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Elk Grove Citizen

Dixon pulls off playoff upset, makes program history

Nov 12, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Shaun Holkko, sports editor

Dixon senior wide receiver Luis Torres attempts to break away from Foothill junior cornerback Isaiah Bonton during a 24-6 Dixon win in the first round of the 2022 Division V CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Football Playoffs on November 4 in Dixon. The Rams won at Liberty Ranch 28-21 on Friday, November 11 in the D5 quarterfinals. Photo by Nicolas Brown

Rams advance to section semifinals for first time since 1974

GALT, CA (MPG) – The Dixon varsity football team made school history on Friday night with a win at Liberty Ranch, earning the Rams a spot in the final four of the 2022 Division V CIF-Sac Joaquin Section Football Playoffs.

Dixon (10-2) has not advanced this far in the postseason in nearly 50 years, dating back to 1974 according to coach Wes Besseghini. The No. 6 seed Rams scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to upset the No. 3 ranked Hawks (10-1), 28-21.

Liberty Ranch scored a touchdown in the first quarter, the only points of the opening 12 minutes. The Hawks doubled their lead in the second period, as senior fullback Gavin O’Brien barreled into the end zone on the ground.

Dixon’s first score of the night was set up by a long kickoff return by junior wide receiver Alijah Montgomery that almost reached pay dirt. Senior quarterback Jett Harris dashed into the end zone for six points with under a minute to play in the first half. Liberty Ranch led 14-7 at halftime.

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O’Brien, who also plays middle linebacker, set up the Hawks’ next scoring drive with an interception in Dixon territory. Liberty Ranch junior quarterback Kymani Fenika then scored a rushing touchdown.

The Rams quickly responded, set up by two long passes by Harris to fellow seniors, running back Braden Baumbach and wide receiver Brent Green, respectively. Harris finished off the drive with a touchdown pass to Green. The Hawks led 21-14 after three quarters.

Dixon nearly tied the game with a defensive score midway through the fourth period. Senior cornerback Luis Torres recovered a fumble and returned it 85-yards for the touchdown. However, senior Luis Amador missed the ensuing point after try, leaving the score 21-20 Hawks.

That play was truly a game changer and a huge momentum shift for the Rams who went from potentially trailing by two scores again, to cutting their deficit to one point with five minutes to play.

Green quickly ended Liberty Ranch’s next drive, intercepting Fenika. The interception was Green’s 10th of the season, which leads California.

Dixon took the lead for good when Harris found junior wideout Jordan Sengmany for the go-ahead score. Baumbach successfully punched in the two-point conversion attempt on the ground.

With under a minute to play, the Hawks fumbled in Rams territory, and it was recovered by Dixon senior middle linebacker Matthew Whitaker, subsequently ending the game. The Rams pulled off the upset and defeated previously unbeaten Liberty Ranch, 28-21.

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Harris completed 12-of-29 pass attempts for 212 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed six times for 39 yards and a score.

Sengmany was the game’s leading receiver in total yardage, catching two passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Green caught the most passes, with five receptions for 60 yards and a score.

Baumbach had a quiet night for his standards rushing, with five carries for 16 yards. However, he made an impact on defense for Dixon. The senior, who also plays linebacker, recorded a game-high 17 tackles with seven of them solo and one for a loss of yards.

Whitaker and senior defensive tackle Seyyid Smith also tallied tackles in the double digits. Whitaker had 12 total, three of them being on his own. Smith racked up 11 tackles, four that were solo and one and a half for lost yardage.

The Rams will travel to Sonora on Friday night to take on the No. 2 seed Wildcats (9-2) in the semifinals of the D5 bracket.

All-League Selections

Dixon may not have repeated as Golden Empire League champions this season, but the team is well represented among the All-GEL First Team selections.

Harris was named as the Co-Offensive Player of the Year. In two seasons as starting quarterback, the senior has passed for 4,840 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Six senior Rams were selected to the First Team: Baumbach (running back), Green (free safety), Smith (defensive lineman), Torres (athlete), Whitaker (linebacker) and offensive tackle Elijah Hairston.

Torres racked up the stats as a wideout with 1,123 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. In addition to being a defensive back, he also served as the team’s kicker, and added a successful 41-yard field goal to his resume.

Three Rams seniors were given an honorable mention: Defensive lineman Cole Hensley and offensive guards Thai Barfield and Logan Boling.