BVAL Tennis Tournament

Tournament season began in earnest today with the Bay Valley Athletic League tournament at Freedom High School. Carondelet junior Noelle Eades won the singles title, defeating teammate Chloe Dobbert. Carondelet also took the doubles title, as Suzanne Corrado and Alli Romolino beat Whitney Richards and Sarah Osborn of Freedom.

Now, a few things to consider as I reflect on the day that was:
1. Eades won her third BVAL title in three tries. If there was any question as to who is the dominant tennis player in the league, it was laid to rest today.
2. Dobbert did not wilt under the pressure of a league championship and she’s a freshman. A freshman! I smell a re-match next year.
3. Suzanne Corrado is a year removed from a serious car crash and leg injury and she deserves to be recognized, not just for winning a title but for having the fortitude to come back.

My favorite story of the day came from the host Freedom Falcons. When Richards and Osborn (a senior and freshman, respectively) beat No. 1 seed Annalisa Villa and Eryn Parker of Carondelet in the semis, the duo qualified for the North Coast Section tournament at James Logan HS on Nov. 14 and 15. Big deal, eh? Well it is. Richards and Osborn are the first Falcons to go to NCS in the nine-year history of Freedom High School. To see coach Steve Amaro beaming as they took the court for the final was fun. Congratulations to the Falcons, and congrats to the Cougars.

The ACCAL played today also, and the results aren’t in just yet. Jennifer Lau of Alameda entered play today as the favorite but teammate Joie Fong and El Cerrito’s Lauren Kane were expected to challenge as well. Read the Contra Costa Times tomorrow morning to see who won.


Tennis mania is upon us!

Followers of East Bay girls tennis know that this is championship week. A quick rundown of where you can find tennis this week (days listed are projected to have finals):
Tuesday: BVAL tournament at Freedom High School, ACCAL tournament at De Anza HS
Wednesday: BSAL tournament at Harbor Bay Club in Alameda
Thursday: DFAL tournament at St. Mary’s College in Moraga
Friday: EBAL tournament at Club Sport San Ramon

Now, for all of you who read this blog, I’ve got good news for you. Come here from Tuesday through Friday for updated results and random musings I have from each tournament. I’ll give you daily feedback and who I think will be contenders at the North Coast Section tournament. In return for your reading, I’ll do my best to see as much tennis as humanly possible this week. Also, for those planning on attending championship matches – give me your feedback as well. We’ll make this a two-way tennis street. Check out the Contra Costa Times daily as well, as I’ll be reporting each day from the tournaments.


FORECAST: Peak or plummet

Well, I could say that I’m bitter that I went 6-for-6 last week and got absolutely NOWHERE in the standings. But I won’t do that. I can be bigger than that. Besides, the ultimate goal is to go be peaking at this point of the season, and I think 6-for-6 is pretty darn close. This can mean two things: Ben and Curtis might be wise to keep on their toes, OR, I’ve got nowhere else to go but down.
We shall see.

(6) McClymonds over Skyline: I know that Ben and Curtis went the same route here, but I couldn’t find a safer play. The Warriors should have little trouble with the Titans. SCORE: 40-21

(5) James Logan over Irvington: Ben says he doesn’t follow the HAAL a whole lot. Which is OK, because that wouldn’t have helped his pick on this one, anyway. It’s the MVAL (Curtis, we’re losing to this guy!) and James Logan will likely be crowned its champion in a few weeks. Irvington’s Robert Turbin is a solid running back, but this Vikings team just hasn’t found the same groove it had a year ago. SCORE: 30-20

(4) Miramonte over College Park: I can’t believe I’m picking this upset, and putting four points on it, too. Either I’ve gone looney, or I believe that Miramonte’s defense is just good enough to cause problems for the Falcons. It’s not going to be easy, though. SCORE: 21-20.

(3) Alhambra over Concord: Make no mistake, the Bulldogs will need Rutley in this one. He says he’ll be back. The Minutemen will need more than Billy Burmeister, and I’m not sure they’ll have that. Thus, I’ll wager my three points on Alhambra. SCORE: 28-18

(2) Pinole Valley over El Cerrito: How could anybody feel comfortable picking either team? In contests where offense is the name of the game, special teams always seems to rear its ugly head. The Spartans have a kicker. SCORE: 38-34

(1) Freedom over Pittsburg: I had the pleasure of watching the Pirates play Long Beach Poly earlier this year. Perhaps the biggest play of the game was when the Pitt defense allowed the fleet-footed Poly QB to scramble 14 yards for a first down on a 3rd-and-13. Poly ended up scoring on the drive and holding off Pitt 28-20. The Poly QB was nowhere near as good as Diondre Borel is. I think Borel gives the Pirates defense fits, and the Falcons sneak out of Pirates Stadium with a win. SCORE: 27-23


We must protect this house!

Some of you may have noticed that we all went 6 for 6 last week. I can guarantee you that won’t happen this week because I’m sitting here looking at the game schedule and wanting to be in at least five places. But seriously, I will try to channel Miss Cleo with this week’s picks.

6) McClymonds over Skyline: OK, so I follow the OAL pretty closely and last week, the Titans played Oakland Tech in a game everyone thought (based on recent history) would be fairly good. Then they spanked the Bulldogs and did it without playing Andre Christian Jr. or Jordan Foley in the first quarter. I smell a letdown, and I also like Curtis’ idea of all orange on Halloween weekend.

5) James Logan over Irvington: I still can’t say I know anything about the HAAL. But, the Colts have been consistently good through the years so I’ll go with them. What I do know is that they’d like to have Deltha O’Neal back (or maybe the Ting brothers)…

4) Alhambra over Concord: Will the real Alhambra please stand up? Brandon Rutley says he’ll play, and that’s good enough for me. I can’t discredit Billy Burmeister and the Minutemen but I’m thinking Rutley re-establishes his dominance in the DFAL this week.

3) College Park over Miramonte: The Falcons’ veer attack hasn’t looked this good in a long while. Joey York is a force to be reckoned with and the Mats seem to be just good enough to win most games. Not this time. York and the Falcons by a hair.

2) Freedom over Pitt: Pitt is hungry. But you know something? So is Freedom after almost coughing up a hair ball worthy of Garfield last week against Clayton Valley. Diondre Borel was intercepted three times last week, so he’ll have some motivation to get back to his normal playmaking ways and together with Daniel Johansen, they’ll do just enough to beat the Pirates.

1) Pinole Valley over El Cerrito: So yes, I’m taking three pencils and three pens to this game because on paper the final score should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 125-121. I think the Spartans win with a well-timed FG by Justin Naterman. FYI: I’m told they’re expecting a packed house so a word to the wise: the quality eats are right next door at the Red Onion. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, the Waffle House across the street is the spot for some pre-game breakfast. And if you’re lucky, you may see me at one of these fine establishments.

I’ve noticed we have some junior prognosticators on our message board, so I want to extend an invitation to whoever is interested to pick with us every week here on the blog. We’ve already shown that we can be beaten (or at least I know I can), so bring it on.


The Forecast calls for pain!

So how did that happen, exactly. Chace, Ben and I each went 6-for-6 last week with our Forecast picks, so either we’re getting really good at this, or we spent too much of the company’s time thinking about who was going to win that Titanic struggle between John Swett and St. Mary’s. Either way, it’s time to get down to business. With three weeks to go, I’m running out of time if I want to make up ground on Ben and Chace.

(6) McClymonds over Skyline: Both teams got off to disappointing starts, but are getting back to doing what they do best — pounding the bejeezus out of other OAL teams. I like Mack in this game, but only if it wears orange from head to toe to get in the Hallowe’en spirit.

(5) James Logan over Irvington: Neither team really gets much respect from the folks (including the sportswriters) along the 680 corridor. But the Colts can make a pretty big statement if it can win this game and potentially take up, er, I mean, earn a spot in the 4A playoffs.

(4) Pinole Valley over El Cerrito: Such a trap game I can’t believe I’m putting four points on it. Ben is scheduled to cover this game and he may need to bring an extra pen and pencil to keep track of all the scoring plays. In the end, the Spartans score one TD more. Final – 56-49.

(3) Pittsburg over Freedom: Tough to go against superhero QB Diondre Borel, but Pittsburg’s defense showed last week that it can pressure the passer and contain a good running game. As long as it avoids giving up the big play, the Pirates will roll and keep their playoff hopes alive.

(2) Concord over Alhambra: You have to respect the way Josh Atkinson has taken the reins from Brandon Rutley the last couple weeks in helping the Bulldogs get past Campo and Mt. D. Rutley said he’d be back for this game, but how healthy will he be? I think they need him to be 100 percent to beat Concord, who may have to win this one if it wants to talk about playoffs.

(1) College Park over Miramonte: An old friend of mine, Kurt Kloeblen, played for College Park in 1993. He was the center (the glue, really). He once called it the most fun he’s ever had in his life, as the Falcons rolled to a 9-0 regular season record in winning the MBAL title that year. I guarantee, this year’s College Park team is going to be saying the same thing in a few weeks when the DFAL title is theirs.


Realignment Redux

As NCS commissioner Tom Ehrhorn walked from the Monte Vista High School theatre building following the Valley Conference league realignment meeting on Wednesday, he sighed and made a statement of relief.

"At least this means I’ll stop waking up in the middle of the night shouting, ‘competitive equity’ or ‘geographical proximity,’" Ehrhorn said, making light of the two phrases that most often arise when discussing criteria for new league alignments.   

The commissioner’s tone was joking, but his relief seemed genuine.

Ehrhorn chaired the 2-plus hour meeting in which representatives of 28 schools voted on what proposals they would recommend for league realignment beginning in 2008-09.

The outcome — which I’m sure has already been shouted from the rooftops of schools throughout the BVAL, DFAL and EBAL — was the recommendation of just one proposal to the NCS Realignment and Classification committee. The biggest news was of course De La Salle’s and Carondelet’s potential move from the BVAL to the EBAL.

We’re more than aware of the EBAL’s apprehension to such a move, but as sports writers we can’t wait for such a league to exist.

Putting football aside (since DLS will almost surely retain its independent status) we are positively giddy at the potential competition and various matchups this league would provide in sports such as boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball. But it’s not just the premier sports, this is also going to boost interest in minor sports like volleyball, golf, tennis and water polo.

It won’t just be fun for us, it will be fun for fans as well.


Making up ground

Well, I’ve still got some ground to make up in the forecast pool. The road back begins tonight.

(6) John Swett over St. Mary’s: JS has been scoring points in bunches so far this season. And even though it’ll be tested by the Panthers, JS will prevail.

(5) Pittsburg over Ygnacio Valley: Perhaps this is a leap of faith considering how badly the Pirates played last week, but their backs are against the wall…

(4) College Park over Las Lomas: The Falcons have become perhaps the most physical team in the league.

(3) Concord over Acalanes: A big test game for the Minutemen. If they want to be taken seriously, they’ll have to win this game.

(2) San Ramon Valley over Amador Valley: Corbin Louks has become one of the best passers in the East Bay, and the Dons had a lot of trouble stopping Monte Vista passing attack a couple weeks ago.

(1) Hayward over Mt. Eden: It’s all about the Farmers.


FRIDAY FORECAST: Who’s this Ben guy?

First the standings:

Ben 40
Chace 39
Curtis 34

I know, we’re shocked, too. And yes, this is the same Ben who labored to stay within 20 points of all of us a year ago. Apparently, our Ben is all growed up.

On with the picks.

(6) Pittsburg over Ygnacio Valley: No way the Pirates don’t rebound from their loss to Deer Valley. Look for the Pittsburg defense to put the double whammy on the double-wing, double-tight defense.Score: 36-20

(5) John Swett over St. Mary’s: As long as Santario Carson is on the field, I’ll be picking the Indians. Score: 41-28.

(4) Hayward over Mt. Eden: Venturing into the Hayward Area Athletic League, check us out. Mt. E is putting together a very good season so far, but I can’t see the Monarchs stopping the multi-threat offense of the Farmers. Score:35-13

(3) Concord over Acalanes: I’m finally going to buy into the Minutmen’s defense. It has been the best defense in the DFAL for the past three weeks, and I’m starting to believe that it might not be a fluke. Of course, that will mean that Conor Ring will rack up over 200 yards and lead the Dons to victory. Score: 17-13

(2) College Park over Las Lomas: The Falcons have some good momentum and the Knights are fighting a lot bad luck and negative vibes right now. Las Lomas is certainly capable of winning this game, but it’s going to be awful tough without Jordan Kerl at QB. Score: 24-16.

(1) San Ramon Valley over Amador Valley: The Dons are going to be better than they were against Monte Vista last week, but the Wolves are dying to make a statement with a big win over a top program. Also, AV seemed to struggle against the pass last week, and SRV’s Corbin Louks is already leading the East Bay in TD passes. Not a good sign for Dons fans. Score: 31-27.


Forecasting the Pigskin

So, word on the street is that I’m in the lead in our world of prognostication. Please join me in laughing out loud, and then read along as I fearlessly pick every game this week.

(6) John Swett over St. Mary’s: I wrote in today’s West County Times that St. Mary’s has two quarterbacks and they are both capable of running the offense. Well, the Indians have one (Thomas Arguello) and of his three completions last week, all three were touchdowns. Add the region’s leading scorer in Santario Carson, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

(5) Concord over Acalanes: Billy Burmeister is racking up yardage at will, and the Minutemen have been solid this season. So I’ll pick them over an up-and-down bunch from Lafayette.

(4) Pittsburg over Ygnacio Valley: The Pirates will be steaming mad after last week’s turnover-fest in Antioch. I think John Harrell will have a big game, Kraig Pifer plays well, and the running Warriors will have a tough time against the Pirates D.

(3) College Park over Las Lomas: Well, CP shocked all those who pretend they can pick these games when they took out Alhambra, so why not here as well? Las Lomas needs to find an offensive identity before I can jump back on their bandwagon.

(2) Hayward over Mt. Eden: I have to be perfectly honest with all of you, our loyal readers. I have not seen either of these teams and I have no idea who is going to win this game. I do know that the Farmers are always solid and I know that Mt. Eden is trying to fit into the Cinderella slippers. I say Cinderella’s pumpkin gets crushed before Halloween and the Farmers take control of the HAAL.

(1) San Ramon Valley over Amador Valley: Here are two teams I have heard lots about. And I still can’t claim to know that much about them. Why am I picking SRV then? Because I think Corbin Louks will have a good game, and because I can. That’s why.

Well, after making these picks, I am confident that I will be trailing after this week. So, here’s hoping. I’ll see you all tonight!


Tuesday’s thoughts

Well, here we are in the midst of the second half of the regular season for football. The weather’s getting a bit cooler at night, league championship races are starting to come into focus and the NCS playoffs are on the horizon.

Sure, there are still four weeks left to go in the regular season and a lot of things can happen. But everyone who follows prep football in the East Bay probably can’t help but look ahead a little bit as to who the playoff teams in each bracket will be. The most compelling bracket is 4A, which, 7-8 years ago, wasn’t a terribly deep classification. Usually whichever teams showed up to the NCS 4A seeding meeting got into the playoffs, and began preparing for their first postseason game.

Not any more. This year 14 of the 20 teams in 4A have records of 4-2 or better, meaning there could be several unhappy coaches walking out of a Las Lomas classroom on the morning (or afternoon) of Nov. 12. Those 14 teams are, in alphabetical order, Amador Valley (5-1), Castro Valley (4-2), College Park (5-1), De La Salle (6-0), Deer Valley (6-0), Foothill (6-0), Freedom (5-1), James Logan (4-2), Monte Vista (5-1), Mt. Eden (5-1), Pittsburg (4-2), San Leandro (4-2) and San Ramon Valley (6-0).

Assuming six spots are taken up by De La Salle and five league champions, only two at-large spots will be doled out among the remaining eight teams. Some at-large spots can be freed up, though, if College Park doesn’t win the DFAL, Mt. Eden doesn’t win the HAAL and James Logan doesn’t win the MVAL.

If College Park (5-1, 5-0 DFAL) does win its league, that would surely stick in every other 4A coaches’ craw. The Falcons are looked at as a large school playing in a small-school league. And, they lost to Clayton Valley in the opening week of the season, a team Ygnacio Valley and Pittsburg have already beaten rather handily. But College Park is only playing the schedule it was given. And for the last five weeks, they’ve taken care of business. If they go 9-0 in the DFAL, they’ll deserve to be in the playoffs. The Falcons play Las Lomas and Miramonte over the next two weeks, games that will show whether they are for real or not.

Remembering John Nules

The news that John Nules, the former BVAL commissioner, had passed away early Monday hit those that knew him well pretty hard. Nules was 76, and up until a couple years or so ago, was a spry, energetic man who was was showing no signs of slowing down. Nules had gone in for knee replacement surgery, but complications arose quickly afterwards, as he developed a staph infection and lost a lot of weight. He battled for a long time, showing the resiliency that made him who he was.

I only dealt with John Nules on a handful of occasions for various stories, but I always found him to be very helpful. For those who knew him best, he was a man always willing to lend a helping hand, particularly when it came to high school athletics. Here are some quotes from those that knew him well.

"John couldn’t say no to people. If someone needed help, he was there for them. He gave his life to others." — NCS commissioner Tom Ehrhorn.

"He was an outstanding man. He was great for our league and was well thought of and well-respected throughout the athletic community.” — Bob Fisher, former Antioch coach and athletic director.

"The great thing about John was that he was an educator and he loved working with kids." — former NCS commissioner Paul Gaddini.

"I was very saddened by the news that John had passed away. John was a gentleman and a true professional on and off the field. Everyone in the coaching profession looked up to John. He was very precise in the things he did, very organized." — Frank Milo former El Cerrito football coach.

"He loved to be on the telephone. One time at El Cerrito there was a trampoline that some of the kids were jumping on. He was supposed to be supervising them, but he was on the phone instead. I came into his office and said, ‘What the heck are you doing! You better get out there and watch those kids or you’ll be in real trouble if someone gets hurt. He got off that phone pretty quickly." — Larry Quirico, former El Cerrito Baseball coach.

"John had a great sense of humor and an amazing memory. He’d always like to reminisce about the old times." — DFAL commissioner Ole Chiavini, who played football with Nules at Contra Costa College in 1950.