East Union (1-7) at Sonora (3-5): East Union has given up 54 points in back-to-back weeks. Now, the defense faces a physical triple-option offense in a tough matchup on the road (42-17, Sonora).
Oakdale (7-1) at Manteca (5-3): The Mustangs have continued to stampede their way through the VOL, ending their last 13 league contests with running clocks (49-20, Oakdale).
Sierra (7-1) at Lathrop (0-8): Sierra’s balanced spread attack is firing on all cylinders, while Lathrop’s offense has yet to get into a groove (42-6, Sierra).
Kimball (3-5) at Weston Ranch (4-4): The Cougars are playing for a postseason berth, but Kimball’s 1-2 punch of QB Zach Johnson and RB Evan Owens could ruin that possibility (34-22, Kimball).
Ripon (9-0) at Orestimba (5-3): There is much at stake for both teams. Orestimba has an exciting RB in Steven Machado, but the Indians’ depth and physicality may be too much (42-13, Ripon).
Gustine (1-7) at Ripon Christian (6-2): Coming off two less-than-stellar efforts, RC looks to get back on track as the SL’s top dog, Le Grand, awaits in Week 10 (35-6, Ripon Christian).
Last week: 6-0 (45-3 overall).
A scheduling oddity has Ripon High’s football team ending its regular season a week earlier than most teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section this Friday.
Not that the Indians are complaining.
Should they win in Newman, where they face playoff-hopeful Orestimba, they’ll have an extra week to celebrate a rare feat and prepare for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Ripon is gunning for sole possession of the Trans-Valley League championship, a perfect 10-0 finish and a top-two seed for the SJS Division IV postseason bracket. According to the Modesto Bee, the 1983 team was the last to go undefeated in the regular season, carrying its perfect mark to the SJS Division III title game won by Justin-Siena, 27-6. The Indians already have a portion of the TVL title locked up, their first since winning the Southern League in 1996.
Even with the toughest part of their schedule behind them, the (5-0, 9-0 overall) Indians are likely to treat Orestimba (1-3, 5-3) with the same respect they show to the TVL’s traditional powers.
The Warriors have one of the state’s leading rushers in junior Steven Machado (1,612 yards, 21 TDs) and have their own reasons to be motivated. After losing three in a row (Hilmar, Escalon, Hughson), they need to win one of their final two contests to reach the postseason for the third straight year. They close their regular season at Modesto Christian, which is also on the bubble.
Ripon would like to win impressively heading into its bye week and the playoffs, especially after a lackluster week of practice that led to a sloppy 41-19 thumping of last-place Riverbank.
East Union at Sonora
East Union (1-4, 1-7) matched its season high for points scored in a game with last week’s 54-28 Valley Oak League loss to Kimball.
Sonora (2-3, 3-5) has shown vulnerability on defense, but its option offense could give the Lancer defense fits. The Wildcats are especially tough at home, and they aren’t short on motivation needing to win out for a chance to sneak into the postseason with an at-large berth.
Oakdale at Manteca
This annual showdown between VOL heavyweights almost always has meaning for both teams, and that is the case again this Friday.
Manteca (4-1, 5-3) can force a three-way tie atop the standings with an upset victory while guaranteeing its spot in the SJS playoffs. All three of its losses have come at home against two 7-1 teams (Los Banos, Sierra) and undefeated Stagg.
But the five-time defending champion Mustangs (5-0, 7-1) are on a mission to reach the SJS Division III finals for a third straight year, and they appear to be getting better every week. Their last 13 VOL contests ended with the clock running — that’s how dominant they’ve been.
Sierra at Lathrop
Sierra (4-1, 7-1) is on track for an automatic berth to the playoffs with its toughest VOL opponents out of the way.
Anthony Cota (1,519 rushing yards, 32 total TDs) is two scores away from being the school’s new single-season touchdown king, and the offense is more formidable with the emergence of junior QB Jake Pruitt.
Kimball at Weston Ranch
There are playoff implications for both squads. Weston Ranch (2-3, 4-4) likely clinches with wins over Kimball (2-3, 3-5) this Friday and Sierra in Week 10, but the Cougars have yet to beat a quality opponent.
Kimball gives itself a chance, though probably a slim one, to qualify by winning out. Its 43-26 win over Sonora three weeks ago is the biggest for the third-year varsity squad. Weston Ranch will have its hands full with QB Zack Johnson, arguably one of the best players in the league.
Gustine at Ripon Christian
Ripon Christian (4-1 Southern League, 6-2 overall) suffered a 49-7 loss to Waterford in a game that many felt the Knights could win.
The title may be out of reach for RC with heavily-favored Le Grand looming in Week 10, but it could make a run at an SJS title if it remains in Division VI.
Gustine (1-4, 1-7) shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Knights, but they haven’t been at their best in recent weeks.