SVC sweep puts Oak Ridge in Division I playoff bracket
The Oak Ridge High School football team finished its last season in the Sierra Valley Conference on a seven-game winning streak, sweeping league competition en route to a 7-3 overall record and a perfect 6-0 SVC record.
The Trojans are riding a high none would have expected after a 0-3 start to the season, and because of it, things will only get more difficult now.
With a new playoff format produced by the Sac-Joaquin Section this season, teams typically battling for section titles in their own division have jumped up or dropped down to compete this season, leaving plenty of room for every team to shine.
“We are in the D1 playoffs this year due to the new playoff format instituted,” Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere said. “All D1 and D2 playoff teams are lumped into the same pool, then the top-16 teams based on enrollment are placed into the D1 playoffs and the bottom 16 teams based on enrollment are placed into D2. That puts us in D1.”
The Trojans are confident they can compete there too, believing each game is a new one anyone can win.
“I think we will fare just fine in D1,” Cavaliere added. “The bottom line is you need to play your best game regardless of your opponent or division. It’s the playoffs and all teams are good.”
Oak Ridge used one of the most competitive schedules in the Sacramento area to get battle tested for the postseason. The Trojans’ three losses came to teams with a combined record of 29-1. Oak Ridge lost to now 10-0 Rocklin, 9-1 Folsom and defending state champion and 10-0 Grant. The early schedule wasn’t just a resume builder, it was iron sharpening iron.
“When we were 0-3, we weren’t down on ourselves because we knew we scheduled the hardest teams we could find and we were up for the challenge,” said Oak Ridge quarterback Connor Benander. “Our coaches scheduled the hardest teams to help us get ready for league play and it clearly paid off. We knew we could hang with some of the best teams in the area and those teams helped us get better as a team. These last seven games have definitely given us confidence and momentum going into the playoffs.”
“The tough start is part of the reason we are winning now,” Cavaliere said. “Playing those opponents forces you to get better, which prepared us well for league.”
League was no cakewalk for Oak Ridge, even though it never suffered a blemish in the campaign. Oak Ridge had many battles, including a three-point win over Christian Brothers, a one-point win over Vista del Lago and a three-point win over Ponderosa, and overcoming them all has made the Trojans a well-rounded team.
“We are all very excited about winning league,” Benander said. “It feels pretty awesome and has given us a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”
“The regular season was good for us in that we faced some very good teams, and played some very close games,” Cavaliere said. “Hopefully those experiences will help us here in the postseason.”
“It feels great to sweep league – first time we have done that since 2004,” he added. “Oak Ridge has dominated the SVC for the last 11 years, and it was a goal of ours to put our stamp on the league in our last year with the SVC.”
Now it’s their goal to make the same impact in the playoffs. After a regular season like that, who would doubt them?
“As long as we play smart and mistake-free football, it’s going to be pretty hard to stop us,” Benander said. “The whole playoff system is very different this year and since our school size is so large we’re in Division 1 and we feel we have a great chance at winning sections. It’s been a while since Oak Ridge has gotten past the first round of the playoffs, so our immediate goal would be to do exactly that.”