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Vista earns No. 2 seed, opens playoffs Thursday

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Up to this point in the season, things have gone about as well as Vista del Lago’s football team could have hoped.

They’ve only lost one game; the season opener against Oak Ridge, have won the Sierra Valley Conference and have earned the No. 2 seed in the Division III playoffs. The Eagles couldn’t be in a better position.

“We’re in a really good situation,” Vista coach Chris Jones said. “We’ve got a home playoff game all the way to the championship game if we keep winning and that’s what we’ve worked for all season. I think our draw is pretty good too. If we play the way we’re capable, we should be able to keep this thing going for a few more weeks. We’ve got as good a chance as anyone.”

The Eagles enter the playoffs with a 9-1 record and are as hot as any playoff team. There’s no doubt that the key to their success this season has been the emergence of sophomore quarterback Matt Jimison, who stepped into the starting role week 4 against Bradshaw Christian and has improved with every game. Jimison has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,954 yards and 32 touchdowns against only five interceptions.

“We’ve improved dramatically since week one against Oak Ridge and much have that has come from Matt,” Jones said. “He’s done a tremendous job. The other thing is that our defense keeps getting better and more active with each week.”

Vista opens the playoffs at home Thursday against 15th-seeded Lincoln (5-5). If they win they’d play the winner of Sacramento/El Camino. The semifinals would likely feature third-seed Sierra or sixth-seed Inderkum. Oakdale, who beat Vista del Lago last year in the second round of the playoffs, is the top seed on the other half of the bracket along with fourth-seed American Canyon and fifth-seed Cosumnes Oaks.

The Eagles enter the playoffs coming off a 42-21 win over Union Mine on Friday night. Vista scored four touchdowns in the first half, working up a 28-7 lead at halftime on their way to their ninth straight win.

Jimison had another strong game, completing 12 passes for 154 yards and five touchdowns. Brad Rittenhouse caught three touchdown passes covering 89 yards. Colin McCargo also caught two touchdown passes, while Jimison added another touchdown on a run.

J.T. Winkler led the defense with 13 tackles. Austin McGuire and Chris Grunsky were in on 11 tackles, while Austin Eberle made 10. Andrew Schantz and Jacob Jones had interceptions, while Grunsky recovered a fumble.

“I thought we played well,” Jones said. “We were efficient on offense and I felt we did a pretty good job on Sean Tow, except for one big run he had.”

The junior varsity Eagles earned a 41-21 win over Union Mine and finished the year with a 7-3 record.

“We pretty much controlled the game from the first snap, a 61-yard touchdown from Ryan Wert to Daniel Morgan,” coach Dennis Valencia said. “Our offensive line of George Uribe, Brad Funk, Alex King, Luke Maylee and Brandon Mulks, played their best game. We played a solid four quarters.

“After going 10-0 as freshmen, we had a lot of obstacles to overcome this season, but the team never quit and players and coaches stepped up to show their character and get ready for varsity next year. I could not be prouder of all the kids this season.”