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30Q-2-KICKOFF (No. 22): Heading north

Today, we leave the East Bay and venture a bit further north.

Once the playoffs begin, teams from the Redwood Empire enter the fray in the hunt for North Coast Section titles. What teams from the north will be in the mix come season’s end?

When you’re talking Redwood Empire football, the conversation always begins with Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa. The Cardinals never seem to be rebuilding, do they? Coach Paul Cronin continues his recent trend of elevating a senior to starting QB with Jack James sliding from receiver to quarterback. He takes over for Randy Wright, who was a dangerous threat in both the pass game and the run game. I think the bigger loss is a standout pair of RB/LBs, Jeff Badger and Joe Ferguson. Those guys were game-breakers on both sides of the ball and need to be replaced. That said, expect Cardinal Newman to again be hunting for the Division II title come season’s end.

Next up is Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park, a team that lost its Division II quarterfinal game last year. If you follow Santa Rosa Press Democrat writer Rich Rupprecht’s blog, you know that speedy running back Brian Dworkin is back to lead the offense once again. The Cougars have a new quarterback though, which probably means you can take a wait-and-see approach with Rancho. An early-season game against Castlemont should be a good indicator of how this team will look come playoff time.

Staying in Division II, Casa Grande-Petaluma is a team I had a chance to see last year. The Gauchos have a new head coach in Trent Herzog. The guy to watch here though is RB Kahlil Keys, who was fantastic in a playoff win over Concord last season. Keys’ possesses a good blend of size and speed and I would wager he’ll be the top offensive weapon for the Gauchos. They’ll need to break in a new quarterback with the departure of Matt O’Brien, but having Keys certainly will make the transition a whole lot smoother.

Finally, we can’t forget perennial Division III power Novato. You’d be hard pressed to find a better defensive coach than Travis Brackett, but the questions surrounding the Hornets this year center mostly around the offense. Gone are starting QB Jeff Stephens, RB Kyle Campas and Logan Edwards, WR Jake Davis and Mike Polvere. That’s a lot of talent to lose, but there is some good talent returning in RB Ricardo Mendez, WR Jake Caliguire and RB Josh Delpino. Expectations are always high at Novato, and a tough early season schedule (Foothill-Palo Cedro, Foothill-Pleasanton and Oakdale are the Hornets’ first three opponents) will definitely show how good the team is.

So, you may not see a lot of these teams until playoff time, but there’s definitely a good deal of talent in the Redwood Empire this season if you choose to venture north to take in a game.

Ben Enos

  • NorCalSportsFan

    Also from the NCS Humboldt-ND Big 5…Eureka could make some inroads into the playoffs this coming season in D2…they have several stars lead by Soma Vainuku (6’1″/260 lbs/4.6 40), RB/LB, the cousin of Rey Maualuga. Vainuku has offers from several D1A programs. They will have a big o-line and retrurn several potential D1 prospects. They also return 6 on last years starting defense.

    Regarding Cardinal Newman–while they should be a good team, they will have a lot less talent than the last 3 years. Jack James will be a very good QB with a very good receiver Chris Reuter. They will have a little speedin the RBs, and line will have a couple good chore people. Looks like they will go 1-2 or 0-3 in the nonleague and may get more competition in league. Still they will be favorites in their league and should be formidable in the playoffs.

    Novato will lack a passing attack, and may not be favorites to win their league (MCAL). Marin Catholic (Kentfield, CA) returns eleven starters and a big line and g\could make a run in D3.

  • yo

    Eureka gets an automatic playoff birth every year, its sad..

    If you win your league you get an automatic playoff birth, and a home game. But Eureka plays in a tiny league, against smaller schools that are horrible. They play all these schools twice and beat them easy. Eureka isnt bad, i just dont think its fair they basically can walk into playoffs every year because their league is so bad. And i dont think its right for Cardinal Newman to petition up to D-2. They are taking away a playoff spot in D-2, and D-2 is BY FAR the most competitive division for playoffs in NCS

    D-3 had an empty spot in its playoff bracket last year (only 15 teams made playoffs in a 16 team bracket)

    And D-1 isnt that tough to get in to because all the 5th place EBAL and BVAL team are good, but because they finish so low they wont qualify for playoffs.

  • yo yo

    I dont think I would call the 5th place bval team good.
    Pitt, Heritage,DV, Freedom, Antioch/Liberty? no matter what order, the last two teams are Antioch or Liberty. Both have ZERO chance of the playoffs because they have no sucessful system in place. liberty’s never been good, and antioch has been in the league cellar for a few years since their falling apart before coaching change

    in another league could antioch/liberty do better? i dont think so, especially when both have lost to livermore or worse teams.

    Even the ebal i wouldn’t call 6th place good because DLS, MV, Foot, SRV, Cal were the top five teams, but AV and Granada are much stronger teams than 6th/7th place says. AV has been down the past few years, and Granada has had moments of improvement. Granada beat AV in 2007. Granada/AV battled last year for the distinction of being the 6th place team, with AV winning a close game. if they were in different leagues they would be 2nd place. and i predict AV making the playoffs.

    put either in the haal or mval, and they would dominate. granada played 3 mval teams the past 2 years, and killed kennedy 54-6 in 2008, irvington 61-0 and washington 39-13 in 2007. granada was the last place ebal team in 2007.

    AV played two haal teams the last two years, handling hayward 42-15 in 2007 and mt. eden 31-6 in 2008. Also,
    Amador played both Liberty and Antioch in 2007, winning easily 42-21 and 35-7 respectively.

    the EBAL top to bottom is still better than the BVAL. even at the top last years extraordinary pitt team went 2-2 against 4 of the EBAL’s top 5 teams. that’s .500. i wouldn’t exactly say Pitt owns the EBAL, but would love to see them match up more. DLS is part of the EBAL now and i didn’t exclude them when i counted AV 6th above, so dont say they dont count. just because they were never fully part of your league doesnt mean they fully are part of ours now. Pitt lost to the 1st and 2nd place EBAL teams. Pitt beat 4th place Cal and 5th place SRV, and only a year after Cal beat Pitt. SRV and Cal both had 4-3 records but it went like this in league: SRV beat MV, MV beat Cal, and Cal beat SRV. it was a circus. can you imagine if that happened in the BVAL?

    Pitt has still done better than San Leandro has done in the same time, and better than Washington and Logan, so thats why Pitt is a threat every year in NCS, but Pitt’s league doesnt offer it the competition it would have if it played in the EBAL.