Ben tackled a question about NCS Division II the other day, so since I’ve watched every NCS Division III championship game the past four years, I figured I would take a look at the always entertaining division.
Division III is always a hot topic, particularly on this blog. (You can thank our strong following at Encinal for that). It’s definitely a very fun division to follow because it’s loaded with good programs and unlike in Division I, you never know who is going to take it all. We’ve had five straight years with different champions in this division and one of the cool things is that three of the schools to win it (Campolindo, Encinal and Novato) have been public schools. So this is definitely a division that’s shown good history of the public schools competing well with the private schools.
You’ve got to start looking at this division by checking out defending champion Campolindo. What a run the Cougars had last year to win the NCS title and earn the trip to Carson. I think it’s fair to say that outside of their playoff opener against Hercules, the Cougars weren’t favored in any of their playoff games. Bishop O’Dowd seems to fast and physical, Cardinal Newman too skilled and experienced, and Marin Catholic had the whole package. But Campo got it done each time, and nearly got it done in the state title game. The fact that QB Brett Stephens is back makes them a threat.
Marin Catholic, of course, should be a huge threat again. QB Jared Goff is committed to Cal and is a tremendous player. Quite frankly, he didn’t play very well in the NCS title game against Campolindo. A lot of that can be attributed to Campo’s great secondary. But I’m sure that’s a game that will eat at him and he’ll be motivated to have a great season. For those who saw Goff a week before that game when Marin played Encinal, you know how good he is.
O’Dowd also should receive great quarterback play from third-year starter Dominic Miroglio. WR/DB Kevin King is a stud, with several offers, including from Cal. Dominic Gomes was an All-East Bay receiver last year and is very productive. The Dragons always seem like a team you expect to be there at the end and I think that could be the case this year. They could be, at minimum, a semifinalist.
Of course, Encinal has earned to right to always be in the discussion. Three straight trips to the championship game, plus last year’s semifinal appearance, do that. I think this year’s team may have more question marks than the Jets teams of the past few years, but they still should find a way to be competitive.
Cardinal Newman is another program to never count out. Coach Paul Cronin is too good a coach and considering some of the mistakes made that helped Campolindo rally for the semifinal win last year, you’d have to think the Cardinals would be a motivated team coming back.