Soccer playoff time is here
Mike Owen's Live Oak High boys' soccer team paid close attention when coach held a film session last week.
Watching the game film from their 2-0 loss to Willows may have felt like watching a horror flick, though it was absolutely necessary.
If the Lions hope to win their second Northern Section title in four years, they will need to clean up the mistakes they saw on the screen.
Despite dropping its final two games of the season, Live Oak is fully confident it can hoist the program's first banner since winning the Division II title in 2008.
"If you don't play well, you're going home," Owen said. "We'll bounce back. We have to stay mentally strong."
Live Oak is the No. 4 seed in the Division II bracket with a first-round matchup at home on Thursday with No. 5 Anderson, a team the Lions dismantled 7-3 back in December.
If the Lions get past the Cubs, they head to Orland on Feb. 22 for a semi-final match with the No. 1 Trojans. Orland beat Live Oak in last season's section title game.
Making it through this marathon that began in late November takes a special kind of mindset according to Owen.
"Things can change in an instant," Owen said. "No matter what happens, we have to keep playing. We have to play tough for 80 minutes."
Joining Live Oak to represent the Mid-Valley on the boys side are Sutter, Colusa and Williams.
No. 6 Sutter travels to No. 3 Lassen (Susanville) on Thursday in the Division-I bracket. In Division III, Colusa plays at Esparto on Thursday as a 5-seed and No. 3 Williams has a home game against Los Molinos.
Five Mid-Valley girls programs will also be gunning for section championships, including the Sutter Huskies, who are looking for their seventh straight.
Sutter, the No. 2 seed in Division I, earned a first-round bye, along with Colusa and Williams in Division III. In Division II, Gridley hosts Yreka on Thursday and Live Oak plays at No. 3 Winters.
The Huskies are back in Division I this season after winning the D-II title a year ago, though crossing division lines doesn't seem to bother the Huskies — four of their last six section championships came in Division I.
"It's going to be a lot more difficult this year," said Sutter coach Jeff Stanhope. "Championships don't come easy."
Though not quite up to Sutter's six straight titles, Colusa has its own dynasty brewing as the Redskins are looking for their third consecutive section crown.
The Redskins already had a streak broken this year when they lost to Williams in January. It was Colusa's first league loss since December 2007.
When the first round gets underway, stats won't matter much anymore though.
That two-game losing skid is long gone in the eyes of Owen and the Lions — it's playoff time. Any lack of focus means a long off-season of wondering, 'what if?'
"You can't count out anybody," Owen said.