How about this juicy matchup to kick off the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV football playoffs?
According to The Bulletin’s postseason projections through Week 8, Ripon High would host Valley Oak League-stalwart Sonora — currently seeded eighth and ninth, respectively — if the first round were to take place this week.
Following the section’s playoff formula, the top 64 teams in Divisions I-IV were selected and divided into four enrollment-based brackets. For Divisions V-VI, 12 teams qualify and split in half according to enrollment size.
Teams are seeded based on head-to-head results, league standing, combined wins of opponents and Calpreps.com rankings in that order. Additionally, teams must win two games in league to qualify.
Since the season is still ongoing, automatic berths (league champions and runners-up) have yet to be determined, so no two projections are likely going to be the same.
Two teams from the Manteca area are locks, Ripon being one, and another is on the bubble in the small-school projections.
Manteca High is seeded second in Division III behind Oakdale, and the traditional rivals will square off with undefeated records and the VOL championship on the line this Friday. The loser could fall no further than the fourth spot going into the final week.
Defending Division-III titlist Del Oro (7-1) of Loomis looms in the No. 3 position, but its enrollment of 1,696 may catapult the Golden Eagles into the Division-II bracket. Los Banos is on its way to winning the Western Athletic Conference and rounds out the top four in Division III.
Back to Ripon, the Indians (6-2) have a favorable schedule the rest of the way and could move all the way up to No. 5 in Division IV should Placer and Central Catholic lose one of their final two contests.
Ripon’s third-place standing in the Trans-Valley League is holding it back, but its current total of opponents’ wins (41) is among the highest in the division with previous games played against three of the top four-seeded squads — No. 1 Hilmar (8-1), No. 3 Escalon (8-0) and No. 4 Argonaut (7-1), which lost to the Indians in non-league play.
Traditional powerhouse Colfax (8-0) is No. 2, and Liberty Ranch (6-3) is likely to fall from its No. 5 position since it has only one game remaining. Hilmar will also have a Week-10 bye and is seeded ahead of TVL rival Escalon because it has one more conference win under its belt.
Also worth noting in Division IV, Calaveras is currently in a second-place tie in the Mother Lode League but was bumped off the projections because of non-league losses to No. 15 Union Mine and No. 16 Modesto Christian.
In the Division-V/VI playoff picture, Ripon Christian (4-4) is making a late charge while riding a three-game winning streak in the Southern League.
The Knights are currently two spots shy of the 12th and final seed. Beating Waterford (4-4), another bubble team, and 1-7 Gustine would greatly help the Knights chances to garner an at-large berth.