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.