EBAL cross-over games highlight NCS Games of the Week

EBAL cross-over games highlight NCS Games of the Week

A large number of leagues across Northern California are now in league play, but as this week’s top games across the NCS illustrate, there are still some key non-league battles to be played, ones which can really carry some weight as we continue to evaluate the larger playoff picture. In fact, four games this week – all of them non-league battles – feature games between ranked teams.

All rankings displayed are this week’s NCS rankings. And don’t forget to see which games involving NCS teams made it into our NorCal Games of the Week feature.

No. 15 Granada (4-0) at No. 9 California (3-1), Friday, 7 pm

The unbeaten Matadors head over to California for what is now a non-league game, as these teams are split into different divisions of the EBAL. That in itself has been a topic of discussion, especially after Granada’s 38-14 win over Foothill, which is in the Mountain Division with California. The Matadors also have an earlier 35-14 win over Manteca.

California got big performances last week from Adrian Atta and Jahmal Cornwell, as they rolled to victory over Heritage, despite standout Julian Iribarren not suiting up for the game. But the Grizzlies have been dominant up front, led by Adam Newman. They have a big win over Freedom, and the only loss is to unbeaten Antioch.

Granada always runs the ball well out of coach Tim Silva’s Wing-T attack, and this year they have plenty of playmakers, including Malini Ti’a, Zack MacIntire, and Octavio Morales, who is also the team’s kicker. Both teams strive to control the ball, so it’s obvious that whichever team can establish its ground game the best will have the upper hand.

No. 17 Campolindo (3-1) at No. 19 El Cerrito (2-2), Friday, 7 pm

This game will mark the third big test of the season for the host Gauchos’ secondary, which struggled against Rancho Cotate in a one-sided loss but showed improvement during a win over Acalanes last week, despite being out-gained by the Dons.

Campolindo moves the ball best through the air, with junior lefty Grant Harper distributing the ball to weapons such as Max Schoenberger, Lucas Allen, Luke Campo, and Rex Curtiss. But El Cerrito has its own set of playmakers for quarterback Tyler Dickson, including speedsters Makai Polk, Armauni Archie, and Malikhi Miller. If the Cougars’ defense focuses too much on the Gaucho passing game, Naseem Woods is always a threat to go the distance out of the backfield.

In terms of the overall picture, fans at this game could be treated to a big-play bonanza, and whichever team makes the most of them will be in pretty good position.

No. 14 Dublin (4-0) at No. 13 San Ramon Valley (2-2), Friday, 7 pm

The visiting Gaels enter this game unblemished, and have won a couple big tests, including a one-point win over Milpitas, but have yet to face a defense like San Ramon Valley’s. The Wolves were victimized by big plays, and turnovers, in last week’s loss to Freedom, allowing nearly 350 yards through the air, turning the ball over four times, and getting a punt blocked.

Dublin, meanwhile, has seen its passing game improve with senior dual-threat quarterback Grant Manning, though the Gaels still want to get Alex Gonsalves going in the run game, and this could be the key to the game for Dublin against a stout SRV run defense, anchored by Deuce Palmer, Beau Garratt, and Tristan Sinclair. Jered Kenny has three interceptions for the Wolves’ secondary.

“We’re definitely going to have to create opportunities for ourselves, and capitalize when those opportunities are present,” said Dublin coach Matt Hoefs. “San Ramon Valley is a strong program that is well coached and they have some dudes.”

Since Dublin re-joined the EBAL in 2016, both games against San Ramon Valley have been one-sided in favor of the Wolves, including last year’s 63-24 game.

No. 23 St. Bernard’s (5-0) at No. 21 Marin Catholic (1-3), Saturday, 2 pm

To hear those from up near Eureka tell it, this is a classic David versus Goliath type of match-up. Despite the low enrollment and roster numbers for St. Bernard’s, however, the Crusaders have won 24 straight regular season games and have advanced to the Division IV title game and semifinals in each of the last two years. Despite that, traveling to a Marin Catholic team which figures to be among the top contenders in Division II, and showed big time improvement against Antioch last week, does figure to be a tall task.

“I feel like we are going from fighting for a lightweight championship at the county fair to facing the heavyweight champ at Madison Square Garden,” said St. Bernard’s coach Matt Tomlin. “We are looking forward to facing a program as great as Marin Catholic. Win or lose, this game will give us a chance to face top-notch competition, which will better prepare us for the Division IV playoffs. I am also looking forward to seeing how my team reacts to getting hit in the mouth by a big, strong team.”

Both teams do bring one common asset into the game, and that is a dual-threat quarterback who is equally good with his legs as with his arm. St. Bernard’s junior Will Omey has been doing it all year long, while Marin Catholic junior Gaven Cooke had his best game last week against Antioch, as the Wildcats rolled up close to 500 yards against the Panthers in a 47-28 loss.

Luke Fairfield, Lane Thrap, Justin Hagler, and Sebastian Taylor have all been consistent targets in the passing game for St. Bernard’s, while Connor Chase anchors the offensive line as a four-year starter at center.

Sophomore Matteo Perez burst onto the scene for Marin Catholic at running back last week, with Cole Truex out due to injury, while Vaughn Mauterer is among their big-play threats in the passing game. Junior Jamar Sekona will give Chase his biggest test of the season in the trenches.

American Canyon (1-4, 1-0 VVAL) at Sonoma Valley (2-3, 1-0), Friday, 7 pm

This one jumped up the list when both American Canyon and Sonoma Valley notched huge wins to open Vine Valley Athletic League play. American Canyon showed the strength of its non-league schedule by dispatching a Petaluma team which had entered the game with a 3-1 record, winning 43-16 over the Trojans. Sonoma Valley, meanwhile, did something that few would have predicted before the season, beating Napa in the league opener, 28-16.

Junior quarterback Vance Eschenburg is a dual-threat for American Canyon, while Brandon Seay had a breakout game for the Wolves last week against Napa, on both sides of the ball. Sonoma Valley has a trio of backs who are all capable with the ball in their hands, led by senior Tyler Winslow, who ran for 142 yards in last week’s victory.

Best of the Rest

The race for the TCAL-Stone title will take a big step this week when De Anza heads to Pinole Valley, with both teams serving as the front-runners for the division championship. The game also has significant playoff seeding implications at the Division III level. Pinole Valley enters the game 5-0, but De Anza’s three losses have all been to quality programs – Miramonte, El Cerrito, and St. Patrick-St. Vincent.

Speaking of St. Patrick-St. Vincent, the Bruins have a great chance to notch a quality victory on their Division IV playoff resume, facing Division II Benicia, which should reside in the upper half of the DAL-Valley Division this season. The Panthers opened their league slate with a 41-20 win over Berean Christian, while SPSV’s only loss is to unbeaten Moreau Catholic.

Kelseyville and Middletown both rolled to victory in their NCL-I openers last week, and are once again positioned to battle for the league title. Each team is 3-1 overall, and while they are each seeking their first big quality victory of the year, Middletown’s only loss was a competitive game with Moreau Catholic. Middletown defeated Kelseyville in both meetings last season, but the two victories came by a combined eight points.