As Chace mentioned last week in this space, I’ve been on the DL with vertigo, which, I’m convinced, is the dumbest, most frustrating reason ever to have to miss out on football games. But the sad fact is I couldn’t walk from my bedroom to the living room without the world going all wonky on me, so there wasn’t much hope of me walking the sidelines.
But I’m back in action this week, and so is the forecast. One positive byproduct of the vertigo, in my opinion, is that if my picks are completely wrong, I can always blame my inner-ear. Right?
Anyway, on to this week’s games.
(5) Las Lomas over Acalanes: Las Lomas has four appearances in NCS title games, two NCS crowns and an overall record of 56-24-1 in coach Doug Longero’s 6-plus seasons at the helm.
But in all that time, the Knights have never won a league title. They came close in 2000, but lost one DFAL game to Miramonte, which finished league 9-0 for the title.
Oddly, the Knights also came very close in 1998, when Longero was an assistant to Ron Thompson, who is now the head coach at Acalanes. But the Ken-Dorsey-led Matadors trumped them that year as well.
Since leaving Las Lomas and taking the reins at Acalanes, Thompson has solved the Miramonte mystery, but has never beaten the Knights, a string that likely will continue this year.
The Knights can smell their first league crown, and can clinch a share of it with a win. Plus, they have a strong shot at the No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section 3A East Bay bracket if they win out. With that much at stake, I just don’t see them letting down.
(4) Pittsburg over Liberty: The Pirates’ only two losses this season have come against San Leandro in the season opener and De La Salle last week. In between, they rattled off five straight wins and put themselves in position to win their fourth straight outright BVAL title. A win over the Lions, who are in a little bit of disarray, would clinch it. Look for running back Romont Taylor to have a big night against a Liberty defense that has had trouble stopping the run.
(3) San Leandro over San Ramon Valley: Wolves coach Dave Kravitz knew entering the year that his team was going to go through some growing pains and take its lumps. Look out for some lumps this week. The Pirates and Monte Vista are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the East Bay at 7-0, and San Leandro seems to have returned to its glory days of recent past. The Pirates are outscoring their opponents by an average of 45-5 (319-33) this year. And after a 3-0 start, the Wolves (4-3) have dropped three of their past four games. They’ve been in every game, losing those three games by a combined total of 10 points, but the stomach-punch aspects of last week’s 35-34 home loss to Amador Valley could carry over to this week. Playing in San Leandro against a team gearing up for a 10-0 regular season could just be too much for the Wolves.
(2) El Cerrito over Encinal: When the high-flying passing combination of Gauchos quarterback Don-Miguel Tutass and wideout Kaya Fitzgerald is clicking (like it is right now), it’s a tough thing to stop. Couple that with the hard running of JoElbert Dennis and Darnell Quinney, and you’ve got yourself a pretty potent offense. I don’t think the Jets, even if they are on a roll, are going to be able to stop El Cerrito in all of those phases.
(1) Foothill over Monte Vista: I know, I know, it seems like a crazy thing to pick the Falcons over the Mustangs. But Foothill coach Matt Sweeney is the only EBAL coach who has consistently been able to slow down the vaunted Monte Vista running attack in recent years. Plus, I predicted an EBAL title for California before the season started. A Foothill win would create a big knot at the top of the standings, and would open the door for my preseason pick to claim at least a share of the crown. Is it wrong that I’m allowing my predictions to be based on a mild rooting interest spawned by pride (and based on a shot-in-the-dark preseason pick)? Maybe. But they’re my picks. So nyah! If you think you can do better, go for it.
Swing away: Salesian over St. Elizabeth. The Chieftains (6-1, 3-0 BFL) can take a commanding lead in the Bay Football League standings with the win. And with junior running back Jahvid Best — who rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries in last week’s shellacking of Berean Christian — back at full strength, the Mustangs aren’t going to be able to stop them.