VACAVILLE — For Vacaville High football coach Mike Papadopoulos and his players, this year has flown by.
Now the Monticello Empire League champion Bulldogs (7-3) embark on a new quest – seeking a second straight Sac-Joaquin Section title.
The defending Division II champs are seeded ninth in this year’s D-II bracket, but because they are a league champ, they will host Rio Linda (8-2) in tonight’s playoff opener.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Tom Zunino Stadium.
The Knights were the runners-up in the Capital Valley Conference behind Del Campo.
“It’s been quite a whirlwind,” said Papadopoulos. “We’re excited that we made it and earned (a place in) this part of the season. And we’re excited that we have the opportunity to get a home game.”
It’s such a rarity to be the lower seed and host in the playoffs, and Papadopoulos and company have no plans to squander that opportunity.
“We have a very nice fan base at home and on the road, ” he said. “So being able to play at home is icing on the cake. Also, in most cases there are very few teams that play on natural grass.”
Being at home in front of the typically rabid Bulldogs fan base and playing on a possibly wet grass field may provide Vacaville with a bit of an advantage.
Still, the team has to play the game.
“We’re playing some pretty good football and we’re very excited about where we are coming into this thing,” Papadopoulos said.
The Bulldogs are also not about to take anyone or anything for granted.
“They’re very, very dangerous,” Papadopoulos said. “They’re big kids, fast kids and they’ve done a lot of damage in their area.”
It’ll be an unfamiliar matchup for Vacaville, too.
“We’ve never crossed paths, but they come from a great community that is, in certain respects, a lot like Vacaville,” Papadopoulos said. “(It’s) because of their fan base support and the deep tradition in their program.”
Papadopoulos said he and his staff have done their best to prep the players for what’s coming.
“They’re hard-nosed, hard-working kids,” he said of the Knights. “They play really tough defense and they’re explosive on offense.”
As for defending last year’s championship, Papadopoulos said there’s little though given to that.
“We don’t talk about last season much. Each year the kids develop their own identity,” Papadopoulos said.
The focus is now squarely on Rio Linda and tonight’s game.
“We have our hands full coming into this thing,” Papadopoulos said. “But the kids have done a nice job so far. We had another great week of practice and we’re all looking forward to tomorrow night.”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.