As with the Campolindo/Las Lomas game, I’ve seen both Pinole and San Ramon numerous times this season so, here’s how I see tonight’s game by position.
QB: Junior Joe Southwick is one of the best quarterbacks in the East Bay without a doubt and he leads a San Ramon attack that has been prolific in the postseason. Derek Crenshaw leads Pinole and he seems to be getting better as the season wears on. He put up over 200 yards last week and he’s going to have to be on point tonight in order to open up the Spartans ground game. Still, Southwick has been and will continue to be one of the best around. Edge: San Ramon Valley
RB: San Ramon hasn’t had a consistent running game all year long but the Wolves have shown flashes of brilliance. Mike Mellinger and Dan Smithwick carry the ball for SRV but the running game is not the Wolves’ bread and butter. For Pinole, Deante Purvis is a top-three running back in the East Bay when healthy. Trouble with that is that he’s not particularly healthy. Tyrell Smallwood has emerged as a solid runner as well and that tandem will have to work overtime tonight to keep PV in the game. Edge: Pinole Valley
RECEIVERS: Ryan Fitzgerald and Greg Wilson patrol the outside and Joey Tidwell gets it done from his TE spot for the Wolves and they’ve put up some big numbers in recent weeks. They’re not the fastest unit in the world (although Wilson could win his share of footraces) but they’re pretty sure-handed and that counts for a lot. Pinole has a couple of game-breakers on the outside with Delton Edwards Jr. and Charles Carter. Edwards is 6-foot-5 and has good speed and Carter is a burner. Edge: Pinole Valley
OFFENSIVE LINE: When Pinole’s offense is clicking, Purvis is getting big holes to run through. When they’re getting stuffed at the point of attack, it’s going to be a long night for the Spartans. SRV has given Southwick plenty of time to throw this year and that’s because of a line that seems to have good technique all the way across. Edge: San Ramon Valley
DEFENSIVE LINE: Pinole’s Tevita Feau might be the best interior lineman you’ve never heard of. He anchors a line that has been stout against the run all year long. Pinole’s defense gets a good amount of credit and it’s this unit that runs the show. SRV has clamped down on the run a good deal but, in the loss to Monte Vista, Drew McAllister had plenty of time to find his receivers and make plays. If this unit can rattle Crenshaw, the Wolves will win. Edge: Pinole Valley
LINEBACKERS: I’d love to tell you that this is a draw and that Andrew Shipley and co. give Pinole a fighting chance against SRV’s linebackers. But I can’t. Harmon Bruno, Steve Callaway and Kai Cummings are possibly the best linebacking unit in the East Bay. They are fast, physical and extremely smart. Edge: San Ramon Valley
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Dan Smithwick leads a very solid unit for San Ramon Valley. It doesn’t have the speed that Pinole does but again, the Wolves are technically solid and that counts for a lot. Carter plays a big part in the Spartans’ pass defense and he’ll have his work cut out for him tonight against Southwick and the Wolves. Edge: Draw.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Both teams have an excellent kicker. SRV relies on Steve Roberts and Pinole turns to Justin Naterman. In the return game, Pinole has the jackrabbits that San Ramon doesn’t. Still, the Wolves always find a way to get good field position. Edge: Draw.
COACHING: Both coaches have been here before. SRV’s Dave Kravitz has been here more recently (2004) but Pinole’s Steve Alameda is one of the best coaches ever to walk a West County sideline. This is a tossup but whoever makes the right moves tonight could very well get their team a win. Edge: Draw.
You look at these matchups and I think it understates how impressive San Ramon Valley has been this year. The Wolves have that thing you love to see in a championship-caliber team. You can’t describe it, but you know it when you see it. If Pinole brings its “A” game, this could be another good one but SRV enters as the favorite for sure. Check back here prior to game time where Chace Bryson will have our live blog set up from Dublin High. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.