We begin our journey of predicting who will win NCS title. This year, we’ll spend a day on each division. We didn’t do so hot with our predictions last year, as Ben and I combined to go 2 for 10 with our selections. We both correctly predicted only one NCS winner and that almost doesn’t even count because it was De La Salle in Division I. Nevertheless, we’ll take another crack at it. We’ll start with Division IV and V today and work our way up over the next three days.
Last year’s Division V field featured a 1-9 (!!!!!) Upper Lake team. No. 5 seed California School for the Deaf was the only East Bay entry as 2009 champion St. Elizabeth did not make the field. It was a tough year for the Mustangs, who also won the 2007 title, as their coaching situation was unsettled until right before the season. But Greg Morris is back and hopefully can get the Mustangs headed back to the postseason. The last time St. Elizabeth had a winless season like it did in 2010, the Mustangs rebounded to win the NCS title. That was their 2007 NCS Class B title that followed up an 0-9 season in 2006. Will that happen again? I can’t say yet.
Hoopa Valley won last year’s title with a junior at quarterback in Sonny Ryles, but the running game often rules at the smaller divisions. Defending runner up Tomales should return running back Michael Guerrero, a near 1,500-yard rusher last year. The Braves’ roster last year also listed just seven seniors. That should bode well and so I’m taking Tomales as my pick to win Division V.
In Division IV, there are a few teams we typically see in the mix, such as Salesian, St. Patrick-St. Vincent and Ferndale. Ferndale’s season gets kicked off at home against McClymonds, where it will try to avenge the loss it suffered in Oakland last year during Mack’s undefeated season. The Bruins will again be among the contenders in the BSAL, but I’m going to stick with Salesian to pull off the repeat. The Pride graduated some key players, but they have enough returning talent that I like their chances once again.
I’m not going to lie, Jimmy seems to know more than me about Division V. Can St. Liz turn it around in one year? Well, we shall see. I would also say look out for St. Vincent-Petaluma, because it seems to me that it is always in the mix come playoff time. I’ll pick Hoopa for the repeat though, as a returning quarterback is always a big deal in small-school football.
Now, for Division IV. For me, it always starts with two teams: Ferndale and Salesian. We’ve seen it nearly every year in recent memory, both of these teams lasting deep into the postseason. In 2010, it was Salesian’s turn to take the crown with an overtime win over Middletown. I expect the Pride to be good yet again, although answering the question at quarterback left by Ikaika Woolsey’s departure will be a top priority early in the season. Still, I like the explosiveness of RB Marcial Malic and the punishing line presence that Freddie Tagaloa brings on both sides. Also, if you look at the all-BFL list from last year, the Pride returns quite a bit of all-league talent.
Remember that Healdsburg was the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs last year. It lost in the semifinals to a Middletown team that gave Salesian quite the run. So, don’t count either of those schools out.
Ferndale is always there at the end, just count on it. I seem to pick them to win Division IV every year. That system, combined with the full support of the community, has this team in the mix every year.
In the end though, I gotta come back to Salesian. Chad Nightingale has built a flat-out winner, and with a bulldozer like Tagaloa in front of a talented backfield, I think the transition to a new QB will be smooth. I’m going with the Pride.