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Lathrop, Ranch, Sierra vying for playoff berths
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Three are in, and three others are on the cusp of a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.

It will all be settled tonight as the regular season comes to a close. 

Manteca (4-2, 7-2 overall) has the last of three automatic berths already wrapped up in the Valley Oak League and hosts archrival East Union (0-6, 3-6). The same goes for Ripon Christian (4-2, 7-2) in the Southern League, as the Knights head to postseason hopeful Delhi. Ripon (4-0, 6-3) heads to Hughson with intentions of seizing sole possession of the Trans-Valley League crown.

All three are projected to host first-round contests according to MaxPreps, which used computer predictions to determine the winners of all Week 10 contests in the section as well as seedings for the Division I-VI brackets. A pool of 72 qualifiers will be divided into six enrollment-based divisions. The largest divisions will consist of 16-team brackets, while Divisions IV, V and VI will have eight teams apiece.

Of the three local bubble teams, MaxPreps has only Lathrop (3-3, 5-4) moving on. The Spartans, seeking their first-ever postseason appearance, entertain Kimball (1-5, 2-7) tonight and can secure an at-large berth with a win. MaxPreps has the Spartans seeded sixth in Division IV — away from the VOL powerhouses in D-III — while facing a familiar foe in 5-4 Liberty Ranch, which is closing in on an outright Sierra Valley Conference championship. Lathrop defeated the Hawks in Galt 20-14 in Week 1.

Weston Ranch (2-4, 5-4) is also within reach of a berth but will need to win at defending VOL co-champion Sierra (2-4, 4-5). A Sierra win puts the Timberwolves in the mix because of their strength of schedule — their 49 opponents’ wins ranks them highly with other current four-win teams — but they’ll need some help. MaxPreps predicts a Sierra victory but with both teams staying home for the postseason.

Like Lathrop, Weston Ranch and Sierra would probably compete in Division IV, where former VOL foe Sonora is the top seed on the MaxPreps bracket.

Division III may be the deepest of all. Even with a projected eight wins, MaxPreps has Manteca seeded seventh and pits the Buffaloes with Benicia. Five teams in the division have a chance to carry 10-0 records in the playoffs with Central Catholic and Oakdale, both undefeated, playing each other for the VOL title tonight. The winner is the likely No. 1 seed in Division III. Inderkum, Placer and Patterson are also 9-0.

Ripon will be placed in the winnable Division V bracket. MaxPreps has top-seeded Capital Christian and Modesto Christian squaring off in the first round, which would be a rematch of the 2014 Division V championship game won by Capital. Ripon is a projected 4 seed that would take on the CC-MC winner.

Ripon Christian is No. 3 in MaxPreps’ Division VI bracket. Although Bradshaw Christian is the likely 1 seed here, traditional TVL power Hilmar could be a heavy favorite.

Brackets will be revealed Saturday afternoon. The section is hosting a free live selection show online through the NFHS Network ( starting at approximately 4.