It wouldn't be the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs without Escalon and Calaveras, right? The small-school football dynasties have combined for 31 consecutive playoff appearances, but there is little in common after that.
Escalon is a section kingpin, winning eight championships and the Division 3 State Bowl in 2010. Calaveras has played in eight section finals, but has yet to celebrate a title.
Calaveras's best opportunity was in 2010, when Escalon's Hail Mary and a last-minute field goal gave the Cougars a 22-20 win. It was just more of the same for Calaveras, 2-7 against Escalon in the postseason.
That's the history Calaveras (8-2) carries with it to Escalon (8-2) Friday night in a Division 4 opener featuring the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds. The winner is on track to play No. 1 Placer (10-0) in the quarterfinals, assuming Placer beats No. 16 Hilmar.
Only Grant (22) has more consecutive trips to the playoffs than Calaveras (16) and Escalon (15). They've combined to play 102 playoff games.
"Two great programs, so we're going to see a lot of one another," said Escalon coach Mark Loureiro. "One thing you can expect, and it's a great game."
Neither team has been successful at shutting down the opposition, so both offenses could have their way.
That likely means Nathan Chunn (1,591 yards, 24 TDs) blasting up the middle 30 or 35 times for Escalon, and Calaveras QB Zack Johnson (84 of 168, 1,532 yards, 22 TDs, 8 picks) exploiting holes in the secondary.
"If you like offense, I think you're going to be happy," Loureiro said.
It's just one of eight openers in D4, the winningest bracket the section has ever assembled. The teams are a combined 130-30, so they have averaged less than two losses in 2012.
Three are 10-0, three more are 9-1 and six are 8-2. No one's below 6-4 the only division that can say that.
"No offense to D1 or D3, but D4 is unlike anything I have ever seen," said Loureiro, whose school shares the top spot in the Stanislaus District with Central Catholic for most wins (139) going back to 2000. "There is no good side of the bracket to be on. Both are just so nasty."
The top three seeds are Placer, Argonaut and Ripon (all 10-0), while Central Catholic (8-2) is seeded sixth. It's not that Central is the sixth-best team in the bracket, it's just that the seeding committee was committed to keeping Central and Placer on opposite sides of this loaded bracket.
"Pick your poison: Stay on our side of the bracket with Placer, Calaveras, Los Banos, Summerville and a Modesto Christian team that is better than people think," Loureiro said. "Or do you want the 10-0 teams, Central Catholic and Center, a team that lost to Placer by a point last Friday?"
Before anyone worries about their quarterfinal foe, they have to survive the first round. If there's one thing Calaveras will be prepared for this Friday, it's the Hail Mary.
When Escalon burned the Redskins with a 60-yard pass in the 2010 final, it brought back some horrible memories.
The Cougars used a similar play to top Calaveras 35-31 in a 2008 playoff opener, with Dan Thompson racing 80 yards on a pass-and-catch TD with 12 seconds to play. Quarterback Spencer Franceschetti said the buzzer-beating play was "probably a miracle." Loureiro went farther, calling it "more than a miracle."
What worries Calaveras is that the Cougars have a receiver capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. Alec VonAlvensleben didn't have a TD until three weeks ago, but Loureiro considers him one of the program's MVPs.
"He's probably caught nine passes inside the 5, but he's been tackled before getting in," Loureiro said, noting that Chunn has converted many of those scores. "We're trying to move him around to get more one-on-one coverage."