This much we know as we barrel into Sierra Foothill League openers on Friday night: The SFL stands alone as the top high school football conference in Northern California.
And bonus points for it being an all-public school collection of programs that feed off feeder programs — youth football, freshman and junior varsity programs. Bee No. 1 Folsom has won the SFL championship almost every year since entering the league via realignment before the 2014 season with Rocklin taking it in 2021, but the Bulldogs will not have an easy path to the top. Not with No. 2 Oak Ridge, No. 4 Rocklin, No. 5 Del Oro and No. 6 Granite Bay off to a combined 18-2 start with no in-section setbacks and with darkhorse No. 17 Whitney eager to surge and surprise.
Because football is in the air, we’re leading off this week’s picks with a girls flag football showcase.
As far as last week’s picks and guesses, area guru scribe Nick Pecoraro won the week, going 4-1, with yours truly and Matthew Bessette of ABC Jam Productions and the NFHS Network each going 3-2. The smartest man of the lot, retired basketball coach Scott Tedmon, went 2-3. He assures he will now take this more seriously.
Girls flag football: Whitney (5-4) at Rocklin (11-4)
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
JoeD: Kudos to the girls flag football teams around the region that have gotten into the spirit of this fast-rising sport. Rocklin is making this “Break the Record Night” as it aims to draw the largest crowd for a girls sporting event, and it’ll happen because the student section will see to it that it happens in this Quarry Bowl-like duel. Go with the Thunder, 14-6.
MatthewB: I can’t wait to broadcast this one live as both teams will be battling for a championship belt. Rocklin took an earlier win at Whitney, but the Wildcats have a state-level wrestler at QB in Alex Maday and will not go down without a fight. The Thunder, led by Skyler Linehan, wins 19-12.
NickP: I have the privilege of covering this event. Historically, the city of Rocklin has always shown up and shown out for its prep athletes. Expect a thunderous crowd as well as a Thunder-ous result as Rocklin pulls it out, 24-16.
CoachT: Girls flag football is now an event at many area schools, and having attended a game, it’s no surprise. The games are fiercely competitive and fun to watch. Rocklin QB Robyn Nguyen has 17 TD passes, six to Livy Maeyama. The Quarry will be rocking as Thunder breaks the attendance record and defeats Whitney, 21-7.
No. 2 Oak Ridge (5-0) at No. 1 Folsom (3-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
JoeD: Folsom has its share of transfers while Oak Ridge players will remind they have 23 seniors, all of them in El Dorado Hills, and all of them eager to halt a 19-game losing streak to the Bulldogs, dating back to 2006. Here’s more motivation for Oak Ridge: Coach Casey Taylor is sitting on career win No. 199, including 149 at Del Oro. This will be physical, intense and ferocious in the trenches, and a fight to the finish. Folsom by a foot, 21-20.
MatthewB: We will have a crew out covering this on NFHS, and it will come down to who can win the line of scrimmage. This will be a low-scoring contest with two of the best defensive lines in the area taking the field. Bulldogs win, 20-17.
NickP: Oak Ridge can win this game, but Folsom is hungry to rebound from a loss to De La Salle. (I was the only one to correctly pick that game, by the way). Go with the Bulldogs, 20-14.
CoachT: If you can’t run with the Big Dogs stay on the porch. Folsom has been the Big Dog for more than a decade. Oak Ridge will not only run with the Bulldogs, they will pass Folsom and emerge as The Bee’s No. 1 team after a 24-21 victory.
No. 17 Whitney (2-3) at No. 4 Rocklin (4-0)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
JoeD: The Quarry Bowl rocks, literally, and this is all the reminder anyone needs to not take this game lightly: Rocklin squeezed out a 13-10 win last season. Rocklin prevails again, 35-14.
MatthewB: I am ready to feel the energy in my first Quarry Bowl as we will broadcast this event. It promises to be a physical contest and both teams come equipped with a tackling machine, Cole McCracken for Whitney and Alex Durham for Rocklin. The Thunder rolls, 24-14.
NickP: This rivalry game annually produces top-notch atmospheres, as good as anywhere. Throw out the records, these two teams will come to play and the dueling student sections will be on top of their game, too. Take Rocklin, 28-17.
CoachT: The Wildcats are game, but the Thunder is just too good. Rocklin rolls, 38-17.
No. 5 Del Oro (5-0) at No. 6 Granite Bay (3-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
JoeD: This has been a superb SFL rivalry since Granite Bay opened in 1996, and it has decided quite a few championships. How DO deals with GB’s run game and how GB deals with DO’s Caden Pinnick, the QB star, will be telling. The run game wins it for GB, 24-21.
MatthewB: Picking three SFL games in one week feels like a boxing card with three heavyweight bouts on it. This one features two of the best skill position guys in Del Oro WR Tommy Poe and Granite Bay RB Carter Jackson. Del Oro stays unblemished, 31-28.
NickP: Who can tell me the all-time series record between these two longtime rivals? Answer: It’s dead even at 14-14. That’s why this game will be decided by whoever has the ball last. It’ll be Del Oro in a thriller, 35-34.
CoachT: This could be the best game of the week as two superb teams battle it out. GB runs it with authority, but the Pinnick Magic prevails, 34-31.
No. 22 Twelve Bridges (6-0) at Center (5-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
JoeD: The Pioneer Valley League is terrific, and the program known as “12B” is the favorite thanks to its fast start under coach Chris Bean, RB star Nathan Crawford, steady QB Whit Kruse and a stout D. Center has a fine coach in Digol JBeily and an unsung QB star in Bradley Kenney, who has 20 TDs. 12B beat Wheatland 55-6 on Sept. 15 and Center just beat Wheatland 13-12, so go with 12B, 35-17.
MatthewB: Twelve Bridges is outscoring opponents 271 to 45. You read that right. Center hung close with TB last year in Lincoln and now they get to see them in Antelope. The Rhinos continue Raging, 35-17.
NickP: Center is having a great season, proving it can win by margins large and small. But the Raging Rhinos (best nickname in the section) are the real deal. Twelve Bridges hasn’t scored less than 40 points and hasn’t allowed more than seven over its last five games. Rhinos, 42-21.
CoachT: Center is at home, but Twelve Bridges will take control early and grind out a 38-21 win.
Union Mine (4-1) at No. 25 Bradshaw Christian (3-2)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
JoeD: This Sierra Valley Conference opener will be played on grass in the cozy venue on the Pride’s campus. BC will look to run until the legs fall off, headed by QB Ethan Rickert and a host of others who average nearly 270 yards on the ground. BC wins, 17-16.
MatthewB: Union Mine made The Pride throw it more than they like on their way to a victory last season. This year is a different story with a more experienced Bradshaw Christian team, which wins 35-30.
NickP: Union Mine is a one-point loss away from being 5-0. The D’Backs have played inspired by the memory of their late and beloved assistant coach and alum, Sean Tow. UM wins, 24-21.
CoachT: UM is improved, but the Pride’s ground-and-pound attack will prove too much for the D’backs. BC wins, 34-17.
Season totals and Joe D’s last word
JoeD: 25-14 — The snarky me says I haven’t missed any tackles.
MatthewB: 28-11 — First one to 30 wins wins it? No.
NickP: 25-14 — The only one wise enough to pick De La Salle.
CoachT: 20-19 — A basketball guru determined to close this gap.