The Hughson Huskies are a three-point favorite over Palma (Salinas) in the CIF Northern California Division 4-A championship game today at Hughson High School’s Husky Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
CalPreps.com has predicted a 31-28 victory for the Huskies, one week after predicting a six-point loss for them against Bradshaw Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 6 championship game.
Hughson overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to win 40-39.
Today’s matchup will be vastly different for the Huskies, who had to contend with BC’s run-heavy offense last week at Sacramento City College’s Hughes Stadium.
Palma’s offense is more diverse, and features Notre Dame-bound wideout Logan Saldate, a 6-foot, 180-pounder who averages about five receptions and roughly 100 receiving yards per game. He was also a state-qualifier in the high jump last year.
The Chieftains are 9-4 overall on the field this season, but officially 6-7 after having to forfeit three non-conference games for using an ineligible player.
In 13 games this season, the toughest team they’ve faced likely was Yuma Catholic, which defeated the Central Coast Section champs 14-0 on Sept. 8, ranked No. 19 in Arizona by MaxPreps.com.
Overall, when looking through the MaxPreps prism, Hughson is ranked 148th in the state, while Palma is ranked 153.
“Palma has been a Division 1 team in that section and they usually compete a high level in the CCS,” said Mark Tennis, publisher of Cal-Hi Sports, the leading authority on the statewide prep scene for four decades. “But I think the forfeit losses impacted where they got placed.”
It’s hard to know where Yuma Catholic would rank among California teams, so looking at just statewide opponents, Palma’s toughest matchup came Oct. 20 against Pacific Coast-Gabilan Division foe Sequel, ranked 100th in the state heading into last night’s 4-AA NorCal bowl against Casa Roble (Orangevale). The Chieftains fell to Knights 14-7.
Hughson’s toughest opponent, meanwhile, was Trans-Valley League rival Escalon, ranked 80th in the state heading into last night’s 3-AA NorCal bowl against Acalanes (Lafayette). The Cougars beat the Huskies 21-14 on Sept. 29.
Overall, the Chieftains’ California opponents own an average MaxPreps ranking of 346 (Palma faced both Hollister and Alisal twice this season). Hughson’s opponents have an average ranking of 420. Considering that the state has roughly 1,100 teams, 74 ranking points is not that much separation.
When looking at the California teams that beat Palma on the field, those teams average 206. The Huskies’ losses came to teams with an average state ranking of 150. With a smaller sample size, that margin of 56 ranking points becomes more significant.
And Hughson’s three losses were by a combined 14 points (an average margin of 4.7 points), while Palma’s four setbacks were by 48 total points (an average of 12 points).
The Huskies’ offense averages 37 points per game, while their defense gives up 17 points per game. Palma scores 30 points per contest and yields 20.
So, what does this all mean?
It means that today’s NorCal 4A matchup could be the most evenly matched of all the 13 NorCal bowl games this weekend.
“This is probably a difficult test for Hughson, for sure,” said Tennis.