Uh, scratch that

Just got the new StudentSports.com Fab 50 national rankings from Mark Tennis, and no, De La Salle is not the new No. 2 team in the country. Southlake Carroll is after its 22-21 win over previous-No. 16 Euless Trinity over the weekend before more than 46,000 people at Texas Stadium. Southlake Carroll has won 44 straight games and has been StudentSports.com’s top ranked team the past two seasons.

De La Salle stayed at No. 3, although no reason was given as to why it didn’t move up. Lakeland, Fla. remained at No. 1.


New No. 2?

It looks like the De La Salle High School football team will be moving up a spot in the StudentSports.com Fab 50 national rankings. The Spartans were No. 3 in the poll last week, but No. 2 Lukfin lost to unranked Round Rock 38-25 in the second round of the 5A playoffs on Saturday in Texas.

The loss leaves open the possibility of De La Salle finishing the season at No. 1 in two national polls. The Spartans are already No. 1 in USA Today’s Super 25, and could now be behind only Lakeland, Fla. in the StudentSports.com poll, which should come out later tonight or early Tuesday. Lakeland plays Friday vs. Mainland (Daytona Beach) in the 5A state semifinals. De La Salle has Foothill in the NCS 4A final on Dec. 9, and a win would advance it to the CIF state championship game against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. Although, Long Beach Poly is the odds-on favorite right now.

The Spartans have been crowned USA Today’s mythical national champion five times, and by the National Prep Football Poll six times.


Pierre Mays

I know some of you saw a piece in Friday’s paper on Pierre Mays, an offensive lineman at El Cerrito High and the reason I know that is that several people have contacted me about donating to the memorial fund listed in the story. So I thought I’d share an anecdote from my conversation with him.

When I spoke with Pierre on Tuesday of last week, his mind was squarely on the Gauchos’ NCS 2A semifinal game against Ygnacio Valley because he recalled how YV had blown the Gauchos out in 2005 in the first round (the score was 49-12). He told me that he and his linemates just got blown off the ball and he admitted that this year would have to be different if the Gauchos were going to win.

Well, I watched this year’s game for almost three quarters and Mays — along with his fellow linemates — made amends for last year’s debacle. The Gauchos’ line got great upfield push to stop the Warriors’ double wing, double tight sets and really neutralized a good rushing attack. People can focus on the explosiveness of the Gauchos’ offense all they want, but there is no doubt in my mind that the game was won in the trenches and Mays was a huge part of that. With everything that is going on, the Gauchos’ co-captain picked a heckuva time to play his best football of the season.


DLS-SRV recap

The De La Salle High school football team had it all along during its 41-25 NCS semifinal playoff win over San Ramon Valley on Friday night.

Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely accurate. The Spartans were giving up chunks of yardage through the air to San Ramon Valley and were leading 21-7 midway through the second quarter. But De La Salle never trailed after scoring on its first drive of the night, and eventually had a 34-point lead with 10:16 to go in the fourth quarter. The Wolves scored 18 points in the final 5:14 to make the score more respectable.

One of the Spartans players that impressed the most was running back/return specialist Ryan Nastor. Nastor has been a backup running back for most of the season, but he’s become invaluable on punt and kickoff returns. Tonight, he made the play that pretty much helped the Spartans put the game away.

After San Ramon Valley was forced to punt with under a minute left in the second quarter, Nastor returned the punt 39 yards to the Wolves’ 11, shedding several tackles along the way. Two plays later, De La Salle ran a (sort of) trick play as Tillman Pugh took the handoff from Mike MacGillivray and went to his left. Pugh then handed the ball to John Hendershott, who was running towards the opposite side. Hendershott then found an open Pete Sitov in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown that gave De La Salle a 27-7 lead with 4 seconds to go in the first half. Nastor also finished with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown on four carries.

“It was good to get that touchdown back, and it was a great effort by Nastor," Spartans coach Bob Ladouceur said. "It was all individual effort on his part. Guys were scrambling for blocks, but it was just a great run.”


Third time’s a charm?

The past two weeks have been dismal for me as far as trying to gain ground on Chace and Ben for the Forecast title. With eight games on the agenda for this week, this may be my last chance to get back in contention.

(6) De La Salle over San Ramon Valley: The Spartans’ offensive line is going to have its hands full trying to move the Wolves’ interior defensive lineman. And make no mistake, De La Salle will need to run the ball well in order to win. SRV will score its points, but the Spartans will eventually wear down that defense.

(5) St. Patrick over John Swett: The Bruins running game hasn’t gotten a ton of attention this season. But it is for real, and St. Pat’s will roll.

(4) Hayward over Irvington: It may be a closer game than people think, but it’s a year of destiny for the Farmers.

(3) Pittsburg over Foothill: I’m picking the upset here simply because I feel it’s a way to gain ground on Ben and Chace. It’ll be a close game, with turnovers being the deciding factor.

(2) Salesian over Ferndale: Jahvid Best’s brilliant prep career can’t end yet. Can it?

(1) Campolindo over Miramonte: Some say Campo’s an underdog even though it is the higher seed. I say the Cougars have earned the ranking.

(1) Pinole Valley over Alhambra: Please, a little respect for the Spartans.

(1) Ygnacio Valley over El Cerrito: 6-6 and in the section finals. You’ve got to love 2A East Bay football.


Forecasting, absentee style

Due to the Holiday (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way), Ben was away from the office this week and had to email in his picks. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go without his scintillating and insightful commentary this week. To appease his ever-growing fanbase, he promises championship-game breakdowns that could make Ron Jaworski blush.

(6) DLS over SRV
(5) Foothill over Pitt
(4) Ferndale over Salesian
(3) St. Patricks over Swett
(2) El Cerrito over Ygnacio Valley
(1) Alhambra over Pinole Valley
(1) Hayward over Irvington
(1) Miramonte over Campo


FORECAST: Eight games to glory (maybe)

At this point, I’m starting to feel like this whole Forecast thing is against me. The playoffs came, I raised my game — went 6-for-6 — but still find myself one point behind Mr. Ben. (As Tennis season has ended, I’ll spare him my most recent nickname for him.)

But I won’t take my eyes off the prize. Which, it’s important to note, we haven’t solidified yet.

Here are the standings after Week 11.

Ben 125
Chace 124
Curtis 115

Now that we’re in the semifinals, we’re essentially going all-in, forecasting all eight games. Here we go.

(6) St. Patrick over John Swett: It wasn’t that close during the regular season. The Bruins have too much firepower. SCORE: 28-14.

(5) De La Salle over San Ramon Valley: Part of me wants to pick the ultimate upset here. And maybe I would if I were in Curtis’ position in the Forecast standings. But with the title in reach, I have to stay grounded. SCORE: 35-24.

(4) Hayward over Irvington: After last week’s scare against Concord, expect the Farmers to come out with a since of urgency and determination. I think Concord had a better defense then some anticipated. As for Irvington’s defense…SCORE: 33-17.

(3) Miramonte over Campolindo: The Cougars looked awfully impressive against Acalanes last weekend, but it’s hard to beat a program like Miramonte twice in the same year. And the Matadors have been thinking about Campolindo for two loooong weeks now. SCORE: 24-20

(2) Salesian over Ferndale: Last year, I picked Ferndale to win this matchup and the then-Chieftains proved me wrong by coming from behind to beat the Wildcats in the Class A championship. This year, I’m giving Jahvid Best the nod. SCORE: 20-18.

(1) Alhambra over Pinole Valley: Brandon Rutley should run wild, but the Bulldogs have the edge on account of their defense. SCORE: 34-26.

(1) Ygnacio Valley over El Cerrito: The Warriors rushing attack is going to cause problems for the Gauchos. YV is good enough to win, and just needs a few stops from its defense. SCORE: 28-22

(1) Foothill over Pittsburg: Easily the best game on the docket. Two factors are keeping me from picking the Pirates in this one: 1) The win over DV may have taken a little too much out of them, and 2) I worry about QB Kraig Pifer in big games. Still, this game is definitely the one to be at. SCORE: 27-21.


CIF bowl game rankings

Things could get messy on the morning of Dec. 10, and we’re not talking about what the roads will be like should a downpour hit the Bay Area.

That’s the day the CIF decides which six high school football teams will get to play in the championship bowl games, set for Dec. 16 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. There will be a large, a medium and a small school state championship between Northern and Southern California teams. There will also be some second-guessing by outsiders should an unbeaten section champion not get to play for a state title.

The nightmare scenarios are as follows:

In Division I (large school), should either Foothill or San Ramon Valley upset De La Salle and win the NCS 4A title, and Grant-Sacramento wins the Sac-Joaquin Section championship, then a serious decision by the CIF would have to be made. It’s a given that De La Salle will be the NorCal representative should it win NCS. Heck, the state championship games were partially brought about because of De La Salle’s dominance. But Foothill and SRV could have a valid arguement to be included in the state finals, just because one of them would have a win over the Spartans, which hasn’t lost to a NorCal team in 14-plus years. But if Foothill is 13-0 and Grant is 13-0, then which team would the CIF go with?

Division I South boils down this. If Centennial-Corona wins out, then it will be favored to be the SoCal rep. But if Long Beach Poly wins the ever-tough Pac-5 conference, then it will also have an argument. And the CIF may drool over the prospect of a DLS-Poly game as its marquee match.

In Division II North, there are 10 teams still alive which have one loss or fewer. That includes Alhambra, but it is well down the totem pole. If Del Oro-Loomis beats Grant in the SJS Division II semifinals this Friday, then it will be favored to win the section and make the game in Carson. If not, Colfax, Novato and Palo Alto are waiting in the wings.

The DII South picture is wide open after Mater Dei lost to Poly. Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks (11-0), Lutheran-Orange (10-1) and Westlake-Westlake Village (11-0) are next in line, but this is a volatile race that won’t be decided for some time. Maybe things clear up by the time the Dec. 10 meeting takes place, but don’t count on it.

DIII North is pretty clear cut. It will be Palma-Salinas, Cardinal Newman or Central Catholic. McClymonds has an outside shot, but needs to have all of the above teams lose. As far as DIII South goes, its all about Oaks Christian. No one’s going to beat them this year. 


How do they do it?

The St. Mary’s High School girls volleyball team started its NorCal title defense with a win over Harbor-Santa Cruz on Nov. 21. It wasn’t done convincingly (despite winning in three games) however, the Panthers showed they can find a way to win.

Having Tarah Murrey on the team is one major reason, but ultimately it comes down to the role players. Can they step up and make things happen? Can they take the pressure off Murrey?

In essence, this is a team trying to replicate last season’s magic by acting as stunt doubles for past players. Laura Challis is not middle blocker Natalie Bogan, who now plays at Rice, but she provides that quick strike up the middle that keeps teams honest. Genny Pezzola isn’t exactly Bernie Leary, who was the “heart and soul” of last season’s squad, but Pezzola can pack a punch on the outside and is reliable. Last season, both Sarah Brajkovich and Corey Burgamy (now graduated) split time at setter, but now it’s Brajkovich’s show to run and all she has to do is put the ball up there for Murrey to get.

In other words, roles are being filled, people are stepping up. With that said, the Panthers are a team that makes people scratch their heads. How do they do it? Where do they find the extra offensive power? How do they conjure up the defense to win rallies?

Instead of tyring to figure it out, we’ll just sit back and watch. St. Mary’s won it’s second-straight NCS Division IV championship and are alive and well vying for another state championship appearance.


One more chance…

Campolindo is a different team this postseason. Something is missing.

After its NCS championship loss to Analy on Nov. 18th, it became evident. Last season, the Cougars had Kristen Kathan, one of the most furocious outside hitters in the Bay Area. However, it’s not the big hitters they lack, since Cari Kahn, Amy Martini and K.C. Eames (who is battling knee problems) provide their fair share of offense. It’s the intangibles that Kathan brought to the team that is missing. A passion for the game, a sense of urgency and importance.

This was exposed in the playoffs, despite the Cougars reaching the championship match. The loss to Analy blew it out the water. Not taking anything away from Analy, but it was a match the Cougars could have and probably should have won.

Now, Campolindo has a chance to redeem itself. Four-year starting setter Christina Wells said there is an amazing amount of effort put forth by the team every night, which is undeniable.

Maybe the loss to Analy sparked something within, and perhaps awoke a giant. Maybe now the Cougars will show why they’ve been one of the most talented teams in the area the last four seasons.

And if Campolindo can win at top-seeded Notre Dame- Belmont on Saturday, a re-match with Analy is possible and so is a much elusive state championship appearance.