Chris Johnson can now discuss the postseason.
The second-year Sierra head coach, who emphasizes one game at a time with his young squad, has led the Timberwolves (5-5) back to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after they went 2-8 last season. Seeded ninth in Division IV, they’ll square off with a familiar opponent in No. 8 Pacheco (8-2) this Friday.
Manteca (7-3) is the No. 5 seed as it defends its Division III championship, while Ripon (9-1) and Ripon Christian (10-0) each get first-round byes in Divisions V and VI, respectively.
Sierra has a chance to avenge a 36-14 loss to Pacheco back in Week 2, but this time the T’wolves will travel to Los Banos. The Panthers captured a piece of its first Western Athletic Conference title, settling for a tri-championship after dropping a 28-21 upset loss to rival Los Banos last Friday. The Sierra-Pacheco winner gets top-seeded Rio Linda (8-2).
Oakdale (7-3), which placed third in the Valley Oak League and is a 2017 SJS Division III finalist, is also in Division IV and the No. 5 seed.
Manteca opens with a dangerous Burbank (6-4) team that has claimed six of its last seven after starting the season 0-3. No. 4 Antelope (6-4) awaits the winner. The Buffaloes are in a loaded bracket that includes three 10-0 teams — No. 1 Capital Christian, No. 2 Placer, No. 3 Merced — that were elevated from Division IV for winning Division III leagues.
Ripon earned the second seed and in Division V and a share of the Trans-Valley League crown after squeaking out a thrilling 25-22 come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Modesto Christian. The Indians will play host to No. 7 Mountain House (9-1), which is part of that WAC tri-championship, and No. 10 Union Mine (4-5). Undefeated Colfax is the top seed. No. 2 Bear River (9-1) and No. 4 Sonora (6-4) also get first-round byes.
Ripon did no favors for neighboring rival Ripon Christian by beating Modesto Christian, which would have joined the Indians in Division V with a Week 10 victory. The Crusaders instead remain in Division VI along with fellow TVL juggernauts Hilmar (8-2) and Escalon (8-2), seeded second and third, respectively.
Ripon Christian is the 2017 Division VII runner-up but gets bumped up for claiming the outright title in the Southern League, a Division VI conference. The fourth-seeded Knights could get another crack at the team they lost to in the section final, as No. 5 Rio Vista (9-1) has also ascended to Division VI. Rio Vista plays No. 12 Waterford (6-4), with the winner heading to Ripon Christian on Nov. 9.