If Davis High beats Elk Grove, it’s in the football postseason. Period.
A win over The Thundering Herd (and a Grant victory over Laguna Creek) puts the three schools in a deadlock at 3-2, behind Franklin in the Delta Valley Conference.
“If there is a three-way tie for second place, we would break the tie and the runner-up would get the automatic berth,” Sac-Joaquin Section media relations director Will DeBoard told The Enterprise. “We do that before at-large berths are determined. But with six wins, Davis would receive a berth, regardless of league placement.”
No more small talk. Words pale. Actions will tell the story.
When the region’s No. 3-ranked Thundering Herd (8-1, 3-1) comes to Ron & Mary Brown Stadium on Friday, the Blue Devils’ first playoff assignment since 2007 hangs in the balance.
“We are resilient. We haven’t lost two games in a row this year,” third-year DHS head coach Steve Smyte reminded the press. “Our guys know what they’re playing for.
“We’ll be ready. I believe in our guys.”
Davis (5-4, 2-2) has gone a stretch of 11 games over almost 20 years without a victory against Elk Grove. A silver lining in that drought? The Devils recently have played The Herd tough, even while outmanned — like last year’s 35-18 setback when the locals suited up only 19 healthy bodies.
It will be all hands on deck (34 healthy players!) Friday — and Smyte and Company know what they have to do…
Stop the ground game of Robert Frazier and Wadus Parker.
“Their two backs are something,” Smyte said. “After watching film, they’re incredible. They’re the kind of guys that can make something happen, even when there’s nothing there.”
At quick look at the statistics bears out Smyte’s concern.
Frazier has 1,402 rushing yards to go with 16 touchdowns. Parker is 56 short of 1,000 and has scored 17 times. Each is averaging almost eight yards a carry.
In last week’s 54-40 scare against Monterey Trail, Frazier had five touchdowns and 217 yards. Wadus went for 168 and the other two Grove TDs.
But Blue Devil fans can take heart from that game. Remember that Monterey Trail was steamrolled by Davis, 42-7, to open DVC play, and the Mustangs at one point closed the gap with Elk Grove to 41-40.
Another hint that the Devils can play with The Herd? Two years ago, Elk Grove led DHS 33-0 before the locals stormed back, only to lose, 45-37.
“Our big thing on Friday … will come down to we cannot arm-tackle,” Smyte explained.
A disappointing defensive effort saw Grant run through Davis in a 48-14 conquest last Friday.
This week, the Blue Devils will have to play assignment football: have the defensive line stand up to their counterparts in the trench and allow the linebackers to fill the gaps.
“We’ve got to get a body behind (the tackle). Get a lot of hats to the ball,” Smyte continues. “They’re a very well-coached team. They’re not just a run team. Elk Grove is very efficient at throwing the ball. They get you sucked up tight because their running game is so good, then they go over the top on you.”
But take another look at the stats, and Davis might want to take its chances with The Herd’s aerial game, such as it is.
Quarterback Tommy Arnold has fewer than 600 yards passing with only three touchdowns. He missed two games (disciplinary decision) and isn’t a ground threat. Arnold was, however, on the sidelines when Elk Grove suffered its only loss — to Franklin, 17-7.
So, should Parker and Frazier meet their matches from the likes of Devil defenders Oscar Sepulveda, Nick Denton, Brendan MacDonald, Mike McTygue and others, leaving coverage up to Ahmari Hayes, Adam King, Quinn Williams, Eli Castro and Brett Bloomfield seems to tip things toward a Devil advantage.
If Davis running backs Winfred Roberson (708 yards, nine TDs) and Austin Lampley can keep the ball from Elk Grove, it gives the Blue Devils even greater hope of the upset.
QB Grant Dickerson (1,582 yards and 16 scores) is two touchdowns off the single-season school record. With receivers like C.K. Hicks (559, four TDs) and Kevin Sorensen (515, seven) at his disposal, even if Davis gets behind, the firepower is there to catch up.
Game time is 7:15 p.m.
Notes: DeBoard will release the playoff brackets Sunday afternoon. …Elk Grove coach Chris Nixon and Smyte know each other well. Nixon was a UC Davis graduate assistant when Smyte was the team’s receivers coach. They worked together and now have great mutual respect. “He really has (the Devils) playing well,” Nixon said of Smyte, who countered: “He’s a good coach. He really knows what he’s doing.” …St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children in Sacramento will be the recipient of a supply drive for infants at Friday’s game. Volunteers from the varsity and JV teams will be on hand to take gate donations of diapers and pull-ups (sizes 1-6) baby wipes and all types of baby formula. Cornerback Hayes’ mother Kim Cornelius has been the driving force behind the effort — and Smyte wanted his players “involved in charitable community outreach … to give back wherever they can.”
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.