Brian Hamilton: SFL clearly the cream of the crop | TheUnion.com

Brian Hamilton: SFL clearly the cream of the crop

As we crossed the halfway point of the 2010 prep football season last week, the Sacramento Bee took a shot at ranking the top conferences in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

The Bee, of course, does a solid job of covering a large region of high school sports. Through its weekly rankings, which always spur debate, to its list of top games to take in each Friday night, the Bee helps to build interest in area ball games and also offers some “big-picture” context to how area teams stack up.

But in the case of which conference currently looks to be the best in all of Sacramento-area football, the Bee was well off the mark in tipping its cap to the Delta Valley Conference as the top league.

Though the Bee hedged a bit by admitting the DVC to be “top-heavy” with the addition of Grant, it was still his first of three “toughest conferences” listed. The second on the list was the Delta River League and third-best was the Sierra Foothill League.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how the DVC would be “ranked” ahead of either the DRL or the SFL, when judging the overall strength of each conference.

And here’s why:

Grant (6-0) has, so far, proven all those state and national polls that put the Pacers among the elite programs to be pretty darn sound rankings. From their opening kickoff with Folsom (5-1) to last week’s 61-7 whipping of Elk Grove, the Pacers have dominated each and every opponent, each and every week.

But beyond Grant?

Franklin (6-0) looks impressive sitting atop the DVC alongside Grant with a perfect record, but the Wildcats have beaten exactly one team – Yuba City (5-1) – with a winning record. Franklin also owns a win over Sheldon (3-3), but the rest of its victims – Rodriguez (2-4), Jesuit (2-4), Tracy (2-4) and Davis (1-5) – are having losing seasons so far.

So let’s put a “we’ll see” note next to the Wildcats.

The DVC’s third-best team, in terms of wins and losses, is Monterey Trail, which owns a 4-2 record and only one win over a winning team in Inderkum (5-1). The Mustangs, who Nevada Union beat in last year’s Division I title game (20-2) – and 31-21 in week three, are my pick for second place in the DVC.

All three of those DVC teams could very well go deep into the playoffs, but that’s not likely to be said of the latter half of the league.

Elk Grove (3-3), Davis (1-5) and Laguna Creek (1-5) round out the DVC roster. And it’s not likely that any of the three will be playoff bound once the regular season rolls to an end.

The Delta River League has a much better case to make than the DVC, in terms of which is the tougher conference.

As NU fans know, Pleasant Grove (6-0) has proven to be a perennial playoff team the past few years. And Folsom (5-1), despite being dominated by Grant in the opener, is certainly no slouch.

Oak Ridge (5-1), which owns wins over SFL powers Rocklin and Del Oro, suffered its first setback in its DRL opener to Sheldon (3-3) last Friday. Ponderosa (2-4) and Jesuit (2-4) are other two league members.

To truly gauge the strength of a league, the measurement must extend from the very top to the very bottom of the standings. And along those lines, there really shouldn’t be a doubt that the Sierra Foothill League will earn that title once again.

Already an annual bloodbath, the SFL got even tougher this season by welcoming back charter member Nevada Union to replace outgoing Oakmont. The result is a league stacked with perennially proud programs. And despite talk of this being a “down year” for the SFL, Rocklin (5-1) currently stands at the head of the class, followed by Granite Bay (4-2), Nevada Union (4-2), Roseville (4-2) and Woodcreek (4-2).

The only team with a losing record is Del Oro. And trust me, the Golden Eagles have to be the best 2-4 team in the entire section. Their four losses have come to teams with a combined 19-5 record, including a nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) team that owns two of those five losses.

In terms of wins and losses as a whole, the SFL and the DRL each have gone 23-13 so far this season, while the DVC is 21-15. And it’s not that the DVC teams are playing better competition, as their opponents own a 111-104 record, in comparison to the 129-86 mark SFL opponents have put together through the first six weeks.

Another good way to gauge just how good a league might be is to look at the number of teams actually contending for the league crown.

Here’s guessing that Grant, Franklin and Monterey Trail won’t have much trouble finishing atop the DVC.

And Pleasant Grove, Folsom, Oak Ridge – and perhaps Sheldon – clearly look to be the class of the DRL.

But try and guess which teams will end up at the top of the SFL and it’s a much, much tougher task. Rocklin, Granite Bay, Nevada Union might look like the favorites today, but who’s to say Roseville and Woodcreek won’t continue to build on their early success?

And Del Oro? Despite that 2-4 start, there’s not much doubt that the Golden Eagles will be heard from again this season. Of course, Dave Humphers and his NU staff hope that won’t be this Friday night.

Can the other league’s “also-rans” make a similar claim?

Anyone suggesting Davis as a threat win the DVC?

Who considers Ponderosa as a real contender in the DRL?

Considering Del Oro, currently the SFL’s cellar-dwellar, is still a completely legit pick to not only make the playoffs but to actually win the league championship, that speaks volumes about the strength of the SFL.

And here’s guessing that once the playoffs kick off, the Sierra Foothill League – from top to bottom – will once again prove to be the cream of the crop among Sac-Joaquin Section conferences.

Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. Contact him via e-mail at bhamilton@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4240.