Hillmen look to be PVL favorite

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If the first five weeks of the prep football season taught us anything it’s this: Fans should settle in for what should be a wide open Pioneer Valley League grid title chase. If you don’t believe it consider this: Placer, Lincoln and Bear River each emerged from the preseason with identical 4-1 records while Colfax and Foothill were a step back at 3-2 respectively. Only a 1-4 Center team, which is suiting only 20 players, seems to be in over its head as the PVL season kicks off on Friday. “It should be a good, tight race,” said Colfax coach Tony Martello, whose Falcons host Center Friday. “I just hope that we can get start building some consistency to be in it.” Ken Lowe of Lincoln will send his defending PVL champions to Foothill on Friday and the Zebras coach echoed Martello’s sentiments. “I think that five of the six teams in the league can beat another on any Friday night,” said Lowe. “There are a lot of teams that look very good.” Speaking of Lincoln, the Zebras lost a ton of talent to graduation but by looking at their performance in the preseason, you’d never know it. Sparked by a group of seniors that have gone 8-2, 9-1 and 11-1 in their prep careers, the Zebras notched preseason wins over Woodcreek, Argonaut and Wheatland, each teams with 4-1 records. When you consider that Woodcreek walloped Bear River, 35-7, three weeks ago and Wheatland waxed Colfax, 33-22, last week, the Zebras have everyone in the PVL’s attention. “Our seniors have really supplied leadership so far,” said Lowe. “That’s always nice to have.” In this year’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section’s playoff format, most of which debuted last season, the PVL’s league champion and runner-up will earn automatic playoff berths. After that, the CIF’s four 16-team brackets, will be filled via enrollment and teams with winning records. Although it is not a given, last season all teams with six wins to their credit made the post season. It is anticipated that some PVL playoff teams this season will land in both the Div. III and Div. IV A brackets. Here’s how the Colfax Record sees this year’s PVL race: 1. Placer (4-1) — If there’s one missing from Joey Montoya’s resume since taking the Hillmen reins in 2007, it’s a championship banner. But with senior quarterback Colin Burnett back at the controls, the Hillmen made it look easy averaging 44 points a game in the preseason. Mind boggling stat: Six different Placer ball carriers are averaging eight yards a carry or better. On defense, Caleb Mitchell may be the area’s best linebacker. 2. Lincoln (4-1) — The Zebras didn’t mount much of a passing game in its five preseason contests but they didn’t need to. Averaging just under 300 yards a game on the ground, Lincoln has a potent three-headed rush attack in the form of Oscar Fernandez, Isaac Allen and Bobby Humiston. They may not be fancy but Lincoln’s seniors know how to win. 3. Colfax (3-2) — The Falcons aren’t hurting on offense when you consider quarterback Austin Young has thrown for 1,035 yards and nine touchdowns and running back Tom Baldoni has 530 yards on the ground in just three and a half games. But Colfax will have to stay healthy and overcome untimely turnovers and penalties to move up. 4. Bear River (4-1) — Some things never change at Bear River. The Bruins will be a physical bunch on defense and keep foes off balance with a steady, ball control game on offense. Sam Houston and Josh Toft are an impressive 1-2 rushing punch. The return of receiver Joey Reina, out since the opener with an ankle injury, should open up the air game. 5. Foothill (3-2) — PVL forecasters should throw out the Mustangs opening week loss to El Dorado. A quarterback change and a steady diet of senior running back Terrell Corbett has Foothill on the move. In five games, Corbett has had what most would consider a good season: 861 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the ground. 6. Center (1-4) — A 47-8 win by the Cougars over Johnson in Week 2 gave Center fans something to cheer about but otherwise it was a long preseason