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December 4, 2008

DeBoard: Vikings' run landed MMC some respect

With only four Stanislaus District football teams left, the fall high school season's twilight is upon us. Watch for The Bee's fall all-District teams toward the end of the month. Let's clear out the memory banks from some exciting contests over the last couple weeks.

THE MODESTO METRO Conference hasn't had much football success. Since the league formed in 2004, it hadn't won a playoff game on the field.

Two Fridays ago, Johansen changed that when it defeated McNair of Stockton 47-13 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. The Vikings established even more respect when they took Merced to the wire in a 22-14 loss in the quarterfinals. Johansen led that game 14-13 at the half.

First-year Vikings coach Jason McCoy made no secrets about his offensive strategy -- they ran the ball almost exclusively -- but it didn't seem to matter that their opponents knew the Vikings were going to run.

Deven Cannon was the offensive difference. The 5-foot-5-inch running back scooted for 2,054 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season. Cannon is believed to be the fourth running back in Stanislaus District history to run for over 2,000 yards, joining Garrett Turner of Merced, Homer Garza of Hughson and Nicko Tatum of Davis.

It seemed like half the valley was anticipating last Friday's playoff semifinal between Central Catholic and Escalon. But a nearly perfect first half by the Raiders ended all the suspense.

In fact, after Central Catholic took a 31-0 halftime lead, several fans headed over to Oakdale, where Placer High shocked the Valley Oak League champion Mustangs.

It wasn't just that the Raiders were better than the Cougars, it was the accuracy of Central Catholic quarterback Dylan Swartz. He found receivers all over the field, even after the team's most dangerous player, James Orth, left with an ankle injury. Swartz's touchdown throw to Phillip Martinez -- it made the score 21-0 -- was a thing of beauty. Swartz zipped it down the right sideline where Martinez caught the ball in traffic in full-stride. He outraced two defenders for the touchdown.

THERE WAS LITTLE the Ripon High volleyball team could do wrong in the first two games of its CIF Northern California Division IV championship match against Christian Brothers. The tide turned on a 14-2 Falcons run at the end of Game 3, and Ripon never regained the momentum.

Christian Brothers' five-game victory Tuesday added another chapter to what has become a classic volleyball rivalry. The Falcons have defeated Ripon in the last three Division IV section title matches, and the teams also went five games in a nonleague match in September. It may be one-sided, but Ripon is edging ever closer.

"My freshman year, I hadn't even heard of Christian Brothers," Ripon senior Kirsten Duren said. "But now I don't think another school has been talked about at our school as much as them."

THIS HAS BEEN a particularly bad football postseason for those at the Sac-Joaquin Section offices.

Because the playoff brackets are pre-selected, there were some early matchups that should have been in the finals. In Division II, Sacramento-area powers Granite Bay and Grant come to mind. In Division V, you had league champions Central Catholic and Escalon matching up in the semifinals.

You also had a strange scenario where VOL third-place team Manteca (8-2) was out of the playoffs while Cental Valley Conference third-place team Foothill (2-8) made the Division IV postseason.

Placer was out of the playoffs, then back in the playoffs because of a last-minute court ruling. The team left hanging the most was Oakdale, which prepared for Colfax one week, then learned on Monday it would be playing Placer four days later.

In the Division VII championship game, Vacaville Christian's game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown with six seconds left was nullified by an inadvertent whistle. Bradshaw Christian ended up winning the game.

OAKDALE STANDOUT baseball player Justin Jones has signed a national letter-of-intent to play at Cal.

A left-handed pitcher, Jones was 12-0 with a 0.40 ERA and struck out 124 batters in 71 innings for the section champion Mustangs.

Jones and junior teammate Nick VanderTuig will form one of the most imposing 1-2 pitcher combinations in Northern California when they take the mound in the spring.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.

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