East Union and Weston Ranch enter uncharted territory tonight, while Ripon Christian looks to build on its decades-long tradition of small-school supremacy in the CIF State Northern California Regional Championships.
East Union has reached the pinnacle of the boys soccer season and gets the honor of hosting its first-ever NorCal title game appearance against private-school power Harker from San Jose. Kickoff for the Division III final is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Ticket prices are higher for the regional championships — $12 general admission, and $8 for seniors 65-over, students with ASB cards and children 5-over.
At 6, Weston Ranch and Ripon Christian return to the hardwood for their NorCal semifinals.
The Ranch will be locked in an all-Stockton showdown in Division II as it faces St. Mary's, while Ripon Christian squares off with Fall River of McArthur in Division VI.
Here's a closer look at each matchup:
No. 4 Harker at No. 2 East Union
Two programs enjoying historic seasons converge at Dino Cunial Field.
Both have recently claimed their first section championships, with East Union (16-3-8) toppling top-seeded Galt 2-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final and the Eagles (18-3-3) beating Saint Francis of Mountain View in penalty kicks for the Central Coast Section Division III crown.
On Thursday, East Union knocked off third-seeded Branham, the CCS Division II titlist, 2-1, behind two goals from Alex Arroyo. The Lancers are in top form heading into their biggest game in program history, holding a 13-0-2 record since their Valley Oak League loss to Weston Ranch.
Harker also came up short of a conference title, placing third in the competitive West Bay Athletic League. The Eagles have been soaring since.
While East Union has gotten to this point in the postseason with late go-ahead goals, Harker has done it via PK shootouts — its last four victories were all decided on the penalty spot, most recently in the opening round or NorCals against Galt and in an upset of No. 1-seeded Ygnacio Valley on Thursday.
No. 9 St. Mary's at No. 4 Weston Ranch
For as much success as both teams have had in recent years, their paths have rarely crossed.
History sides with the Rams (25-9), who won all three previous meetings that all ended in blowouts.
St. Mary's finished third in the Tri-City Athletic League but went on to shock top-seeded Jesuit on its way to the SJS Division II final where they lost to Grant. In NorCals, they opened with a 73-71 win over No. 8 Clovis East and got to host their quarterfinal thanks to Whitney's upset of No. 1-seeded Granada. St. Mary's went on to wax No. 16 Whitney, 89-67.
Three-sport standout Jamar Marshall (15.5 points per game), headed to Arizona State for track, leads the Rams.
Weston Ranch (22-12), in the NorCal semis for the first time, has proven itself worthy in the upper divisions while competing in the Division-III VOL, conquering higher-seeded opponents Folsom and Cosumnes Oaks en route to the SJS D1 semifinals. Their NorCal wins were over Piedmont and Oakland Tech.
The winner plays No. 2 St. Patrick-St. Vincent or No. 3 Sacred Heart Prep in the regional final Tuesday. The state championship is on March 14 at Golden 1 Center.
No. 3 Fall River at No. 2 Ripon Christian
These two teams last squared off in the 2018 NorCal semifinals, with Ripon Christian winning handily, 86-56. The Knights were then upset by Sacramento Adventist in the championship.
Fall River claimed the 2017 Division VI title, finishing 30-1.
The Bulldogs (24-6) are coming off a 60-49 victory over ST. Bernard’s of Eureka. They’re the Northern Section’s Division VI runner-up, losing to Shasta Cascade League rival Weed — the No. 1 seed of this NorCal bracket. They split their four overall meetings this, though Fall River claimed the league championship.
Similar to Ripon Christian, Fall River relies on a balanced attack led by Ryan Osborne (11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds), one of a handful of sophomore contributors on the team.
Ripon Christian seeks a fourth NorCal crown. The Knights have been dominant since dropping their regular-season finale against Ripon, a result that forced the two rivals to share the Trans-Valley League title while keeping Ripon Christian from getting bumped up to Division V for the playoffs.
Ripon Christian has won its four postseason games by an average margin of 26 points and opened NorCal play Wednesday with a 64-41 thumping of California School for the Deaf.