Nine members of the Modesto Junior College Pirates were special guests of the Modesto Quarterback Club on Monday. Front row from left: Tyler McMahan, Jacob Edmond, Luke Weaver, Trey Moreland and Alonzo Jackson. Back row: Bronson England, Fayzon Allen, Kyle Jackson and Max Rascon. (Ron Agostini),

Modesto QB Club: Local playoff pairings, Downey's bad math, and a classy voice

Ron Agostini

 MODESTO – The Downey High Knights, encouraged by two regular-season ending victories, held out hope for a home game in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.

 Their wishes were dashed, thus affirming Downey’s reputation as the team that gets no respect.

“Somewhat controversial,” Downey coach Jeremy Plaa mused at Monday’s final Modesto Quarterback Club meeting of the season.

 The Knights (9-1), runners-up behind Turlock in the Central California Athletic League, settled for an unsavory rematch at Tracy on Friday night. It’s unsavory because the Bulldogs handled Downey 43-13 on Sept. 15. Plaa figured another trip to Tracy was possible after Downey’s 38-20 victory over Gregori.

But how it happened – confirmed by the section’s pairings announced Sunday – was Downey’s version of bad math.

Downey entered the final week seeded ninth in the D-II power ratings.  The Knights liked their chances to move to No. 8, which guaranteed a home game, for two reasons: 1. Their fast finish over the 7-3 Jaguars; and, 2. Tracy’s forfeiture of four non-league wins, including the Downey game, for usage of an ineligible player.

What Downey did not count on – to drop a spot to No. 10 – became a sad fact. Vacaville leapfrogged the Knights, and the selection committee did not punish Tracy for the transgression. The Bulldogs stayed at No. 7, hence Downey’s assignment this week at Wayne Schneider Stadium.

“Tracy had no repercussions whatsoever. There were no consequences,” Plaa said. “Maybe the wrong team was punished.”

The section defended the action Sunday by noting that teams forfeiting wins due to player ineligibility face no sanctions in the playoffs. That explanation didn’t hold water, however, for Downey and perhaps other programs who followed all guidelines.

“Every year there always seems to be something,” Plaa said.

 The veteran Downey coach also understands his program must earn its respect. That hasn’t yet happened in the postseason. Since 2011, the Knights are 3-11 in the playoffs and 0-4 vs. Granite Bay. Downey’s last victory in the bracket was 2018. Until that script is rewritten, Downey probably won’t get the committee’s benefit of the doubt.

That leaves Downey as a major underdog Friday night. One point in the Knights’ favor is junior quarterback Carson Lamb, who was injured and missed the first Tracy game. Plaa also holds out hope that receiver Joe Ramirez, who missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, could return. Ramirez was the Downey quarterback in Lamb’s absence.

“We feel that we’re a better team than we were in the first game,” Plaa said.

PIRATES – Nine Modesto Junior College Pirates attended the QB club meeting as special guests, and their smiles were telling. MJC (5-3, 3-0 Valley Conference) has saved its best for the stretch run.

The Pirates stunned Reedley last Saturday by storming to a 35-0 halftime lead en route to a 42-7 cakewalk. Luke Weaver twice found Bronson England for touchdown passes, and 235-pound linebacker Tamirr Bullock capped the rally with an interception – via a carom off the Reedley receiver -- and a 54-yard return to the end zone. The Pirates pounded home their point with 402 rushing yards.

“We played our best game (at Reedley),” MJC coach Rusty Stivers said. “It took us eight games.”

MJC, bidding for its third straight league title, travels to Sequoias. A win would set up another showdown against Fresno a week from Saturday at MJC Stadium.

NOTES – The vast majority of teams in the area have finished their respective seasons. The campaign continues, however, for the playoff qualifiers. Central Catholic (8-2), the Valley Oak League champion, gained a No. 2 seed in Division I after Rocklin knocked off Oak Ridge. A possibility in a few weeks is No. 3O Oak Ridge at CC at Patton Field in the semifinals. …  There were no surprises for 10th-seeded Gregori in D-1. The Jaguars will travel to Stockton to face No. 7 Edison (8-2), the San Joaquin Athletic Association champion. ...

Johansen hoped to vault senior running back Tek Garcia over the 2,000-yard mark, but doing that would have heaped unnecessary misery on winless Beyer. Garcia settled for 205 yards, good for a school-record 1,944 yards and 19 touchdowns, during Johansen’s 40-6 win. “We want to do things the right way,” Vikings coach Rod Smith said. … Smith said his team (6-4) was disappointed that the Vikings’ season did not continue. “We thought we had a chance. Next year we’ll have to win enough games to leave no doubt,” Smith said. … Beyer coach Mike Young maintains hope for the future, but the present does not look good. The Patriots completed their third straight 0-10 season. Their last win (discounting the 2-1 record during the 2020 pandemic) was a 24-14 decision over Johansen on Nov. 1, 2019, to clinch the Western Athletic Conference title. …

Grace Davis (4-6, 4-3 WAC) defeated Ceres 20-13 for the Spartans’ fourth win in their last five games. “We started 0-5 and no one quit and we lost no one to grades,” first-year coach Trevor Mew said.

DOWNEY VOICE – A milestone was passed that deserved some attention. Dennis Snelling has reached his 50th year as the voice of Downey athletics, the last 47 on the mic as the football public address announcer. “I can’t remember when I didn’t do this,” he said before last week’s Downey win over Gregori. Snelling, a Rocklin resident, does not intend to stop, and that’s good news for anyone who’s listened to his smooth and professional call over the years.

Snelling is without peer in the area. Public-address announcing is a genre that has leaned in recent years less on dignity and more toward screamers and cheerleaders. Snelling is the polar opposite— delightfully old-school. It might explain why he’s lasted so long.  He passes on clear, accurate and concise information in a timely manner to the spectator, and he does it in a pleasant but informed tone.  His down-and-distance reminder, seconds before every snap, is only one example of his fundamental strength.

Simply, Snelling finds the sweet spot -- supporting Downey while not showing up the opponent. “I try to get in as many names as possible for both teams. That’s important to me,” he said. “These are 15 and 16-year-old kids who probably will not be on this stage again.”

Sac-Joaquin Section Playoffs

First Round Friday Night

Division I: Sheldon (11) at Turlock (6); Gregori (10) at Edison (7). Central Catholic (2), bye.

Division II: Downey (10) at Tracy (7). Manteca (4), bye

Division III: Bella Vista (12) at Merced (5); Golden Valley (9) at Linden (8); Mountain House (11) at Roseville (6). Oakdale (4), bye.

Division IV: Kimball (6) at Nevada Union (11); Sacramento (9) at Sierra (8). Escalon (1), bye; Patterson (3), bye.

Division V: Foothill (10) at Lathrop (7); Ceres (11) at Pioneer (6). Hilmar (3), bye; Los Banos (4), bye.

Division VI: Marysville (10) at Summerville (7); Calaveras (11) at Union Mine (6); Amador (12) at Colfax (5). Sonora (2), bye; Hughson (4), bye.

Division VII: Golden Sierra (8) at Ripon Christian (1); Highlands (7) at Orestimba (2); Waterford (6) at Le Grand (3); Gustine (5) at Rio Vista (4). Stone Ridge Christian (2), bye.

View the brackets at