High School Football

Lopez: Looking at the complicated playoff picture – who’s in, out, on the bubble?

Julian A. Lopez
Julian A. Lopez

With two weeks left in the high school football regular season, the playoff picture is shaping up — as much as it can.

For the second straight year, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section is using CalPreps.com to pick the 12 teams (10 for Division VII) that will qualify for postseason.

However, it’s a little more complicated than that because enrollment and divisions come into play. It’s impossible at this point to simply look at the rankings because league titles will have an impact, and some teams can move up or down a division, which could move the lowest enrollment team from the above division down a level.

Here’s why it can be so confusing.

  • A team’s division for CalPreps and the Sac-Joaquin Section is based on enrollment. However, in the section, some leagues, like the Valley Oak League, have teams in multiple divisions. For instance, Oakdale is a Div. IV team by enrollment, but plays in the Div. III VOL.
  • All conference champions make the playoffs. So, if Oakdale were to win the VOL, even though it’s a Div. IV team by enrollment, it would compete in the Div. III playoffs because the VOL is a Div. III league.
  • All co-champions make the playoffs. When there are two or more champions, the “top seed’ is bound by the division rule.

  • When a team moves up a division, that will bump the qualifying school with the lowest enrollment in that division down a division.
  • Teams that dominate throughout the seasons, like Central Catholic, have to play in Div. II or higher.

What’s not confusing is this: A team needs at least four wins to qualify for postseason; In ranking teams, CalPreps looks at strength of schedule and key wins; and the brackets will be announced Sunday, Nov. 3.

Here is where the Stanislaus District schools stand with rankings according to CalPreps:

  • CCAL: Assuming Turlock wins its final two games, the Bulldogs will be in the Div. I bracket while Downey looks to be a lock in Div. II. Gregori and Enochs are both on the bubble in Div. I and need to win out.
  • CCC: Despite a 2-3 league record, Patterson appears to likely qualify for the Div. IV playoffs. The Tigers are No. 8 in CalPreps rankings.
  • VOL: This league will go down to the final game when Central Catholic hosts Oakdale, but both will make the playoffs. Central Catholic will be in the Div. II playoffs while Oakdale could be in either Div. III (if they win VOL) or Div. IV. Manteca and Sierra also will make the playoffs.
  • WAC: Despite all being tied for the WAC lead, Beyer, Davis, and Johansen could possibly miss the playoffs if they don’t win the league. Their strength of schedules hurt and they could knock each other out with Johansen playing both in the final two weeks.
  • MLL: After an 0-4 start, Sonora has won four in a row and will make the Div. V playoffs. The Wildcats’ four losses — all against quality opponents (Escalon, Hilmar, Oakdale and Ripon) — helps their cause.
  • TVL: Escalon, Hilmar, and Ripon all will make the playoffs but what bracket they will be in is the question. If the season were to end today, Ripon would be in D-V and Escalon and Hilmar would be in D-VI. Hughson will also make the D-VI playoffs.

  • SAL: Ripon Christian is the No. 1 seed in Div. VII, according to CalPreps but the Knights will be in Div. VI because the Southern League is a Div. VI league. Denair could possibly be the No. 1 seed in Div. VII. Orestimba is on the bubble.
  • CCAA: Big Valley Christian needs to win the CCAA title to make the playoffs. With teams possibly moving from Div. VI to Div. VII for playoffs, the Lions have little room for error.

Playoffs begin Nov. 8 and run through the weekend of Dec. 13-14, where state title games will be contested at Cerritos College and home sites throughout the state.


LeagueLikely In Bubble

CCALDowney, TurlockEnochs, GregoriModesto, Pitman
VOLCentral Catholic, Oakdale, Manteca, Sierra

Kimball, East Union

Weston Ranch

Beyer, Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, PachecoCeres, Lathrop, Mountain House
CCCAtwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, PattersonGolden ValleyCentral Valley, El Capitan
TVLEscalon, Hilmar, Hughson, Livingston, Ripon

Modesto Christian, Riverbank
SLDenair, Le Grand, Mariposa, Ripon ChristianOrestimba, WaterfordDelhi, Gustine
MLLAmador, Calaveras, SonoraArgonaut, Summerville, Bret Harte

CCAABig Valley ChristianBrookside Christian, Millennium, Stone Ridge ChristianDelta Charter
Related stories from Modesto Bee

Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.