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There were the nonleague games and the league games.

Now get ready for the playoffs.

Three Napa Valley teams, led by Solano County Athletic Conference champion American Canyon High School, start the postseason this week.

After losing three in a row to start the 2017 season, American Canyon has won six straight and will be at home to begin the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. The Wolves (6-3 overall, 4-0 SCAC) are the No. 7 seed and will face River Valley-Yuba City (7-3 overall, 3-3 Tri-County Conference), the No. 10 seed, on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Wolf Den Stadium.

“Even though the season didn’t start out the way they wanted to, they were still focused on their goals,” American Canyon coach Larry Singer said. “I think that’s a tremendous testament to the strength of our boys and what they can get done, when they want to.”

Last week’s 41-7 win over Benicia capped a perfect 4-0 league season for American Canyon, while also securing a high enough seed to be at home for the opening round of the playoffs.

“To be able to do it outright and say it’s ours all alone, is great for us,” Singer said. “I’m excited about what the boys accomplished. I think they did a tremendous job of sticking with the process and having the confidence to move forward.”

Vintage and Justin-Siena are also in the playoffs.

Vintage (7-2 overall, 3-1 Monticello Empire League) is the No. 15 seed and will play at Inderkum-Sacramento (10-0 overall, 6-0 Tri-County Conference) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a first-round SJS Division II playoff game.

Vintage finished in a tie for second place in the MEL after beating Napa, 14-7, in Big Game XLVI last week.

It’s Vintage’s first trip to the playoffs since 2014.

“This is what should be the norm every year,” said coach Dylan Leach. “We need to put ourselves in a better position to get a better seed throughout the season. It’s really trying to get the kids to understand that how everything matters when it comes to the end.”

Justin-Siena (3-5 overall, 3-1 Marin County Athletic League) is the No. 12 seed and will play at Moreau Catholic-Hayward (5-5 overall, 5-0 Mission Valley League), the No. 5 seed, in a first-round CIF North Coast Section Division 4 playoff game on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“It’s good to be back in the playoffs,” said Justin-Siena coach Brandon LaRocco. “Last year was tough not being in there. Justin has a long tradition of producing playoff-caliber football teams. We’re happy to be back in the tournament, with a chance to play some more football games.

“This week is about effort as much as anything else. It’s playing physical. It’s playing four full quarters and putting everything we have into this game, because ultimately, it’s win or go home.”

Vintage has lost eight straight games in the playoffs. The Crushers won SJS Division I titles in 1980 and 1986.

“There’s a lot of history and I know a lot about that history,” said Leach. “We’re excited about being in the playoffs. We’re also excited about the new adventures in the North Coast Section.”

The defensive unit for Vintage played well in the Big Game, said Leach. The Crushers limited Napa to 117 yards rushing and 38 yards passing. Angel Castillo (outside linebacker) and Villiami Schaumkel (inside linebacker) both played well, said Leach.

“As a unit, I think the defense definitely stood out,” said Leach. “The defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage.”

Vintage played much more disciplined in the Big Game than it had the few weeks before that, said Leach.

“I thought we played hard. I thought we played with great intensity and great enthusiasm and love for the game,” he said.

American Canyon, which is in the playoffs for the sixth straight year, has had solid execution from its offensive line and defensive line the last two weeks, said Singer.

“We’re hoping that carries over,” he said. “The boys are understanding what we’re doing and they’re seeing the checks and recognizing the things that need to be done in situations. I think our boys have gotten more in tune to what we’re doing.”

American Canyon’s rush offense is led by LaVar Seay (824 yards, 12 touchdowns), Kama Aalona (536 yards, six TDs), Eddie Byrdsong (523 yards, four TDs), and Brenden Johnson (482 yards, four TDs).

In the game against Benicia, Seay ran for 242 yards on just seven carries and scored three touchdowns, Aalona had 106 yards on six attempts, and Byrdsong had 93 yards on 18 carries and three TDs.

“LaVar showed off what he can do against Benicia,” said Singer. “Kama has been a threat for two years. Brenden has come into his own this year. Eddie is just a bulldozer. There’s a lot for teams to prepare for with us. Hopefully that works to our advantage and we take advantage of it Thursday night.”

LaRocco said he expects a competitive game, a hard fought-game against Moreau Catholic.

“They’re a good team,” he said of the Mariners. “It’s a good match-up. I think every team in this tournament is a team we can play with.”

Justin-Siena’s offense is led by quarterback Barrett Donohoe, running back Conrad Say, and receivers Ronnie Caretti Jr. and Luigi Albano-Dito.

“In the playoffs, it’s about who shows up that day ready to play,” said LaRocco.

The playoffs are single elimination and feature the CIF State Bowl Northern California Regional Championships, scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9, and the State Championships on Dec. 15 and 16.

This is the 46th year of the SJS football playoffs. It also marks the final year for American Canyon, Vintage and Napa in the section. The three Napa Valley Unified School District high schools will be moving to the NCS, joining Justin-Siena, Sonoma Valley, Casa Grande and Petaluma in a new league starting with the 2018-19 school year.

The NCS Board of Managers voted unanimously last month to approve a proposal to group Napa, Vintage, American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande-Petaluma into a league together starting with the 2018-19 school year.

The vote was 47-0, in favor of the new seven-school league, which will be part of the Marin-Sonoma-Mendocino Conference. The move will start with the mid cycle alignment, for 2018-2020.


Executive Sports Editor

Executive Sports Editor Marty James has been with the Napa Valley Register since 1979. He is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, California Prep Sportswriters Association, and the California Golf Writers Association. He was inducted into the