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Whitney wins, now waits

Team to face Sierra next; Placer ruling delays Div. IV playoffs
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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The Wildcats will host Sierra of Manteca Dec. 5 in the Division IV semifinals for the Sac-Joaquin Section. This game was originally scheduled to be played Friday but it has been pushed back a week because Placer was able to overturn the section’s ruling that it had used an ineligible player. With the section’s initial ruling the Hillmen had forfeited three games overall and two Pioneer Valley League games. With Monday’s court ruling the Hillmen got those victories back and advanced to the playoffs as the third and final seed from the PVL instead of Colfax. Placer will play a first-round game at Oakdale on Friday. Whitney, 11-0 on the season, will advance to the section finals with a victory against Sierra. Sierra is 9-2 overall and went 6-1 while placing second in the Valley Oak League behind Oakdale (7-0). Sierra, which features a shotgun, no-huddle offense, beat visiting Rio Linda 21-7 in a first-round playoff game Friday. “The number-one goal has been to win a section championship,” said Whitney coach Mike Gimenez, whose team lost in the section finals last year to Oakdale. “And we never even talked about winning a PVL championship because I think in the back of their minds our guys knew they would win that. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve stayed healthy and we’re trying to get better every week.” Whitney rushed for about 350 yards in Friday night’s 42-14, first-round playoff victory over visiting Foothill. The Wildcats outscored the Mustangs 21-7 in both halves. Senior Zack Graves led the Wildcats rushing attack with 26 carries for 231 yards and three touchdowns while senior teammate Taylor Irwin ran eight times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Graves received a direct snap on each of his touchdown runs. “This was my first playoff game because I was hurt last year,” Irwin said. “The pre-game is different (compared to the regular season) but once the game starts it all feels the same.” The other Whitney touchdown came on a 19-yard pass from senior Charlie Hetland to senior Jake Snyder in the fourth quarter. Hetland finished 3-of-7 passing for 42 yards while Snyder caught two balls for 29 yards. “Our O-line just gets better and better and better every week and Foothill is a big, physical defense,” Gimenez said. As an entire group though, Gimenez says his team can play better. “Sometimes you are razor sharp and sometimes you are sharp and we were not razor sharp,” he said. “We played well (as a team) but I know the guys know they didn’t play their best. They know where their peak is.” Foothill ran the ball all night and never really challenged the Wildcats with the pass. The Mustangs first 22 plays were on the ground and for the night Foothill’s two quarterbacks combined to go 2-for-10 passing for six yards and an interception (by Whitney’s Ryan Sowma). “I knew it would be hard for them (to throw),” Gimenez said. “I knew they would try to load up on the run and shorten the game and they had some success with that in the first half.” Foothill finished with 46 carries for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The second touchdown came with just one minute remaining in the game as Anthony Daniels ran in a 39-yard touchdown to set the final score. Junior Shavonce Raiford ran 17 times for 109 yards but lost two fumbles and teammate Deron James had 16 carries for 89 yards. Michael Exford tied the game at seven with a five-yard touchdown run with 8:52 left in the first half. Irwin’s first touchdown ran came 58 seconds into the game as he capped a three-play, 68-yard drive with a 32-yard touchdown run. Graves’ first touchdown (17 yards) put Whitney up 14-7 with 7:21 left in the half. He scored again five minutes later, this time on a 10-yard run, to put the Wildcats up 21-7 at the half. Irwin ran in from 20 yards out late in the third quarter and Hetland’s pass to Snyder came early in the fourth. Whitney’s final touchdown of the night, a 13-yard run by Graves, came with 7:10 left in the game. Whitney senior Nick Law converted all six of his extra-point attempts. Whitney senior Ryan Schermerhorn blocked a Foothill field-goal attempt in the first quarter.