The Vista del Lago Eagles from Folsom, CA completed a 9-1 regular season on Nov. 2 to earn a No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Div. III playoffs. I caught up with starting sophomore QB Matt Jimison in the midst of his team’s preparation for a second-round game against No. 10 El Camino (also the Eagles). Vista opened the playoffs with a statement win for the rest of the bracket, a 44-0 shutout over Lincoln during which Jimison threw for 172 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The numbers are a modest representation of his eye-popping season. He had individual games of 419, 377, 355 and 276 yards. Through 11 games, he’s thrown 34 touchdowns to just six interceptions with a 67.5 completion percentage. If that’s not enough, he made his first start three games into the season.
The Eagles may be expected to reach the section championship game (presumably against top-seeded Oakdale), but Jimison doesn’t let the growing playoff tension affect him. “We are just taking one game at a time. El Camino is going to be a good test for us. They have some big players and a strong running back (Desmond Boyd-Tanner) that we will have to be ready for, so we’ve been preparing hard for this game all week.”
Vista’s high-flying offense is rounded out by a similarly young core that will help make the Eagles a force beyond just 2012. Leading receiver Brad Rittenhouse (717 yards, 13 TDs) is a sophomore. Leading rusher Josh Pfeffer (897 yards, 14 TDs) and second-leading receiver Tyler Kaim (556 yards, six TDs) are juniors. Jimison asserts, “I really think we have the best group of receivers in California. We throw the ball downfield a lot, and they’ve been able to handle every route.”
Following a first-week loss to Div. I powerhouse Oak Ridge, the Eagles have since soared to 10 straight wins. Most of those were lopsided games, but a late-season win over league foe Cosumnes Oaks stands out. Facing a Wolfpack defense that had allowed an average of 11 points through seven games, the Eagles had their work cut out.
Despite overcoming that defense throughout the game, Vista trailed 34-28 late and needed a magic ending from Jimison and the offense. “We run the two-minute drill every Thursday just for these situations. The O-line was giving us all the time we needed that night and really helped us get down the field. I think there were 12 seconds left when we got the winning touchdown. Both our teams were co-conference champions last season, so now there’s this good rivalry developing.”
Cosumnes Oaks are the No. 5 seed in the opposite half of the bracket from Vista, so it’s possible the Eagles and Wolfpack could meet again for the Div. III section title.