Shasta hoping to reverse trend in quarterfinal tilt with Foothill in Game of the Week

In only one year, the tables have turned for the Shasta High football team.

The Wolves, last year’s CIF 3-AA state runner-up, ransacked every team in the Northern Section, including Foothill twice in a two-week span. The fourth-seeded Cougars have a chance at returning the favor when they host the No. 5 Wolves Friday at 7 p.m. in a NSCIF Division II quarterfinal in the Redding Rancheria Game of the Week.

Teams who won the first Eastern Athletic League meeting have gone on to win 14 of the past 16 playoff rematches in the past three years. Shasta, a 49-20 loser to Foothill on Oct. 26, tries to reverse that trend when it returns to Bill Johnson Community Stadium in Palo Cedro for the quarterfinal tilt.

“It’s tough when you have to play a team like Shasta a second time because they’re so well coached,” Foothill High head coach Joey Brown said. “When you lose a game like they did a couple weeks ago you learn more about yourself than if you win the game. So we have to prepare for what we think their adjustments will be and our focus on what we can control.”

Both teams lost the final week of the regular season – Shasta a 54-21 defeat at Lassen and Foothill a 42-7 home defeat to top-seeded Chico. For Shasta, practices have shifted into the playoff atmosphere, head coach JC Hunsaker said.

“There’s been more of an energy on a day-to-day and play-to-play basis by a collective group,” Hunsaker said.

Foothill’s quarterback Jayden Gordon accounted for six touchdowns in the previous meeting and leads an offense capable of explosive plays with the likes of receivers Brandon Merryman, Chris Jacobsen, Chris Ostergren and running back Bryce Henderson.

Shasta counters with its Wing-T attack that racked up some yards with two 100-yard rushers in James Weaver and Brayden Coon, but couldn’t finish off drives for points. It’s been a point of emphasis this week as well as trying to find ways to get Weaver, Coon, Bryson Kimp, Alec Meek into the next level to score.

“I’ve tried to create more urgency and understanding for how important it is to finish things off,” Hunsaker said.

The two programs have only met in the postseason three times this decade with Shasta winning last year and Foothill the other two in 2010 and 2014.

REDDING RANCHERIA GAME OF THE WEEK
Who: #5 Shasta (3-7) at #4 Foothill (5-5)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Bill Johnson Community Stadium
Key stat: EAL teams who won the first meeting over a league opponent are 14-2 when then meet in the playoffs the same year

Division II
No. 1 Chico – bye; No. 2 Pleasant Valley – bye

No 6 Red Bluff (2-8) at No. 3 Paradise (8-2), 7 p.m. — POSTPONED, date TBA
This looks like a mismatch on paper, but games aren’t played on paper.

Don’t discount the Spartans’ ability to sling the rock as quarterback Eli Wehbey has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, while receiver Logan Robertson is his go-to guy with 1,008 yards receiving and 12 scores. Red Bluff has the ability to put up points, but its defense has allowed just over 34 points per game.

The Bobcats could’ve been the top seed in D-II if not for a regular-season ending loss to PV. Look for Rick Prinz’s crew to play with a chip on their shoulder and come out and do what Paradise does – POUND. THE. ROCK.

Paradise relies on its rushing ability and Dominic Wiggins has added his name to the list of Bobcat greats who churn out the yards. Wiggins has run for 1,707 yards and 19 scores, while Jacob Weldon has added 711 yards and nine TDs. If you add quarterback Colby Cline (477 and eight scores) into the mix, the Bobcats have nearly 2,000 yards on the ground.

The wild card in this game is the Camp Fire, which, as of this writing, was burning unchecked in and around Paradise.

Why Red Bluff should win: Wehbey and Robertson are a lethal combo. If they can hook up and find a way to keep the Paradise offense off the field, who knows?
Why Paradise should win: The run the ball … a lot. And are really, really good at it.

Division III
No. 8 U-Prep (6-4) at No. 1 West Valley (9-1), 7 p.m.
The Panthers have made tremendous strides under first-year coach Darren Trueblood. Dylan Cabral emerged as the offensive leader, throwing for more than 1,300 yards and 14 scores, while adding 300 yards and six scores on the ground. Riley Seay also has been a pleasant addition as the diminutive junior back has been the Panthers’ work horse, running for a team-high 595 yards and eight touchdowns. The defense has allowed 18 points per game, but its four losses are all to Division IV playoff teams.

The Eagles, meanwhile, are playing perhaps the best football of anyone in the Northern Section and have been fueled by playing for the memory of their fallen teammate Tyson Wacker.  The #Playfor8 mantra will spur Dub-V Nation on as West Valley has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Eagles engine runs on Bailey Sulzer power as the senior back has nearly 1,600 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns. On defense, he’s a beast as well. But he’s far from the only player on the team as Kitt McCloughan, Devin Low, Joshua Aguilar and Dagen Johnson-Sanders are among the guys who’ve had a hand in getting the Eagles to this point.

Why U-Prep should win: The Panthers are battle-tested and have the offense to put up points should the Eagles take them lightly.
Why West Valley should win: The Eagles are the best team in the section. Playing for Tyson Wacker just ups the ante on the determination of a scary-good football team.

No. 7 Oroville (5-5) at No. 2 Sutter (8-2), 7 p.m.
It’s interesting to think that the Huskies are having a “down” year at 8-2, while the Tigers are having a “great” season at 5-5.

Jake Lowe and Trenton Roosevelt lead Oroville, offensively, as Lowe has thrown for 1,600 yards and 15 scores, while Roosevelt had nearly 600 yards rushing and 12 TDs.

But the best Oroville season in at least a decade might not be near enough to topple the Huskies, who are led by a quartet of runners, all of whom have more than 500 yards rushing. Junior quarterback Cory McIntyre leads the group with 759 yards rushing and 14 TDs (with 770 yards passing also), followed by Colton Dillabo (660 yards and four TDs), Dillon Brown (583 and six), and Zac Hancock (573 and eight).

Why Oroville should win: Again, it’s playoffs and taking a team lightly, especially one that can throw and run, is dangerous.
Why Sutter should win: In addition to the ability to pound the rock, the Huskies know how to win and are battle-tested.

No. 6 Orland (6-4) at No. 3 Gridley (7-3), 7 p.m.
The Bone Yard is a tough place to place and the Bulldogs already own a 42-7 win over the Trojans in late October.

Orland’s defense has only allowed 221 points all season and the Trojans have beaten Anderson, Willows and Corning in low-scoring affairs. The question is: Can they score enough to get past the hosts Bulldogs, who have a pair of 1,000-plus yard backs in Riley Dunning (1,315 yards and 19 scores) and Jorge Moran (1,238 and 24 scores).

Why Orland should win: The Trojans have the defense to win low-scoring affairs. Limit the Bulldogs’ O and who knows.
Why Gridley should win: The Bulldogs at home are tough. Add in confidence of already having beaten Orland and Gridley should book a trip to Sutter.

No. 5 Anderson (7-3) at No. 4 Lassen (7-3), 7 p.m.
This game is the irresistible force vs. the immovable object.

The immovable object would be Anderson – which played like gang-busters early, but had a midseason hiccup before finding its groove – with its game-changing back in Parker Phillips. The senior can simply take over a game. He set a school record for rushing yards in a game and the Cubs have a chip on their shoulder after getting waxed in Lassen on Oct. 12.

The irresistible force is the Lassen offense, which leads the section in scoring in a very-un-Grizzlie like fashion of being able to pass with Haydeon Chittock. Toss in running back Tucker St. Andre and the Grizzlies could be a spoiler in D-III.

Why Anderson should win: Revenge. Big Blue wants nothing more than to come back from the mountains with a Dub.
Why Lassen should win: That offense is potent and can neutralize anything the Cubs do on their side of the ball.

Division IV
No. 8 Hamilton (2-8) at No. 1 Durham (9-1), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Williams (6-4)  at No. 2 Winters (9-1), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Pierce (5-4) at No. 3 East Nicolaus (10-0), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Mount Shasta (5-3) at No. 4 Colusa (7-3), 7 p.m.

Division V
No. 1 Fall River – bye; No. 2 Biggs – bye
No. 5 Etna vs. No. 4 Quincy at Feather River College, 7 p.m.
No. 6 Maxwell at No. 3 Chester, 7 p.m.