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WEEK NINE PREVIEW: It's crunch time
RV faces must win game against Woodland
It's eight games into the season, and the road to the playoffs is becoming a bit clearer for the River Valley High football team.
Now, there is little margin for error.
The Falcons enter tonight's Tri-County Conference clash against visiting Woodland with a 5-3 overall record and sit on the bubble to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. (The Sacramento Bee has RV projected as the 16th and final seed if the postseason started today.)
A homecoming night victory would be a great way for RV's seniors to go out in their final home game, but a win tonight is crucial if the Falcons hope to secure the program's first postseason berth.
It's a must-win game to say the least, and River Valley coach Brandon Asher isn't about to look past the Wolves and their deceiving 1-7 record.
"We're taking it one game at a time. We've never beaten Woodland and Woodland is probably one of the most physical teams we play every year," Asher said. "They've got some key returners back, they played Inderkum decent, they played Yuba City decent, so they're going to come in here with some swagger."
The Falcons saw their three-game winning streak snapped last week with a 21-0 loss to five-time defending conference champion Inderkum in a game that was much closer than the score indicated.
RV trailed just 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter only to see the Tigers find the end zone twice late to come away with the win, dropping the Falcons to 2-1 in TCC play and forging a tie for second place.
On the other side of the ball sit the Wolves, who come into Falcon Stadium with a 1-2 conference mark after falling to Inderkum 26-7 two weeks ago and to first-place Yuba City 35-20 last week.
Stopping the Wolves' big-play spread offense will be imperative for the Falcons, as will getting their own offensive attack going against a Woodland D that has been leaky at times this season.
"Defensively, they have struggled and given up a lot of points," Asher noted. "Hopefully, we can attack them offensively and get the score up to where we need it to be successful."
A win tonight would also set up an epic battle against cross-town rival Yuba City in the Mayor's Cup next week. But for now, the Falcons must take care of business against a Woodland team they have yet to beat in six previous matchups.
Said Asher: "Basically, we've got to get this game first for a shot at a playoff berth."
Live Oak (6-2) at Pierce (8-0)
In Arbuckle — The Lions quest for a Northern Section playoff berth continues when they travel to take on the unbeaten Bears in a highly anticipated Sacramento Valley League showdown.
Live Oak comes into tonight's game with a 3-1 league record, and wins in the final two weeks will go a long way in securing a spot in the Division-II playoffs. A win by the Lions would also create a log-jam atop the SVL, where an outright league champion hasn't been crowned since 2008.
Pierce is 3-0 in the SVL and has been at or near the top of the D-III rankings all year long. The Bears won last year's meeting 21-20 in a game that went down to the wire and the teams are 2-2 against each other over the last four seasons.
Yuba City (7-1) at Natomas (0-8)
In Sacramento — The Honkers are sitting pretty atop the TCC at 3-0 and can secure at least a share of their first league crown in 25 years with a win over the winless Nighthawks.
Yuba City has been steadily making headway in the Cal-Hi Sports Division II Northern California state bowl rankings as well, moving all the way up to No. 4 in the latest poll.
Led by quarterback Taylor Elkins and the backfield combo of Nate Van Dusen and Omar Herrera, the Honkers have been lighting up the scoreboard all season and enter tonight's game averaging 426 yards of offense and 38 points per game.
Natomas is on the opposite end of the spectrum and has been outscored 377-81 on the year.
Orland (6-2) at Wheatland (6-2)
In Wheatland — In another big matchup, the Pirates and the Trojans will lock horns at John Sohrakoff Jr. Field where the winner will take over sole possession of second place in the Butte View League.
Both teams come in with identical 3-1 league records, with the only losses coming to first-place Sutter.
This game figures to be a battle between Wheatland's high-powered offense and Orland's hard-hitting, stout defense. The Pirates are putting up an average of 38 points per game, while the Trojans are allowing a mere 7.8 points per contest, one of the top marks in the Northern Section.
The Pirates had won the previous five meetings between the two teams before the Trojans won 44-7 last season on their way to the Division II title.
Las Plumas (2-6) at Sutter (8-0)
In Sutter — Fresh off a huge victory over Division-I power Enterprise last week, the Huskies return home to the friendly confines of Wayne Gadberry Field to resume BVL play against the Thunderbirds.
Sutter has moved up to No. 4 in the latest Cal-Hi Sports Division III Northern California state bowl rankings and has all but locked up the BVL title with two weeks left to go.
A powerful running game led by the senior tandem of Nathan Ahlers and Mat Sanders has been the main cog in Sutter's offensive attack, while the Huskies' defense has remained one of the best units in the Northern Section.
Las Plumas, which is another Division-I team, improved to 3-2 in the BVL with a 49-12 win over Gridley last week.
Biggs (3-5) at Maxwell (5-3)
In Maxwell — A pair of local squads heading in opposite directions will do battle when the Wolverines travel to meet the Panthers in a Mountain Valley League tilt.
Maxwell comes into the game with a 2-1 league record following a 27-21 setback to unbeaten and top-ranked Portola last week, a loss that snapped the Panthers' four-game winning streak.
Biggs, on the other hand, dropped its fourth straight game and fell to 0-3 in league play with a 33-32 loss to University Prep last week.
Marysville (2-6) at Dixon (7-1)
In Dixon — Fresh off their Battle of the Bell victory over cross-town rival Lindhurst, the Indians will hit the road to take on a tough Rams team in a key Golden Empire League contest.
Both teams enter tonight's game with a 2-1 league record, and the winner will have the upper hand in securing the No. 2 spot in the GEL and an automatic bid in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Look for the Indians to rely on junior workhorse Francisco Garcia, who has doubled as running back and quarterback during the course of the season while leading the team in rushing with 769 yards.
Mesa Verde (2-6) at Lindhurst (1-7)
In Olivehurst — The Blazers have steadily improved as the season has progressed and can help their slim playoff chances with a victory over the Mavericks at Dean Miller Stadium tonight.
Lindhurst lost to Marysville 42-19 last Friday, but has shown a lot of promise in recent weeks by unveiling a solid passing attack led by quarterback Tim Endicott, who has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last two games.
Like the Blazers, Mesa Verde enters tonight's game at 1-2 in the GEL after falling to first-place Capital Christian 54-6 a week ago.
Hamilton (5-3) at Colusa (4-4)
In Colusa — The RedHawks can solidify a spot in the Northern Section Division III playoffs with a win over the perennially-tough Braves at home.
Following a 49-36 victory over Quincy last week, Colusa upped its record to 2-1 in Mid-Valley League play and sits at No. 6 in the eight-team D-III bracket.
Hamilton, which would be the No. 3-seed if the playoffs started today, is a perfect 3-0 in the MVL after blasting Esparto 47-6 last Friday. The Braves have won the last six meetings against the RedHawks, including a 44-0 victory last season.
Esparto (0-8) at East Nicolaus (5-3)
In Nicolaus — The Spartans can lock up a spot in the Northern Section Division III playoffs with a win over winless Esparto at Wahl Field tonight.
East Nic bounced back nicely from a frustrating loss to Quincy with a resounding 41-8 victory over Williams last week, moving the Spartans to 2-1 in Mid-Valley League play and up to the No. 5 seed in the eight-team D-III bracket.
Another win tonight shouldn't be much of a problem against an Esparto squad that has been outscored 369-49 this season.
Winters (4-4) at Gridley (0-8)
In Gridley — The Bulldogs get another shot to find the win column when they welcome the Warriors into the Bone Yard for a BVL matchup.
Gridley fell to 0-4 in league play with a 49-12 loss to Las Plumas last week and has struggled to find consistency on offense this season, scoring just six touchdowns on the year.
Winters dropped to 1-3 in the BVL following a 48-20 loss to Wheatland a week ago.
Quincy (2-6) at Williams (2-6)
In Williams — Two teams with identical records will meet up at McCarl Field where the Yellowjackets host the Trojans in a Mid-Valley League contest.
Both Williams and Quincy are sitting at 1-2 in the MVL and are looking to finish the regular season strong.