Tracy High’s football team joins the best teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section when it heads to the Division I semifinals tonight.
Tracy’s opponent, Granite Bay, is one of two teams from the Sierra Foothill League to reach the SJS Division semifinals and one of four SFL teams that made it to the quarterfinals of their respective playoff brackets this year.
It’s familiar territory for the league, which includes schools just east of Sacramento. Since 2009, the SFL has dominated the Division I and II playoffs, with at least one champion in those divisions in each of the past five years, and with SFL teams playing in the championship games in both divisions for the past three years.
This year’s No. 1 seed, Folsom, has won a division title in three of the past four years and is the Division I defending champion.
“They might be the best league in the state. It’s a great league,” Tracy coach Matt Shrout said.
He added that because of the reorganization of the Tri-City Athletic League — with Tracy, St. Mary’s and Lincoln fighting it out for league dominance — the Bulldogs had to work harder than ever to gain their place in the playoffs.
Tonight, Shrout expects to see a Granite Bay team that plays a similar game to Tracy’. Grizzlies quarterback Justin Yeaton throws for 130 yards per game on average, with tight end Will Stabbert his primary target. Tracy quarterback Michael Brown averages 104 yards per game, including 127 yards and three touchdown passes against Jesuit last week.
The Grizzlies have three running backs leading the 175-yards-per-game rushing attack, while Tracy — led by senior Nate Jones with 140 yards per game — covers 227 yards per game on the ground.
Tracy delivered three fourth-quarter touchdowns Saturday to beat Jesuit 48-38. Shrout said his team used the basic strategy of letting the offensive backs make the most of gaps in the line.
Junior offensive tackle Jacob Torres said that when his team was behind in the third quarter, the Bulldogs knew they could take charge of the game.
“Everybody just calmed down, slowed the game down, and believed that we were going to win,” he said. “We just believed in our running backs and quarterback that they were going to get the job done.”
Shrout doesn’t plan any big changes in strategy for tonight. He said the key was how much the Tracy players wanted the win.
“They don’t want to quit. They don’t want it to end. They play for each other,” he said. “I just think they believe in it now.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Granite Bay High School, 1 Grizzly Way, along Wellington Way, in Granite Bay.