On Friday, Nov. 9, the Bulldogs (7-3, 4-1 San Joaquin Athletic Association) go up against St. Mary’s from Stockton, the repeat champion from the Tri-City Athletic League and a regular in postseason competition.
The Rams are the No. 7 seed in Division II. Tracy’s win against Bear Creek on Friday, Nov. 2, moved the Bulldogs up to the No. 10 seed. They play at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Mary’s High.
The Bulldogs and Rams both played in the old 10-team SJAA until 2004, the last year before the league was split to form the SJAA and TCAL.
Tracy and St. Mary’s last met in the first round of the Division I playoffs in 2007. The Rams won it 56-26 and went on to win the section title.
Tracy head coach Matt Shrout said he remembers that 2007 playoff game well. He was the Bulldogs line and special teams coach.
“We knew we were overmatched going in,” Shrout said. “They were a good team that year.”
This year, St. Mary’s has another strong team. The Rams (8-2, 5-0 TCAL) lost only to De La Salle of Concord, Cal Hi Sports’ top-ranked team in the state, and Central Catholic of Modesto, the top team in Cal Hi Sports’ Division IV North rankings.
Shrout said his Bulldogs aren’t intimidated.
“Our defense is fired up and ready to take on a good offense, and our offense has taken on the challenge to move the ball on a very good defense,” Shrout said. “To them, it’s just another team they have to beat to get where they want to go.”
The Bulldogs and Rams met Aug. 18 this year during the first week of scrimmages. Shrout said Tracy measured up well against St. Mary’s.
“We moved the ball and did some things that we wanted to make sure we would be able to do,” Shrout said.
The Bulldogs then started the season with two losses. Shrout said the first game against Sierra was disappointing, but even with a loss in the second week, the Bulldogs put up a good fight against Franklin of Elk Grove, the top seed in Division I.
“We have gotten better week after week,” Shrout said. “You can’t tell with our league schedule how good we are. We have to go into a first-round game with St. Mary’s, and that will tell us real fast.”
St. Mary’s quarterback Kaleb Parish averages nearly 195 yards passing per game, and the Rams run the ball for nearly 192 yards, on average, each week.
Tracy has senior fullback Bruce Russell to anchor the Bulldogs’ running game. He averages nearly 116 yards per game, and the Bulldog offense averages more than 257 yards per game on the ground.
Senior quarterback Luke Hanna was passing for an average of nearly 88 yards per game before he was injured playing Lincoln on Oct. 19.
Sophomore quarterback Michael Brown has passed for 74 yards in his two games since then, and he has also contributed to the rushing game.
Shrout wouldn’t say for certain whether Hanna would be back for Friday’s game. He said Brown was preparing to lead the team again, and coaches will decide Friday if Hanna has recovered from his shoulder injury.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com