Ryan Smith coaches Vacaville High’s defensive backs, so he might as well take this week off as the Bulldogs prepare to face Elk Grove on Friday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs. Anyone who has followed the Bulldogs in recent seasons knows the Thundering Herd throw the ball as often as a fat guy sees his shoes.
Elk Grove’s David Hale has thrown 10 or more passes in three games this season and completed more than four just once. The junior went 9-of-12 for 67 yards and a touchdown in a 45-7 loss to San Ramon Valley on Sept. 8. That left the Thundering Herd at 1-3, but Elk Grove recovered with five consecutive wins to become eligible for the playoffs.
The section has straightened out its playoff format by using enrollment to determine which teams belong in one of the seven divisions. Teams had to win a minimum of four games to advance to the playoffs except in Division IV, which had 10 teams qualify and filled out the 12-team bracket by adding two teams based on CalPreps rankings.
Dixon and Ceres made it with 3-7 records. The ninth-seeded Rams, who started 0-5 this season, will play Rosemont in Sacramento on Friday. The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and face No. 1 Twelve Bridges in Lincoln on Nov. 10. Twelve Bridges opened in the fall of 2021.
Vacaville is the No. 9 seed in Division II and will travel to Elk Grove. This will be their fourth postseason meeting in six years. There were no playoffs three years ago when the spread of COVID-19 turned the 2020 fall season into five games in the spring of 2021.
The Bulldogs would rather not be reminded that they lost the first three playoff meetings with the Thundering Herd. The 2018 loss was respectable with Elk Grove scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter on its way to a 28-21 victory. A year later, Elk Grove ran for 392 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-29 rout. Elk Grove was 0-of-2 passing.
Elk Grove’s Ethan Archuleta did more damage with his legs than his arm in 2021. Archuleta rushed for 242 yards and three touchdowns as the Thundering Herd gained 559 yards on the ground in a 52-48 victory. Archuleta also completed one pass for 24 yards.
Quarterback Ryan Vaughan kept Vacaville in the game by going 28-of-42 for 336 yards and two touchdowns. The senior also ran for 47 yards and a score. Rare is the game in which the Bulldogs have nearly twice as many passing attempts as rushing (24).
Vacaville has had three consecutive seasons with 200 or more passing attempts. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs had more than 150 in a season just once from 2010 to 2019. Elk Grove has not had more than 85 attempts in a season since 2016, when Jayden Machado completed 159 of 245 passes for 2,294 yards and 35 touchdowns.