Expect Merced to push the pace in playoff against River Valley
With the Merced High football team on a bye last week, Bears coach Rob Scheidt had the opportunity to scout the Bears’ next opponent. Scheidt made the trip to Sacramento to watch No. 11 River Valley (6-5) defeat No. 6 40-14 at Sacramento City College’s Hughes’ Stadium.
It’s an advantage to see a team in person and not just on video.
“They’re big and physical,” Scheidt said.
Merced (10-0) is the No. 3 seed and will host the Falcons in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs at Veterans Stadium on Friday night.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Expect to see Merced push the pace as Scheidt tries to use all the Bears’ weapons who have helped the offense average more than 50 points per game.
The Bears are at their best when they play fast with their dash and pass offense, spearheaded by quarterbacks Dhameer Warren and Junior Garcia.
Merced wants to tire out a River Valley team.
“They have seven or eight players going both ways in key positions,” Scheidt said. “That plays into our style of play. For us, it’s going to be key to get them off the field. We want to get as many three-and-outs as we can. At the same time, we can’t panic if we give up a first down.”
On the other sideline, River Valley brings a wing-T offense that will try to grind it out with a big offensive line and three running backs. Evan Strickland leads the Falcons offense with 812 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Hilmar is the only other Merced-area team playing at home Friday night. Like Merced, the Yellowjackets (8-2) had a bye last week as the No. 2 seed in Division VI. Hilmar (8-2) will host No. 10 Amador (8-3).
The Yellowjackets are looking to catch fire in the playoffs like they did last year, which ended with a section championship. Hilmar finished this year with two straight wins in which it outscored its two opponents 98-13.
The other five area teams hit the road this week and all five teams will face the No. 1 seed in their division.
Buhach Colony (9-2) will face top-seeded Capital Christian (10-0). The No. 8 Thunder defeated No. 9 Ponderosa 28-19 last week.
The Cougars are led by senior D’Marcus Ross, who has rushed for 1,650 yards and 17 touchdowns. Ross has received more than a dozen scholarship offers from Division I schools.
“He’s the real deal,” said Thunder coach Kevin Navarra. “The difference with him is his size. He’s listed at (5-foot-11) and 210 pounds. He may be a better at linebacker for them.”
In Division IV, No. 8 Pacheco (9-2) will travel to No. 1 Rio Linda (8-2). The Knights feature probably the best player in the Division IV bracket in running back Cameron Skattebo, who has rushed for 2,152 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
Across town, Los Banos (8-3) will also make a long trip to face No. 1 Colfax in the Division V playoffs. The Falcons went a perfect 10-0 in the regular season and were led by quarterback Alex Weir, who threw for 1,810 yards and 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Gustine (6-5) is the No. 4 seed in Division VII and will face Southern League foe Denair (9-1) in the semifinals. The Coyotes are the top seed and coming off a bye. Denair defeated Gustine 49-14 earlier this season.
In the Central Section, No. 9 seed Dos Palos (6-5) will face No. 1 Shafter (10-0) in the Division V quarterfinals. The Broncos went on the road and defeated No. 8 Bishop Union 41-8 last week.
Merced quarterback Junior Garcia passed during a 41-7 win over Golden Valley in the 25th annual Battle for the Mayor’s Cup on Oct. 26. The third-seeded Bears host No. 11 River Valley in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs Friday night.
Buhach Colony’s Jon Buttrey carries the ball Aug. 17 against Gregori at Atwater High School. The Thunder beat the Jaguars 13-6. Buhach Colony (9-2) will face top-seeded Capital Christian (10-0) on Friday.