Sorry, I couldn’t muster up the strength to do a reaction to the Friday night games last night. But I am here now, watching college football and ready to give my HAAL team-by-team thoughts before we head into league play.
Arroyo: The Dons are a lot better than I thought they were going to be. The power-running game has been working well with Marc Kendig and the change-of-pace runner Neal Buac has shown he can take a pounding and keep on going. QB Brett Judson has had the cuffs on him thus far, but I think he can really throw a good ball. I think that isn’t the identity Arroyo is going for, though. The Dons want to beat a team with its offensive line and running game. Arroyo will enter league play with a 2-1 record and a strong chance at making the playoffs if it can at least pick up a 4-3 record in the HAAL _ certainly possible.
Bishop O’Dowd: What can I say about the Dragons? We all knew they would be 3-0 at this point since they were opening with Alameda, Kennedy-Fremont and San Rafael _ hardly any competition. The Dragons have basically done exactly what I figured. Give the ball to Mario Brown and Che’rod Simpson and let them run wild. One name that we should all get to know is Malcolm Graham. He plays tight end opposite of Chris Martin and really gives QB Matt Balich another big target. The passing game hasn’t been needed, but I think it could be decent with those two tight ends and Hasani Burns at receiver. I can’t really measure the defense, but it has done a solid job in the first three games. I expect the defense to be very strong. But this team won’t be challenged until it plays San Leandro.
Castro Valley: The Trojans played the second-toughest preseason schedule of the HAAL teams (behind San Leandro) and went 0-3. The defense has been getting torched and the offense hasn’t been able to keep up. The Trojans will have to win the HAAL title or lose once, but beat San Leandro in order to have a chance at getting into the playoffs. Castro Valley is still trying to find an identity on offense. QB Michael Rojas has shown flashes of being able to put the team on his shoulder and RBs Johnny Barbieri and Dominic Shortridge have shown glimpses of being able to carry the running game. It now is just a matter of putting it all together at the same time for the Trojans.
Hayward: The Farmers are much more organized this season, despite playing without their head coach Bill Bishop (out with kidney injury). Acting coach Rich Trevino has done a tremendous job and this team is headed back in the right direction. The Farmers have the athletes and will compete this season. After watching this team last night, I think Hayward can finish as high as third place in the HAAL. The defense eventually wore down last night, but overall it did a pretty good job against the run. The Farmers might have the most talented back in the league in Dominique Jackson, who did not play Friday because of “a hip injury,” according to Trevino. This is probably a sleeper team to knock off San Leandro or O’Dowd.
Mt. Eden: I don’t have much to say about the Monarchs, except that this could be a long season. Mt. Eden is 0-3 and haven’t really showed signs of breaking out of that slump. The Monarchs haven’t been able to stop anybody and haven’t been able to score points. That is definitely a bad combination.
San Leandro: What can you say about the Pirates? On paper, they were supposed to be 0-3 at this point and that’s exactly what they are. This team has surprised me a bit with how much they are throwing the ball this season. But with a QB like Travis Gardner and receivers like Demetrius Owens, Dwaine Simpson and Lenny Jones, it isn’t a bad strategy. RB George Roberson is right up there with the elite running backs in the HAAL. The run defense just hasn’t been there this season for the Pirates. It is the first time in a long time that the Pirates haven’t had one of the best run defenses in the East Bay. That won’t bode well for San Leandro when it plays Bishop O’Dowd. If the Pirates can get the defense going and eliminate the stupid penalties (late hits, unecessary roughness etc…) and fumbles then they have the athletes to be a top team in the East Bay. I think San Leandro, at 0-3 right now, has a slim chance to make the playoffs with one loss to O’Dowd and not winning the league title. But it would be really slim. San Leandro should be hungry for that league title if it wants to guarantee a playoff spot.
San Lorenzo: The Rebels have won two straight for the first time since 2006 and enter league play with a 2-1 record. San Lorenzo will be in the bottom half of the standings, but it is nice to see this team be competitive.
Tennyson: The Lancers are 3-0 and have a chance to go 4-0 for the first time since … (I will look that up Monday). QB Max Carmona has been on fire. This kid has a real calmness to him under pressure. RB T.J. Ner needs to get healthy for this team to make a playoff run, but Tennyson is in the driver’s seat to make its first NCS playoff appearance. Tennyson could be as good as the third place team in the HAAL and as bad as the sixth-place team in the HAAL. The Lancers will have to battle with Castro Valley, Hayward and Arroyo for that third-place spot behind San Leandro and Bishop O’Dowd (not necessarily in that order). If Tennyson can win two of the three against CV, Hayward and Arroyo, then this squad will be a lock for the playoffs. It is going to be a tough road, though.
1. San Leandro
2. Bishop O’Dowd
3. Castro Valley
7. San Lorenzo
8. Mt. Eden