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Bring On The Bullfrogs - Riverbank Soccer Hosts Playoff Opener On Thursday
The gophers plaguing Riverbank High's soccer field will have front-grass seats to the Division V Sac-Joaquin playoffs on Thursday as the Bruins (16-2 overall, 9-0 Trans-Valley League) play host to Bret Harte (10-8-3, 9-4-2 Mother Lode League) in the first round of the postseason.

For Riverbank, it's a chance to advance their No. 2 seed into the SJS semifinals.

For Bret Harte, it's a shot at vengeance.

The Bullfrogs have not forgotten a disastrous start to the 2010 postseason, when their sterling 16-2-1 overall record and 14-0-1 stanza through the MLL awarded the team the top overall seed in the playoffs. Their title shot was suddenly derailed when Riverbank, a No. 3 seed from the TVL, landed a stunning 4-3 upset in overtime.

Riverbank will be doing everything to prevent a similar upset on Thursday.

"I thought about it already," Gonzales admitted on Monday. "All we can do is make sure it doesn't happen to us.

"I'm not trying to sound overconfident, but as long as we play with our minds straight, they will have a real hard time beating us."

The Bruins were a surprise No. 2 seed in the D-V bracket after early estimations pointed towards a likely No. 1 seed in D-VI. Since the new 2012 playoff pairings ultimately dropped more schools with lower enrollment into the eight-team brackets for divisions VI and VII, Riverbank (enrollment 699) snuck into D-V as the smallest school in the bracket. Hilmar (enrollment 684) is the next smallest school in the section, and was designated for D-VI.

The No. 1 seed in the bracket was awarded to West Campus of the highly competitive Golden Empire League. The GEL represented both teams in both the 2010 and 2011 section championship games. Last year, Capital Christian (the No. 1 seed in D-VI this year) beat West Campus in a penalty-kick shootout to win D-V.

If Riverbank can reach the finals, they will likely run into the West Campus team that delivered a sharp 17-2-2 overall record and 8-0-2 stanza (first) through the GEL this year.

First the Bruins must get past a Bret Harte team that struggled in the preseason, but won early conference games to snare the No. 2 seed from the MLL. Bret Harte has been outscored 48-35 in 2012 and is 3-4-1 in October. If Riverbank gets past Bret Harte, they are looking at a matchup with Sierra Delta League champion, Highlands (9-3-4), or Southern League champ, Delhi (15-3-2). Since Linden (MLL champs) and Venture Academy (Central California Athletic Alliance champs) are in the top-half of the bracket, the D-V playoffs feature an astounding six league champions.

It's the type of competition coach Gonzales has been waiting for.

"We are going up against some really strong teams," Gonzales said. "I didn't want anybody saying we had it easy, and we certainly don't. Ripon (plays West Campus in the first round) and Bret Harte are the only two teams that aren't league champions."

The first round playoff game starts Thursday at 3 p.m.