After taking a little more serious tone yesterday, let’s head back to our tour of the leagues by talking about the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League.
Berkeley won at least a share of three straight titles before Pinole Valley captured the crown last season. The difference ended up being a 16-14 win by the Spartans over the ‘Jackets in the ACCAL opener. Berkeley got on a decent roll after that, winning six straight games, including a first-round NCS Division I victory over James Logan.
Pinole finished 11-1-1, with the lone hiccups a tie to Sequoia-Redwood City, which also finished 11-1-1, and a NCS Div. II playoff loss to eventual runner-up Rancho Cotate. It was a terrific season for the Spartans. While a couple of talented defenders graduated in Travis Feeney and Antoine Davis, the Spartans return leading rusher James Lewis, a second-team All-East Bay choice. Pinole usually crafts together a stingy defense, so a returning explosive back like Lewis makes them dangerous and the favorites on paper.
Berkeley should still be a team to be reckoned with, even after graduation hit them hard. The team has only 14 seniors (a tiny amount at a school that big), but one of them is RB Rudolpho James. The ‘Jackets have a tough nonleague schedule, but that should prep them for league play. Sir Devonta Stewart is another good athlete and Berkeley actually has a pretty good kicker in Sam Boyden.
El Cerrito has been in the mix for several years, including winning a co-championship in 2009. The Gauchos went 4-2 in ACCAL and 5-5 overall, but did not make the playoffs. That should have the team motivated for a run at the postseason this year. Sophomore Jalen Harvey was an all-leaguer as a freshman and quarterback Jordan Webster saw some time last year and that should help him.
Alameda has a new coach in former assistant Kemp Moyer and will look to rebound from a 4-7 season that did see the Hornets sneak into the playoffs before losing to Pinole. Zac Alfers will be the top receiver and offensive threat and RB Frank Muzio should carry the load on the ground. Defense is where the Hornets want to see the most improvement in order to improve on last season.
At Hercules, there should be a little momentum flowing from last year’s 5-5 season. Although it didn’t result in a playoff berth, it had to be nice to get to .500 for the first time in at least a decade. Nico Murrillo returns after running for 1,008 yards a season ago for the Titans.
Richmond has a new coach in Tashaka Merriweather and the Oilers have to be happy to return the ACCAL’s second leading passer in Daniel Esparza, who threw for over 1,200 yards and 12 TDs. De Anza also has a new coach in Jim Klaczak and will try to improve.