Well, well. So Curtis and Ben want to get their hands dirty with some predictions again. I’m all for that. And I’m up against a timeline here on Friday night, so I’ve got to make these some quick-hitters.
Also, I was privy to a halftime score from the Clayton Valley-Ygnacio Valley game, so in good faith, I won’t be predicting that one. Instead, I’ll throw in a random game so that the points still match up.

Here we go:

(6) Deer Valley over Antioch: The battle of A-Town is certainly intriguing this season. And as inspiring a start as the Panthers have had, I’m not sure they’ve seen the type of speed that the Wolverines are boasting.

(5) Salesian over Sacred Heart Cathedral: One healthy Jahvid Best is all Salesian will need. I expect it to be close for a half, but Salesian to pull away in the second.

(4) Hayward over Amador Valley: I really like the balance of the Dons offensive attack, but I’m not sold on their defense. They will have their hands full with the Farmers offensive line and star running back Troy Evans.

(3) Alhambra over Las Lomas: The Bulldogs have the defense to compete with the Knights this season. This should be a very close game, but I’m giving the edge to the team with the biggest playmaker — and that is Alhambra RB Brandon Rutley.

(2) Foothill over Monte Vista: Two reasons for this pick — The Falcons are at home, and the Mustangs haven’t seen a defense like this all season.

(1) Pittsburg over Liberty: Here’s my throw-in game to even things up. The Lions shocked the BVAL by upsetting the Pirates last season. But winning at Liberty and winning at Pirates Stadium is a different story. Plus, Pittsburg is going to be itching to play after having a week off following the Long Beach Poly loss.

See all of you at Monday Evening QB.


Friday Forecast, cont.

So, last year I contributed to the Friday Forecast and proved that I knew much less than my counterparts. So, this year I have returned to reclaim my honor, dignity, and pride (three things I’m not too sure I’ve ever really had). Here goes nothing:

(6) Clayton Valley over Ygnacio Valley: YV is probably feeling pretty good with the new field and a little momentum after a good year last year. But, CV has done well in the early season with a small squad and I think they have the firepower to get it done again. If this game was later in the year, I might re-think this pick but for now, the Eagles are still relatively fresh.

(5) Las Lomas over Alhambra: I’d just like to say that it may take Knights’ assistant coach Greg Biekert strapping on some pads to stop Brandon Rutley. With that out of the way, Rutley is one guy and LL has many guys on offense who can move the ball. If this is a shootout, I like Jordan Kerl as the gunslinger standing at the end.

(4) Deer Valley over Antioch: I’ve seen four games in person so far this year and the fastest player I’ve seen is Taiwan Jones, and it’s not close. My hat goes off to Coach Beede for getting some momentum flowing at Antioch, but Jones in the backfield and Josh Pica at wideout make for a nice one-two knockout punch. Plus, it’s in Wolverine country.

(3) Amador Valley over Hayward: I guess the big question here is whether or not Amador thinks they really do own the HAAL. Hayward has to go to Pleasanton for this one, and I’m guessing that Guillory is going to have a good night. It’s really a toss-up.

(2) Salesian over Sacred Heart Cathedral: Salesian eeked this one out last year in an absolute thriller and if you’ve got the time, get yourself to Kezar Stadium on Saturday afternoon because this game will not disappoint. But, those trying to predict that the Fighting Irish will pull the upset need to remember one thing: Jahvid Best didn’t play last year and Salesian still won. Best goes nuts, Salesian wins again.

(1) Foothill over Monte Vista: This is going to be one of the top-five games of the year and I have no idea who’s going to win. Why am I picking Foothill? Because I can. That’s why.

So, in short, this is the week to be a high school football fan. Check back with us here on our website throughout the night on Friday and we’ll have scores for you as soon as they happen.


The Forecast returns

It’ll be one of those nights where you want to be in about five places at once. The list of high school football games being played Friday night is chock full of matchups that have league championship implications or local bragging rights. Since this is the first week where play in most East Bay leagues gets underway, we’ll renew the Weekly Forecast, where some Times writers try to predict the outcomes of a handful of important games. We’ll weigh each game, with the game that has the highest number beside it being the prediction we feel most confident in. Those of you that saw our forecasts last year know what we’re talking about. Those of you that didn’t, well, just follow along and have some fun with it. As always, you’re welcome to comment on our predictions.

(6) Deer Valley over Antioch — Cinderella’s been wearing black and gold through the first three weeks of the season, as the Panthers are off to their first 3-0 start since 2003. This game’s bound to be a barnburner, but you have feel like Rich Woods has taken his team to a new level this season.

(5) Clayton Valley over Ygnacio Valley — Eagles coach Herc Pardi either downplayed what his team would be like this season to local sportswriters or is doing an incredible job of coaching his smaller-than-usual team. Probably a little bit of both. If Clayton Valley QB Joey Levine can eliminate any mistakes, then Clayton should win this battle of longtime rivals. Note: Pardi played at YV’s field as a senior at CV in 1969.

(4) Monte Vista over Foothill — I’d feel a little more comfortable with this pick if Mustangs RB Peter Geurts was playing. As it is, I think MV is better prepared just because their nonleague schedule was more challenging. It may come down to the wire, but QB Drew McAllister has shown he’s comfortable in just about any situation.

(3) Las Lomas over Alhambra — The Knights did just enough to get by Dublin two weeks ago before blowing out Mt. Diablo last week. Doug Longero’s teams seem to get a little better every game, and if they hold Brandon Rutley to under 100 yards, then the Knights will still have a place atop the DFAL.

(2) Salesian over Sacred Heart Cathedral — This is a big game for the Chieft… er, Salesians. It seems they don’t get a ton of respect, even though they feature the best running back in Northern California. It says here that Salesian comes back over the Bay Bridge with a win, and a little more respect.

(1) Hayward over Amador Valley — The Dons have been rolling so far this season, and their dismantling of Irvington last week showed that they will be a force in the EBAL this year. But Hayward looks to be putting together something special this season, and their team speed could end up being the difference.


Bill Russell, Frank Robinson, McClymonds

Students at Oakland’s McClymonds High School have plenty to be proud of, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the current football team (which is very strong). Rather, the school has a rich sporting history, one that came to mind last week when basketball great Bill Russell appeared at the Oakland Museum to preview the opening of "Sports: Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers," a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition that began Saturday and will run through Jan. 7.

Russell, a 1952 McClymonds graduate, is the embodiment of perseverance. Cut from Mack’s junior varsity squad as a junior, Russell thrived on the varsity squad under renowned coach George Powles. Russell went on to the University of San Francisco, where he led the Dons to consecutive national championships in 1955-56. From there, he went on to captain a gold medal Olympic team and to lead the Boston Celtics to 11 titles in a 13-year career that included five MVP awards. Through his career and beyond, Russell has given clinics all over the world, setting his sights on improving the quality of life for the generations that followed.

One of Russell’s teammates at McClymonds was Frank Robinson, who went on to fame in baseball, where he was a rookie of the year, an MVP in both leagues and a rare Triple Crown winner (he led the American League in batting, home runs and RBI with the Orioles in 1966).

As gifted as the former McClymonds teammates were (Russell and Robinson ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the Times Top 25 Athletes series some month ago), their ultimate imprints were as much sociological as they were athletic. After Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach stepped away from the Celtics bench in 1966, it was Russell who took over as player-coach, thus becoming the first African-American coach in any major U.S. pro sport. Nine years later, Robinson debuted as Major League Baseball’s first African-American manager with the Cleveland Indians.

In addition to, Russell and Robinson, fellow McClymonds grad Paul Silas also played and coached in the NBA. True, there are other high schools with their own claims to fame. And at Mack, a lot of what we hear of today has to do with economic and academic struggles. Still, the school has a proud tradition of success on which to build.


Monday Evening QB: Week 3

Well, Week 3 showed us a lot. Here are some of the things we learned.

-Amador Valley can pass the football. Wes Garwood had three TD passes in his first five attempts against Irvington. This does not bode well for EBAL defenses. No more stacking the box to key on Casey Guillory.

-Acalanes is going to need more than just Connor Ring.

-A healthy Javhid Best will reach the 2,000 yard mark for Salesian.

-Antioch has playmakers again: Tim Thomas rushed for 190 yards and 4 TD vs. Vintage-Napa.

-There is nothing Diondre Borel can’t do. The Freedom QB rushed for three TD, passed for two, and returned a punt 72 yards for yet another against Grace Davis-Modesto.

-That tough nonleague schedule seems to be working for Liberty (They tied McClymonds 26-26). Can they parlay that into an upset of Pittsburg?

Clutch performance of the week: Miramonte QB Trevor Boswell threw his own coming out party Thursday agianst Acalanes. With his team trailing 14-0 after six minutes, Boswell helped lead the Matadors back by passing for 273 yards and three TDs.

Week 4 Game I’m most looking forward to: There’s a lot to choose from this week (Alhambra at Las Lomas, Hayward at Amador Valley, Salesian at Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F.), but how can I not go with Monte Vista at Foothill in both teams’ EBAL opener. How will the Mustangs high-performance offense handle the Falcons dominating defense? Monte Vista is higher ranked, but Foothill could be primed for an upset.

See you at the FRIDAY FORECAST. 


Back to my old stomping ground .. sort of

Covering high school football on Friday nights certainly isn’t the worst way to make a living, but tonight will be extra special for me. And not just because I won’t have to make that lovely commute from Modesto to Pleasanton or Walnut Creek or any other such locale west of Altamont Pass. (Thanks, Freedom, for scheduling a game so close to my home. I owe you one.)

No, tonight will be special because, thanks to Grace Davis High School’s lack of a football stadium, the game will be played at my old stomping ground, Thomas Downey High School. It’s been nine long years since I set foot in that stadium on a Friday night, but oh what lasting memories I forged there.

OK, so the truth is I never played football in high school, or anywhere besides the street in front of my grandmother’s house and the occasional grassy field at recess. The other truth is that I actually only went to one football game in my four years of high school: our homecoming game my senior year. I think we won, but I honestly don’t recall.

It’s not that I don’t have pride in my school … I certainly do, but at the time I was just oblivious to how much fun high school sports can be. I played golf at Downey, which barely counts, and I went to basketball games only because the coach was one of my favorite teachers and I kept stats for him.

I was reintroduced (for the first time, you might say) to high school sports when I got my first sports writing job at the Patterson Irrigator in February 2003. Since then, prep sports have been a major part of my job and my life, and I’ve enjoyed them more than I ever did when I was a high school student.

I only wish it were my beloved Knights taking the field against the Falcons tonight … Davis’ unfortunate green and yellow will surely clash with my memories of Downey’s regal blue, white and silver (where’d all the silver go?). That’s OK. At least I’ll have a nice, quick drive home.


Winnemucca, Buckaroos, etc.

For most high schools, especially public ones, few opportunities exist for out-of-state or even nonsectional games. This week was an exception. Aside from De La Salle traveling to Cincinnati for one of its annual marquee matchups, Pittsburg traveled to Long Beach Poly and in a much less publicized matchup, Pinole Valley played host to Lowry of Winnemucca, Nev.

Yes, Pinole Valley won in a cakewalk, 53-8, as Lowry was out of its league both literally and figuratively. Had it been just another league or local matchup, the game would have been forgotten by now. But the visitors from Winnemucca – – Lowry’s nickname is the Buckaroos – – brought something special to the field: an actual feeling of high school football.

Winnemucca is a place with a population of 10,000 at most. Lowry is the only high school in town and other high schools are few and far between. In such places, the high school game is the only sporting event in town. The Bay Area, in contrast, is perhaps too metropolitan to evoke such a feeling toward prep sports. High schools are numerous, and besides that, most football fans focus their energies on Cal and Stanford, or the Raiders and 49ers. The Bay Area is big and its residents think big.

The downside to games such as Lowry vs. Pinole Valley is the travel. Needing to fill a gap in their schedule, the Buckaroos trekked some 727 miles round-trip by bus on I-80 to play their game and return home. Having had to drive long distances to events such as the NorCal basketball playoffs (though not nearly as long as the Buckaroos had to endure), most of us in this profession can empathize with the Buckaroos. A day becomes very demanding.

Kudos to the Lowry High Buckaroos of Winnemucca, Nev. Thanks to you, what was otherwise a blowout football game became an event with a strong high school aura, something that isn’t always appreciated in these parts.


Monday Evening QB: Week 2

Holy Moly! What the (Red) Devil is going on at Mt. Diablo?
Suffice it to say, I was not expecting a 17-14 2OT victory for the Red Devils. I doubt Campolindo was expecting it either. Wow. Good for Mt. D. But as happy as I am for the team, I won’t be picking them to win at Las Lomas this Friday.
Moving on…
I have to admit that the Mt. Diablo finish wasn’t the only DFAL result that raised my eyebrows. I thought Alhambra’s win at Miramonte was a big win for the Bulldogs, and solidifies their presence as real league title contender. Acalanes also looked good for the second week in a row.
Outside the DFAL, most of the games played out as expected.
De La Salle supposedly looked very polished on its national stage in Ohio…Pittsburg stood tall in a losing effort at Long Beach Poly. The game was also a coming-out party for senior WR Kevin Bowler. Also, it’s getting harder and harder to look at QB Kraig Pifer as a weakness for the Pirates…The EBAL powerhouses (Foothill, Monte Vista and San Ramon Valley) continues to roll in its nonleague contests.
Clutch Performance of the Week: This goes to College Park QB Joey  York, who led a game-winning fourth quarter drive and scored the winning TD with 11 seconds to go.
Week 3 game I’m most looking forward to: Irvington at Amador Valley. Both teams are ranked in the Times Top 10, and though I expect the Dons to win, it should be much closer than the 2005 result of 40-14.

See you Thursday for the FRIDAY FORECAST.


Herbstreit Challenge in review

The Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge has come and gone, and the football teams that came to the Buckeye State from around the country last week are now back at their schools and into their normal routines.

Me? I’m still trying to recover from being at Nippert Stadium for 14 hours on Saturday, followed by sitting in Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday to watch the Bengals-Browns game in 85 degree heat and 80 percent humidity. Poor me, right?

But it was a weekend to remember, especially the high school football. The Lakeland (Fla.)-St. Xavier game had as enjoyable an atmosphere as any sporting event, pro or amateur, I’ve been at in the last five years. St. Xavier had about 1,000 students at the game who were incredibly vocal, but it was the Lakeland fans cheering the hardest at the end as their team pulled out a 25-22 win. Lakeland (ranked no. 1 in the country) has an incredibly talented team with nine NCAA Division I players-to-be. St. Xavier (ranked fourth) is a more blue collar team, but just as good. It’ll be interesting to see how the national rankings shake out later this week, to see if St. Xavier drops one or two spots and De La Salle moves up from No. 5.

Earlier, an unranked Moeller-Cincinnati team had outplayed Byrnes (S.C.) for most of the game. But a late touchdown by the Rebels, ranked No. 6 in the country, helped them pull out the 21-20 win. Then in the nightcap, De La Salle showed it might be back close to where it was 3-4 years ago with a 56-38 win over Elder.

Some parts of De La Salle’s game has shined brighter than others in the first two games, but the offensive line has been solid as a rock. For QB Mike MacGillivray to run the veer option effectively, the o-line needs to clear some space. They did, and MacGillivray had the best game of his varsity career.

Sunday’s Bengals game was a day to relax and have fun. Let me say something about Bengals fans: they are just as intense as Raiders fans, it’s just that there’s more of them. Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson could run for political office judging by how many people wear their jerseys. And you can’t go 10 seconds without someone shouting, "Who Dey!" usually while holding a Marlboro red in their right hand, because just about everybody adult in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky smokes. Really, it’s ridiculous.

So after a 4 1/2 hour flight back to San Francisco and a 80-minute ride on BART, I finally got home around 1 a.m. I worked about 40-45 hours in four days, but it was one of those experiences you can’t forget.


How good is Carondelet xc?

It’s early in the season, but what the Cougars have achieved the last two Saturdays is quite impressive.

At the De La Salle/Carondelet Nike Invitational on Saturday, Carondelet went 1-2 with Nicole Hood (18:13 for the three-mile Newhall Park course) and Kellie Houser (18:30) respectively, and placed four in the top 19 to edge St. Francis-Sacramento 83-86 for the team title. The Cougars had a 1 through 4 gap of 65 seconds and a 1 through 5 gap of 1:36. At the Ed Sias Invitational on Sept. 9, Carondelet had a 1 through 5 gap of 43 seconds, which is outstanding for a winning team this early in the season. I’m looking forward to seeing how Carondelet fares throughout the season.