NCS Division III playoff breakdown

As promised, here’s my look at the Division III playoff bracket. Before the questions start rolling in, yes, we will provide breakdowns of all North Coast Section playoff divisions. I’ll be breaking down Divisions III-V and Kyle Bonagura will handle Divisions I and II. It may be a couple of days before all the divisions are posted, but I wanted to get at least one up tonight to give you an idea of what kind of information we’ll be providing.

Currently, 21 teams are either eligible or possess the ability to still become eligible to make the field either by finishing with a .500 or better record overall, in league play or against teams within their enrollment division.

Thus far, 14 of those teams have clinched eligibility. That does not mean that those teams have clinched a playoff spot, because its possible that, unlike last year, there will be more than 16 eligible teams applying for a spot. I can reasonably see 17 teams being eligible and since all of them will have at least 4 wins, I would expect all of them would apply — unlike last year when some 2-win teams were eligible but did not appply.

Here’s a list of the 14 teams that have clinched eligibility through one of the three criteria: Acalanes, Alhambra, Analy, El Cerrito, Encinal, Fortuna, Healdsburg, Kennedy-Fremont, Marin Catholic, Moreau Catholic, Novato, Piedmont, Tamalpais, Terra Linda.

AGAIN, please don’t miscontrue this as me saying they’ve clinched a playoff spot. They have not.

Now, here is my list of the eight teams I feel are currently locks to earn a berth, in alphabetical order, along with their records (overall, league, division)

ALHAMBRA 7-1, 4-0 DFAL, 3-0 in Div. III — Candidate for top seed, should be within top three.
ANALY 5-3, 1-3 SCL, 3-1 Div. III — Not a great league record, but they should beat Sonoma Valley in two weeks and an eligible 6-win team will make the field
EL CERRITO 4-3, 2-1 ACCAL, 2-1 Div. III — Gauchos will beat Hercules and Richmond, so even if they lost to Alameda, they’d have six wins in a mostly Div. I and II league and easily get in
ENCINAL 6-1, 4-0 BSAL, 3-0 Div. III — Defending champs will probably be highly ranked in the coaches rankings and I think that will earn them the No. 1 seed
FORTUNA 5-2, 2-1 HDNL-Big 4, 4-0 Div. III — None of the divisional wins are against playoff teams, but next two games are against teams they’ve already beaten by a combined 91-8, so this will be a 7-win squad at least
HEALDSBURG 5-2, 2-1 SCL, 3-1 Div. III — Have wins over two playoff-eligible squads (Analy and Acalanes)
MARIN CATHOLIC 6-1, 4-0 MCAL, 2-0 Div. III — Candidate for that top seed, but I think Encinal will get it
NOVATO 5-3, 4-1 MCAL, 2-1 Div. III — WIll be among the upper half of the seedings, probably in the 4-6 range

Now, here are my three teams I consider probable:

KENNEDY – FREMONT 4-3, 2-1 MVAL, 2-1 Div. III — Already eligible because of the division record and the committee usually likes the strength of the MVAL, because it’s all Division I except for the Titans. Plus, I expect them to beat American and finish 5-5 (with losses to Washington and Logan)
PIEDMONT 4-3, 2-2 BSAL, 4-1 Div. III — The record within the division is solid and a win over Moreau or Swett gets them a guarantee of .500 overall. Could fall to a bubble team if they dropped their final three, but I don’t expect that to happen
TAMALPAIS 5-2, 2-2 MCAL, 3-1 Div. III — Probably can move these guys up to a lock and I will if they beat a 2-5 Redwood squad this week.
TERRA LINDA 4-3, 2-1 MCAL, 4-1 Div. III — Their seeding will take a beating because of the power scheduling the MCAL does of not having the last place teams face the first-place teams the next year so Terra Linda avoided both Marin Catholic and Novato. But they should beat a 1-6 San Marin team to bump the to 5 wins overall and 5 within the division

And now I have five teams that are on the bubble, two of which are playoff eligible already and the other three are still seeking eligibility. For those adding at home, with the addition of these five teams, I’m up to 17 that I see having a realistic shot at one of the 16 spots in the field

ACALANES 4-4, 3-1 DFAL, 2-2 in Div. III — Beat either Dublin or Campolindo in the final two weeks and you can actually leap them all the way up to a lock. But losses in those two games would make them a bubble team if we indeed have 17 or more eligible teams.
MIRAMONTE 3-4, 1-2 DFAL, 2-1 Div. III — From a No. 2 seed last year to the bubble? Yep, that’s the case. And Miramonte hasn’t even clinched playoff eligibility yet. With games left against Las Lomas, Dougherty Valley and Alhambra left, they are a game below .500 overall and in league. All they need to do though to become eligible is beat either Dougherty Valley (which should be doable) or Alhambra. That would clinch at least a .500 record in Division III. I think even at 4-6, they’d get in if they are eligible, although the loss to Acalanes hurts. If they win two of their final three and finish 5-5, it’s a no-brainer.
BISHOP O’DOWD 2-4-1, 2-2 HAAL, 0 games against Div. III — Another high seed from last year that’s on the bubble. The Dragons finish the year against San Leandro (a likely loss) and then play Castro Valley and Arroyo. If they indeed lose this week to San Leandro, they’ll need to beat both Castro Valley and Arroyo to finish 4-3 in the HAAL and just become eligible. A loss to either CV or Arroyo (assuming they lose to San Leandro) and O’Dowd won’t even be able to submit an application and will be watching this postseason.
CAMPOLINDO 4-4, 2-2 DFAL, 2-3 Div. III — Pretty simple for Campo, which finishes with Acalanes and Los Lomas. If they win one game, they are eligible and likely to get in. Lose them both — and neither of them will be easy games — and the Cougars will not be eligible.
MOREAU CATHOLIC 4-3, 3-1 BSAL, 2-0 Div. III — Like Acalanes, Moreau is already eligible. However, the Mariners have a grind in their final three games by playing Piedmont, SPSV and Encinal — the BSAL’s top three teams last year. If they finished 4-6, they’d indeed land on the bubble if we end up with more than 16 teams eligible. One win in those final three would ease any tension on the Hayward campus. Otherwise, the Mariners could become big-time Castro Valley and Arroyo fans in hopes of one of those teams beating O’Dowd to eliminate the Dragons.

Finally, here are my three longshots. Each is still mathematically within reach of a spot. And since only 14 teams have clinched, you have to consider the possibilities of teams that could become eligible despite a poor record since last year we saw that a couple of 2-win teams would’ve made the field had they applied. I don’t think any of this teams will be eligible, but as they say, there is a chance.

DEL NORTE 2-4, 1-2 HDNL BIG-4, 1-1 Div. III — Should beat Arcata again to become playoff eligible, but they’ll likely lose to Eureka and Fortuna and finish an unimpressive 3-6, which won’t be enough unless they get lucky and enough of those bubble teams don’t qualify.
DOUGHERTY VALLEY 2-5, 0-3 DFAL, 1-3 Div. III — If they beat Alhambra and Miramonte the next two weeks, they’d get to 2-2 in Division III. And if they won out, they’d be .500 overall and in league. Those situations are unlikely and they’ll probably be eliminated after this week’s game with Alhambra.
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE 2-5, 1-3 MCAL, 1-4 Div. III — A loss to Marin Catholic this week would eliminate them and that is very likely what will happen.
SONOMA VALLEY  3-5, 1-3 SCL, 2-2 Div. III — Not as much of a longshot as the others because it actually only needs to beat Analy to get to 3-2 within Division III and be eligible. But since I don’t expect that to happen, I toss them on as a longshot.

Alrighty folks, there is my breakdown for this week. Hopefully we’ll be able to shrink this down a little bit the next couple of weeks as we see what happens on the field. Next week I’ll go for throwing out projected seedings, but for the first edition I wanted to focus on who I think will get in the field, which I think is the more important question. I’ll come back later (or maybe tomorrow) with a look at the Division IV and V fields.

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.


  1. Good breakdown Jimmy; who is your pick for #1 seed?
    I will agree it is a VERY tough choice. Its safe to say top 3 are Encinal, Alhambra, and Marin Catholic (NOT-necessarily-IN THAT ORDER).

  2. Knights, I will say one thing. At least you stay down for your boys. Jet Pride!

  3. My hunch is Encinal will get the No. 1 seed, primarily because I believe it’s so close that it will come down to the coach’s rankings. And I have a hard time imagining most coaches wouldn’t slot Encinal at No. 1. That’s where them winning last year’s title plays a factor.

    I could see it likely going Encinal, Marin Catholic, Alhambra, with that mostly because of coach’s rankings where the team’s reputations will be factored. When there is so little room to separate, I’ve seen that committees usually put a lot of weight into those rankings.

  4. Alhambra wil not get the top seed they will likely get a 4 seed now that I think about it. Why? What have they done lately? Coaches poll is a big factor & no coaches are going to give Alhambra any respect. BOD for example will petition & get a 13-16 seed. You think they want to play EHS, MC, or Novato. Hell No! Got blown by MC last year & couldn’t even beat Alameda a team that Encinal blew out. Alhambra who runs a basic offense from a down league. Hell yeah. People are going to position themselves to play Alahmbra cuz who are they. Nobodies. Who do you think Miramonote, Campo, Acalanes want to play? Novato who stomped Miramonet them 2 out of the last 4 years. They’ll play Alahmbra.

    Alhambra fans your looking at a 4 seed at the highest not cuz its right cuz you aven’t done anything in years. Nobody fears you. Nobody wants to play Novato, Encinal, or MC. Period. Acalanes will have to rank Encinal higher then you cuz they have to answer for losing to the 2nd best team in the BSAL. WHats Acalanes gonna do rank Alhambra number 1 but damn we lost to the 2nd best team in the BSAL. No you have played nobody.

    Novato has your schedule they are probably undefeated. Thast why you won’t seed above them & every coach knows it.

  5. Sheesh Murdoc, you really are bitter about something? Calling high school kids “nobodies” really indicates the type of person you are. The sad thing is, you actually have a point in your post, it was just hard to find in all of your typo’s and hatred.

    I will focus on two points made in the previous posts.

    1. From Jimmy – “I have a hard time imagining most coaches wouldn’t slot Encinal at No. 1. That’s where them winning last year’s title plays a factor.”

    I sure hope the panel doesnt factor in previous year(s). If they do, can they factor in Alhambra’s two udefeated teams in 93 & 94? (Kidding – see how ridiculous that sounds…why factor in any previous records or championships?) If you open that door, where and when does it close?

    2. From Murdoc – “Alhambra fans your looking at a 4 seed at the highest not cuz its right cuz you aven’t done anything in years.”

    Are we really focusing on the past? Murdoc, dont answer that, it was rhetorical. Do you really want to add up wins vs. losses and NCS championships in each program’s history (Alhambra vs. Encinal)? Again, rhetorical, we all know the answer.

    Be well, Murdoc, take your meds.

  6. unfortunately the past is included, if u every been in or know anybody thats has de la salle is always #1, its like not even any discussion, almost automatic, they will b the champs til somebody beats them. but the thing is once ur team is n the playoffs u have to just go out and win plain and simple

  7. Knights,
    It’s not the panel that’s factoring in previous years. But it’s only natural for the coaches to consider last year’s playoff success when they fill out their rankings. Even without factoring in that, if you look at the one loss at each of those teams, Encinal and Marin Catholic both lost to WCAL teams. And Encinal lost to a Serra team that beat St. Ignatius — the team Marin Catholic lost to. Alhambra’s loss to College Park is definitely the worst loss of those three teams’ losses. That alone creates the slight edge for the Jets.

  8. Jimmy,

    Thanks for the breakdown. A few questions:

    Isn’t Del Norte qualified with one more win over Arcata? That would put them 2-2 against DIII teams.

    Are you saying you think Kennedy is probable because you think they’ll beat American? Because if they don’t, I don’t see how their 4-6 record, with wins over Balboa, DeAnza, Mission San Jose and Irvington, is any better than O’Dowd’s 4 wins or Moreau’s 4 wins.

    If Acalanes, Miramonte and Campolindo are all 5-5, are they all essentially NCS locks? The 2009 DFAL – parity or lots of mediocrity?

  9. Knights,

    I understand what you’re saying about past history, but the Encinal team probably has about half of the players from last year’s team, so it’s not so ridiculous to consider it. If Alhambra were suiting up kids who were on the team in 1993, they’d definitely be breaking a few rules…

  10. HS Football Fan,
    You’re correct, Del Norte would be qualified by beating Arcata again. I think I deleted them from my original list when I saw them at 1-4 with four straight blowout losses and rematches with two of those teams. They are likely to finish 3-6 and be eligible, so I’ll add them as a longshot.

    And I’m placing Kennedy as a probable because, yes, I expect them to beat American. If they don’t, they’d fall back to a bubble. And where they’d have the edge over Moreau is that they play primarily Division I teams by being in the MVAL.

    And yes, I believe those three DFAL teams would essentially be locks at 5-5. Probably any team that gets to five wins will find their way into this field.

  11. IMHO, Coaches should not factor in previous years success in their rankings. I also understand that the panel will most likely determine 1-4 based on coaches rankings.
    Jimmy, You make a valid point (one of the few on this post) about Alhambra having the “worst loss” of the three. But if you ask that question, you should also answer who their “best win” is against. Who does have the best win? If we factor that criteria, I would say Marin Catholic has the best win, against Novato.

  12. I agree that Marin’s win over Novato in the best win and it’s possible that becomes the determining factor. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

  13. Who do you think Encincal’s and Alhambra’s best win is against?

  14. For Encinal, it might be either El Cerrito or Piedmont, since those are Div. III playoff teams that they dominated. It also could be St. Mary’s, although it’s hard to push that as your best win because they are a lower division.

    Alhambra’s is probably Campolindo at this point, but that’s based more on where Campo’s program has been in the past. Same with the Las Lomas win. Both are teams not having the kinds of years they are used to.

    Neither team has a “major” win, but both have racked up several medium quality wins.

  15. Still can not believe how much Bishop O’Dowd has been down this year. Losing to San Lorenzo for the first time ever? Do they not have any more pride? Too bad I had high hopes for this team with such a great running back and an awesome coaching staff. Something must be going on at the school. Hopefully they can turn it around.

  16. What about the bulldogs win over healdsburg? They will probably be a 5-8 seed, higher than el cerrito, campo and piedmont.

  17. Yeah, that very well may be their best win. But since I’m not as familiar with how good Healdsburg really is since I haven’t seen them, I have a harder time judging. Based on calpreps.com’s ratings, Healdsburg is the highest rated team that Alhambra has beaten. By those same ratings, St. Mary’s is Encinal’s best win, with St. Mary’s being rated higher than Healdsburg. Not saying those ratings are the end-all, be-all word, but it’s something to throw out there.

  18. Alhambra, Novato and Marin Catholic are all very well- coached teams. The Novato coach and Coach Silvera are dean style coaches who have seen just about everythinng over the years. I believe all 3 teams can give Encinal trouble. As far as MC losing to SI and Serra beating SI, the WCAL knocks themselves off all the time. Encinal has the advantage in speed and running backs, the others have defense, coaching and disclipine. Good luck to all 4 teams.

  19. Obviously you haven’t checked the stats for Bishop O’Dowd. They are 11-0 in league play and won the Great 8 tournament held in Sacramento beating Campo, Christian Brothers (Sac) last year Div 4 champs and St. Francis (Sac). They’re an awesome tough team and I expect BOD to go far in the playoffs under Coach Mike Gee’s outstanding leadership. By the way, BOD beat San Leandro on Oct. 1st in 3 games.

  20. BOD Fan,
    I guess I should have included somewhere in the post — although I figured all who read it knew — that we are talking about football, not volleyball. O’Dowd does have a very good volleyball team, but in football they currently stand at 2-4-1.

  21. Hypothetically:
    Moreau loses out. Their record is at 4-6

    O’Dowd loses to San Leandro, but beats CV and Arroyo. They’re now 4-5-1

    Who goes between the 2??? O’Dowd’s in a down year and Moreau seems to be on the rise.

  22. In that scenario, O’Dowd would get the berth over Moreau. They would have a better overall record (albeit slightly) and have played a schedule featuring exclusively teams from a higher division.

  23. Highlander Pride,

    Hyopothetically???? I know you Piedmonters think pretty highly of your program. But my scenario has Moreau knocking off Piedmont tomorrow night answering the question of whether O’Dowd gets in or not and of course jeopardizing the Highlanders appearance in NCS and assuring the Mariners with at least a 5-5 record.

    Go Mariners!

  24. Knights your Bulldogs just fell like a brick & you probably don’t even know what that means. You just pretty much locked up the 4 seed this weekend. College Park just lost again. Thats your one lost thats looking terrible. EC (not even Encinal’s best win St. MAry’s is right now) beat Pinole great win for the Jets. EC wins out & goes 7-3 they’ll be the Jets best win. EC’s last test Alameda is a win win for the Jets though.

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