The goal is the same for all three Stanislaus District teams in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section football championships: End the season with a victory.
But Oakdale, Patterson and Central Catholic also hope to extend the season for one more game after Saturday.
That's because two years ago, the California Interscholastic Federation instituted state championship bowl games. Those games will be played Dec. 15 at The Home Depot Center in Carson.
Section champions are eligible for the bowl games. The CIF's 10 section commissioners will decide the matchups -- one team apiece from the North and South in three divisions -- in a meeting Dec. 9.
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So what are the chances of our local teams playing for a state title should they win Saturday? Good, OK and slim, according to CalHiSports.com editor Mark Tennis. He does the bowl rankings throughout the season and has the most influence on those 10 section commissioners. The six teams Tennis said should go last season did.
Oakdale plays in the Division IV section final against Whitney of Rocklin in a matchup of 11-1 teams. A win puts the Mustangs in the mix for the Division II bowl game, Tennis said, but they'll need a lot of help.
"If St. Mary's wins the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section title, then I think they'll be chosen for the bowl," Tennis said. "And if Del Oro wins the Division II title, then I think they're the next choice."
Should both of those teams lose -- and Tennis said they could -- there is a tier of three or four teams that includes Oakdale.
"Foothill of Palo Cedro is your leader in the clubhouse," Tennis said. "They've already won their Northern Section title, and they're 12-0. But it's hard to get a read on them because they haven't played anybody out of their section in two years. Other teams will have stronger résumés."
There's also Novato, which plays in the weaker North Coast Section Division 2A, but if it wins out it will have victories over a 12-0 team (Del Norte of Crescent City) and a 13-0 team (Las Lomas of Walnut Creek).
"Basically, Oakdale's got to hope St. Mary's and Novato lose, then hope that Cardinal Newman keeps winning," Tennis said.
Cardinal Newman, a top state contender in Division III, handed the Mustangs their only loss in Week 3, 42-39.
"It could come down to how your opponents fare as well," Tennis said. "You want any team you've played to do well. It makes your own résumé that much stronger."
Central Catholic faces Patterson in the Division V final at 1 p.m. The Raiders have the best chance to go to Carson. Central would play in the Division III state title game.
"It's going to be Central Catholic or Cardinal Newman, barring a miracle," Tennis said. "They clearly look like the top two teams in Division III."
While the Raiders face Patterson, a team they defeated 35-10 this season, Cardinal Newman has a much tougher road ahead.
"Should Newman get by Rancho Cotate this week, they'll have San Ramon Valley for the North Coast Section 3A championship," Tennis said. "That's a very strong program and strong team. They could be the second-toughest East Bay team behind De La Salle."
If Central Catholic beats Patterson, Tennis said, no other team would be in the mix.
"That would knock everybody else out," he said.
Should Cardinal Newman and Central Catholic win section titles, that will put the CIF in a tough spot. The teams tied 35-35 in Week 1 at Central Catholic.
"Obviously, the CIF is hoping one of those teams loses," Tennis said. "But if they don't, it will come down to their opponents again. Central Catholic is tied to St. Mary's while Cardinal Newman is tied to Del Oro.
"If Central Catholic and St. Mary's win out, then I think both of them would be chosen."
Patterson's enrollment pushes it well into the state Division II boundary, which makes it tough to see any scenario where the Tigers would advance.
"They'd probably be behind five or six teams, so they'd need a lot of things to happen," Tennis said. "But with Foothill already in at 12-0, that's a tough prospect for Patterson to be chosen ahead of them.
"Patterson would have avenged its only loss, but that's still tough to match up against an undefeated team."
To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.