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Playoffs coming into focus

By: Jim Linsdau/Sports Editor
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Locally, two football teams are on the bubble and one is close to wondering just where it will be seeded in the California Interscholastic Federation, Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs. The selection process for divisions I-IV includes two automatic qualifiers from each league (40 teams to include 20 league champions and the 20 runners-up). There will be 24 teams picked at large. At-large teams will be selected on number of wins – at least two have to be league victories. Whitney High would appear to be in the catbird seat. The Wildcats have already won two Capital Athletic League contests and are currently 6-1. It appears El Camino’s Eagles could play league spoiler. Right now, Whitney and Antelope are tied at the top 2-0. The Eagles lost to Antelope. If the Wildcats were to defeat Antelope and lose to the Eagles the CAL could end up a three-way tie. That would mean the playoff selection committee would have to huddle up to determine the seating but that isn’t likely to happen. In contrast, Whitney’s offense is scoring 39 points a game, El Camino 37 and Antelope 32. On defense, the ‘Cats are giving up eight points a game, El Camino 14 and Antelope 16. There are other factors to consider but Whitney looks solid. At 4-3, Lincoln needs victories. Although the Fighting Zebras’ three losses have been heartbreakers, they could prove to be playoff breakers. Placer appears to be the frontrunner for the Pioneer Valley League title. Center and Bear River are both 6-1 and appear in line to battle it out for the runner-up spot. The Cougars defeated Lincoln but the Zebras unveiled a passing attack in that game previously unseen. If Lincoln can’t gain that No. 2 position, it will have to go for an at-large bid. That means at least two PVL wins. They stand at 1-1 in league with Placer 2-0, Bear River 1-1 and Colfax 0-2 still ahead. If Rocklin, 3-4 and 1-1 in the Sierra Foothill League, doesn’t make the playoffs it will be the best team left out. Cal Preps ranks Rocklin 119 out of 1,064 California schools. In the SFL, only Granite Bay ranks ahead of them (75th). Out of 172 leagues in the state, the SFL is ranked 20th. The Thunder’s biggest Achilles’ heel is rushing. Through six games, they averaged less than 80 yards a game and scored only three touchdowns running the ball. Through the air, Rocklin is a force. In spite of losing starting quarterback Daniel Kniffin early in the season, backup QB Logan Webb proved a solid performer waiting in the wings. Prior to the Granite Bay game, he had no interceptions and 10 TDs to his credit. After Kniffin’s return against Nevada Union, both he and Logan threw for two touchdowns in a 35-9 rout of the Miners. Rocklin’s defense is perhaps where they shine. They’ve grudgingly given up 20 points a game, with four TDs charged to the offense on turnovers. Of the seven games Rocklin has played, all their opponents have been ranked in the Sacramento Bee’s Top 25.