular-season opponent. If Escalon beats MC but loses to Ripon, it would create a three-way share of the title.

Hughson (0-3, 1-7) at Ripon Christian (1-2, 3-5)

• Kickoff: Saturday, 8 p.m.
• Last year: 26-13, Hughson
• Key matchup: Ripon Christian OL vs. Hughson DE Justin Aguilar. Ripon Christian can improve its chances by keeping Hughson’s leading tackler (56) and pass rusher (11.5 sacks) away from its backfield. At 6-4, 245, Aguilar is a tough matchup for anyone.
• Closer look: It’s a battle between the best of the rest in the TVL, and the Knights could make a huge statement before heading to the Southern League next year. Hughson hasn’t won since its non-league opener against Waterford (40-15) a team Ripon Christian beat 43-12 in Week 3. The Huskies have suffered landslide defeats ever since, including back-to-back shutouts against Escalon and Modesto Christian by a combined 102-0 score.

Sacramento (4-4) at Lathrop (0-8)

• Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
• Last year: N/A
• Key matchup: Lathrop front seven vs. Sacramento RBs. Clinton Johnson leads the Dragons with 969 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Matthew Ajayi has rushed for 449 and five scores.
• Closer look: It appears to be huge mismatch on paper, but Sacramento’s victories are against four opponents with a combined 2-30 record. The Dragons do have experience on their side to go with multiple big-play threats. The first-year varsity Spartans will close their independent schedule at home before becoming a full-fledged, four-class program in the VOL next year. The 3-5 sophomore team ends the season against brand-new Kimball of Tracy next week.

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