Varsity football team searches for playoff berth


After the varsity football game against Del Oro, the team takes a knee to listen to Coach Zac McNally’s reactions. The Wildcats won 30-27 in overtime. Photo by Aazam Khan.

With significant wins under its belt this season, the varsity football team has a shot at making the playoffs. 

But that does not mean the path is easy. Out of the 198 schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section, only 80 teams make the playoffs. The playoffs are divided into seven divisions, with 12 teams in each, except for Division VII, which has eight teams. Whitney is in a tough situation to make Division I.

With a loss in the Quarry Bowl and a 23-point shutout to Granite Bay, the chances of making Division I playoffs are next to impossible, considering that Folsom and Oak Ridge are next on their schedule. But that does not necessarily mean that the team will change their mindset for their final matches.

Carson Phillips, a sophomore pulled up to varsity, explains.

“Each of the three remaining games should have the same mentality,” Phillips said.

No game should be taken lightly. Even though Folsom and Oak Ridge has some of the greatest athletes in the nation, if we compete with them and lock them up deep, then we will have a great shot at winning.”

— Carson Phillips

The team belongs to the Sac-Joaquin Section, which has 26 leagues. Whitney moved to the Sierra Foothill League last year, which is one of if not the most competitive leagues in the Sac-Joaquin Section. From the results shown from last season, the transition to the SFL was anything but easy. During the 2018 season, the team did not win a single game in the regular season, finishing 0-10 overall, but this year they have posted some wins. Their current record of 3-4 includes their win over Del Oro. Last year, that team defeated Whitney 49-0. Head coach Zac McNally and Carson Phillips attributes this year’s improvement to many things.

“The off-season weight room training and just the confidence it gave them by changing their bodies and their mindset. And [they improved because of] just comfortability with the coaching staff for a full year,” McNally said. 

“We put a lot of work in the off-season. More use in the weight room was crucial. It was also having the coaches and players more adapted to the SFL switch because the teams [from the CVC] were less competition. And this year our intensity is up,” Phillips said.

All that work is going to be necessary because the Sierra Foothill League consists of power house schools. The most notable is Folsom, which won the entire Sac-Joaquin Section last year and has an SFL winning streak of 39 games. This is why last year the SFL had five out of the seven teams accepted to the playoffs last season. 

While it is highly unlikely the team will make it into the Division I playoffs, there is a great chance they will qualify for the Division II playoffs. According to Max Preps, a CBS organization used for online resources of high school athletic stats, the team is currently ranked sixth in the Division II bracket. But they are still one win short of making the playoffs, as each team must have four wins in order to qualify. 

“We are given three more opportunities left to win and make the playoffs. I definitely feel confident that the boys can rally and we can get this done. I am excited that we can control our destiny. We don’t have to wait for another team to win, another team to lose. It is very clear that we have to take care of our own business,” McNally said.

With one more win, their first playoff game could possibly be a home game against Jesuit.

“I would be happy if we play against Jesuit in the playoffs because when varsity had a scrimmage against them, we defeated Jesuit pretty well. We were able to control Jesuit on both the run game and the pass game and our defense was able to shut them down,” Phillips said.

The pathway to achieve the goal of playoff status was clear to the coaches and the entire team.

McNally said, “We try to go 1-0 every week. We approach every game the same way.”