The Sac-Joaquin Section soccer playoffs are a week away, but there will be a playoff-like atmosphere today when the Southern League and Central California Conference titles are decided:
Waterford (11-0-2, 35 points) has been atop the SL all season, but Mariposa (10-1-2, 32 points) gets a piece of the title if it beats the visiting Wildcats in a 4 p.m. match. Waterford wins an outright title with a win or a tie.
Atwater (8-0-3, 27 points) is the defending CCC champ, but it has been chasing crosstown rival Buhach Colony (9-0-2, 29 points) much of the season. If Atwater wins the 7 p.m. battle, it gets the title. Anything less, and the Thunder will be celebrating.
In a sport often dominated by defense, both title matches feature marquee offensive players.
Waterford sophomore Carlos Navarrete leads the state with 48 goals and is a big part of the reason Waterford has 124 goals in 22 matches -- nearly six per match.
The first meeting ended in a 2-2 draw and Waterford won 5-0 a few weeks ago, though Grizzlies coach Ray Gregory said that lopsided outcome was days after his goalkeeper suffered a broken jaw.
"That took a lot out of us, so I think we'll see a different team on the field today," Gregory said.
The CCC battle showcases four of the league's top five scorers and a showdown between the best offense (Atwater has 29 CCC goals) and the best defense (Buhach Colony has allowed four CCC goals).
While Waterford is playing for its first league title in soccer, Buhach Colony is familiar with success. The Thunder was a section medium-school power -- losing in the finals in 2004 and '05 -- before joining the CCC in 2006.
The section playoffs open Nov. 2 with Division I action, with the CCC and Modesto Metro teams facing each other. The MMC is still in flux and could come down to Friday's final match that has Modesto playing at Downey.
Smaller schools don't open playoffs until Nov. 6, and all the section finals will be held Nov. 10.
WATER POLO -- The conference champs are decided: Johansen swept the MMC, and the Turlock schools -- Turlock boys and Pitman girls -- won the CCC.
The girls open the playoffs Nov. 2 at Johansen and the boys are in the same pool Nov. 3, with the top three finishers in each conference taking part.
TENNIS -- Modesto and Beyer will advance from the MMC, while Turlock and Merced will be the CCC teams. The bracket breaks down nicely for Modesto, which receives a first-round bye and will be at home so long as it keeps winning -- including the section title match Nov. 13.
Playoff action starts Nov. 5.
GOLF -- The Stanislaus District's best will be be at the Auburn Country Club on Monday for the Masters Tournament, with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. This week's divisional tournaments whittled down the postseason field.
Among those going to Auburn are the teams from Turlock, Johansen, East Union and Central Catholic. Top individuals not on those teams are Sierra's Julie Shutler, Beyer's Katie Canadas, Golden Valley's Belen Hernandez and Bret Harte's Kirsten Locke.