Throughout history, any time a playoff bracket is released, the only time a coach agrees with the seeding of his or her team is when they are given a No. 1 or No. 2 spot. Aside from that, the coach tends to feel the team deserved better.
Doug Clark is one of those coaches.
The first-year Calaveras High School football coach doesn’t feel his team should have been given the No. 6 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI football playoffs. Clark feels his team (7-3, 4-1 MLL) performed better than that and should have been ranked higher. Calaveras picked up victories over Amador and Bradshaw Christian, which are ranked No. 3 and 4, respectively, in the division V brackets. Calaveras’ only losses came to Ripon (ranked No. 2 in D5), Escalon (ranked No. 1 in D6) and Sonora (which finished with a 5-5 overall record).
But here comes the plot twist – even though Clark feels his team should have been given a higher seed than No. 6, he is perfectly content with how the brackets shook out.
“I think we got the greatest spot in the world,” Clark said after Calaveras practice Monday evening in San Andreas. “I absolutely couldn’t have asked for a better spot.”
Why is Clark so thrilled with the No. 6 seed? It comes down to the placement of the other teams in the division VI bracket. The seedings are: No. 1 Escalon; No. 2 Hilmar; No. 3 Ripon Christian; No. 4 Golden Sierra; No. 5 Sonora; No. 6 Calaveras; No. 7 Bear River; No. 8 Linden; No. 9 Hughson; No. 10 Highlands; and No. 11 Western Sierra. In the first round of the playoffs, which begins Friday, Escalon, Hilmar, Ripon Christian, Golden Sierra and Sonora all have byes.
The only games going on in the opening round are No. 6 Calaveras vs. No. 11 Western Sierra; No. 7 Bear River vs. No. 10 Highlands; and No. 8 Linden vs. No. 9 Hughson. Calaveras takes on Western Sierra, out of the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, who finished the regular season with only four wins, and none of those victories were over teams with a winning record. In a prediction by Calpreps.com, Calaveras is favored to win that game 61-0. Should Calaveras win Friday night, it would then take on No. 3 Ripon Christian.
“We get a home game in the first round and then, should we get by Western Sierra, we go to Ripon Christian and again, I don’t feel they play teams near as tough as us,” Clark said. “If we happen to get by week two, we (most likely) take on Hilmar, which is something different and something new. If we get by them, then it’s off to the finals against either Sonora or Escalon.”
It would be easy for those outside of Calaveras’ locker room to start planning a trip to Ripon on Nov. 15, but the Calaveras players and coaches aren’t looking past this upcoming Friday night. Even though Calaveras should have no problem knocking off Western Sierra, everyone in the program knows that anything can happen on any given night.
“We all realize that if you lose once, you go home,” Calaveras quarterback Nolan Dart said. “For us seniors, it could be our last football game that we ever play.”
Clark added, “I’m going to remind them every day that this could be their last Monday or Tuesday practice. On Friday, it could be the last time they put on gear. For the sophomores and juniors, they may have another chance. Some of the seniors will go on and play at the next level, but most of them won’t. Friday could be the last time they ever step foot on a football field with gear on. So, be prepared. Winners move on and losers turn their gear in.”
Calaveras enters Friday’s home game against Western Sierra having won six of its last seven games. The tri-Mother Lode League champ has outscored its opponents 232-73 in games where players walked off the field victorious. As for Western Sierra, the Wolves have been outscored 330-225 in 10 games.
Calaveras senior center Tyler Peoples doesn’t care what a team has done before Friday night. He isn’t taking anyone lightly.
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what someone’s record is,” Peoples said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a great team, you could still get beat by a team with a worse record. It all just comes down to how hard you work as a team.”
Although Calaveras is a run-first squad, its passing game has improved over the past two outings. In wins over Argonaut and Bret Harte, Dart has gone 10 for 17 for 280 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Being able to move the ball through the air is a key to finding playoff success.
“He’s peaking at the right time,” Clark said of Dart. “It was a slow process, but we have the confidence in him and he’s gaining confidence and our line is getting better. Everything’s coming together at the right time.”
Calaveras is prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that Friday will not be the final game of the year. And while Clark is fine with the No. 6 seeding, Peoples is not, and he’s hoping that his team makes a statement that it deserved better, and that begins Friday against Western Sierra.
“I feel it’s disrespectful knowing that we have a good record and we are a powerhouse,” Peoples said. “Now, we are going to show in the playoffs how big of a powerhouse we are.”
Calaveras takes on Western Sierra at 7 p.m., Friday at Frank Meyer Field in San Andreas.