The boys in blue are enjoying life.
Fresh off the program’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship win, Sierra High’s football team is keeping things light in practice this week as it anxiously awaits its next test. The Timberwolves (8-5) are one of four SJS teams already crowned after capturing the Division IV banner last Saturday, joining Sonora (Division V), Bradshaw Christian (Division VI) and Stone Ridge Christian (Division VII).
Valley Oak League rivals Oakdale and Central Catholic will go at it again, this time in the Division III finale Friday. Also on Friday, Rocklin and Del Oro compete for the Division II section title, and Folsom defends its Division I championship against Elk Grove on Saturday.
The next step for Sierra and 50 other section champions in the state is the expanded CIF Regional Bowl series. Stone Ridge Christian will play Mission of San Francisco in a play-in game on Saturday. The CIF will release its regional Bowl matchups Sunday.
Until then, Sierra will continue to work on building off its impressive 42-0 drubbing of Liberty Ranch. On Monday, the Timberwolves reviewed film on their championship performance but more as fans. They’ll return to the film room today but with a more critical eye.
“It will be another learning opportunity for our players,” Harbison said after practice Wednesday. “We’ve been working perfecting our game. We’re not worrying about who we might play next week. There is no telling whatsoever.”
Sierra is the second area squad to compete in a Bowl game. In 2013, Manteca rolled to the SJS Division III title before losing a 27-21 heartbreaker to Enterprise of Redding in the Northern California Division II game.
The CIF introduced the Bowl series in 2006, and until this year the 10 section commissioners met to determine which section champions would get a chance to claim a state pennant.
Now, all section titlists advance, but section commissioners still have some work to do. They’ll first pick two teams — one from Northern California and another from the south — to face off for the state’s Open Division title. A separate Open Division Game will take place for schools with enrollments of 1,250 or less.
Unlike in years past, the divisions will not be based on enrollment. Section heads will instead break teams up according to competitive equity. Among the criteria considered for divisional placement includes: win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, common opponents, rankings (MaxPreps, CalPreps, Cal-Hi Sports) and opponents’ win-loss record.
The new divisions, other than the two Opens, are: I-AA, I-A, II-AA, II-A, III-AA, III-A, IV-AA, IV-A, V-AA, V-A and VI-AA. The Northern and Southern California winners of each division square off in stage Bowl games, while teams selected for the Open championships skip the regional round.
No matter who, or where, they are playing next week, the Timberwolves are grateful to be practicing in December.
“We were a 5-5 team (at the end of the regular season) that now has the possibility of hosting a NorCal championship game,” Harbison said. “Our goal this year was to be practicing Thanksgiving week and here we are in the first week of December. It’s quite an accomplishment for our players.”