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VOL on track to have 3 top seeds for postseason
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Manteca linebacker Blake Nichelson pressures Central Catholic quarterback Tyler Wentworth last Friday, Oct. 15 at David Patton Memorial Field. - photo by Wayne Thallander

The Valley Oak League could have three No. 1 seeds for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, according to the latest projections by MaxPreps.

There is one more week left of the regular season after tonight’s games and there is much left to be decided.

Eighty teams in the SJS qualify for the postseason with guaranteed berths reserved for league champions. The rest of the field is filled by at-large qualifiers based on their CalPreps/MaxPreps computer ratings, and teams must have at least four games to make the cut. A mix of school enrollment and competitive equity is used to divide the teams into seven divisions, the first six with 12 teams each and the seventh with eight.

Manteca (7-1) is the projected No. 1 seed in Division III even after its 56-33 loss at Central Catholic (7-1), which has vaulted to the top spot in Division II, thanks to undefeated Rocklin’s stunning 40-7 win over Folsom. Rocklin topped the Division-II field in MaxPreps’ previous projections, but the Thunder would have to compete in Division I if it goes on to claim the Sierra Foothill League title.

Manteca will definitely have to earn the top seed the next two weeks with a challenging closing stretch. Tonight, the Buffaloes face state-leading passer Nicholas Coronado and Kimball (7-1), which is predicted by MaxPreps to take the top spot in Division IV. Oakdale (5-2) hosts Manteca in Week 10 and has a chance to move up from its projected fourth seed in Division III.

East Union (5-3) is also expected to advance, giving the VOL a fifth qualifier. The Lancers may host a first-round game in Division IV — MaxPreps has them at No. 5 — but have tough assignments for the rest of the regular season with Central Catholic and Kimball both visiting Dino Cunial Field.

In Division V, Ripon (6-2) and Lathrop (5-2) could potentially meet in the opening round as they are projected as the No. 7 and 11 seeds, respectively. Both are playing league games tonight that could have huge ramifications in the bracket.

Projected top seed Escalon (7-1) hosts Ripon tonight in a battle for the Trans-Valley League title. Ripon likely gets a first-round bye by winning out — the Indians get a tough Hughson team in Week 10 — while Escalon moves to Division VI because of its enrollment. Meanwhile in the Western Athletic Conference, Lathrop travels to Los Banos (3-4) for a game that may eliminate the loser from postseason contention. Lathrop is ranked 78th overall in the SJS by CalPreps, while the Tigers are 84th.

Ripon Christian (5-3) is not included in MaxPreps’ predictions. The Knights were one of three programs to receive postseason bans by the SJS for their participation in what were deemed to be illegal games over the spring. They head to Gustine (3-4) tonight, and the Reds are vying for their playoff lives.