With league play beginning this week in the DFAL, EBAL, MVAL and Tri-County Rock, I thought it would be a good time to take a closer look at those divisions. Who are the favorites, which teams have surprised and what games should high school football aficionados make sure they see? We’ll take a look at the other leagues when they kick off in the next few weeks.
Diablo Foothill Athletic League
In our season previews, I picked Campolindo to win a third consecutive DFAL title and I’m sticking with that prediction, especially after last week’s victory over a star-studded El Cerrito team. Quarterback Andrew Zolintakis’ status was up in the air as the season got underway, but he ended up missing just one game. In three games since returning from a stress fracture in his throwing arm, the senior has thrown for 765 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Don’t sleep on the rest of Lamorinda, though. Miramonte also has an outstanding quarterback in Drew Anderson, who has guided his team to a 3-1 record. The only loss was to defending North Coast Section Division III champion Marin Catholic. The Mats’ defense has also been pretty good with the exception of a second-half meltdown against Marin Catholic.
Besides Campolindo, Acalanes is the only other DFAL team to make it through nonleague play with a perfect record. The Dons’ best win was in Week 2 against a Castro Valley team that had just defeated Monte Vista the week before. We’ll find out just how good the Dons are when they host Campo this Friday. Last year, Acalanes was on the verge of upsetting its Lamorinda rival but fell 40-39 when Campo scored on the final play of the game.
Challengers: Acalanes, Miramonte
Surprise team: Dougherty Valley. (The Wildcats probably won’t contend for the league title this year, but they’re much improved from a year ago and stand good chance to win their first DFAL game since 2010. With a 3-1 record right now, earning a playoff spot is a distinct possibility. In fact, the Wildcats only need a win against Antioch this Friday to finish with a winning record against Division I teams and meet the NCS’ qualifying criteria.)
Mark down this date: Miramonte at Campolindo, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. (If Campolindo can survive the first two weeks of DFAL play against Acalanes and Miramonte, the Cougars will be in great shape to three-peat.)
EastBay Athletic League
Every year, the EBAL offers some of the best leagues games around and is one of the toughest leagues to predict. Before the season started, we picked California to have a slight edge over San Ramon Valley, Monte Vista, Foothill, etc. and the Grizzlies are indeed the highest-ranked EBAL team in our EastBay poll as league play kicks off.
Cal and San Ramon Valley shared the league title last year, and expect both of those teams to be in the running again.
Foothill is also squarely in the mix after a 4-0 nonleague effort, though just one of those games was against another Division I team. The Falcons’ offense is led by Kyle Kearns, a junior QB that college scouts love, and the defense has given up no more than six points in each game.
San Ramon Valley won’t enter league play with a winning record, but few have played as challenging a nonleague schedule as the Wolves. They beat up on Buhach Colony-Atwater in their opener but then lost to James Logan and Folsom. This week, SRV has De La Salle. So that’s an NCS Division I finalist, a NorCal Open Division title game representative and the Open Division state champions in three straight weeks. EBAL play might seem like a walk in the park after that gauntlet.
You can never count out Monte Vista either, though the Mustangs seem to have some major concerns on defense.
Challengers: Foothill, SanRamonValley
Surprise team: Amador Valley. (The Dons finished third in the EBAL last year and advanced to the NCS Division I semifinals, but graduated a strong senior class. Well, Rick Sira’s guys seem to have picked up right where they left off even without QB Kyle Moreno and company, and have bolted out to a 3-0 record.)
Mark down this date: San Ramon Valley at California, Oct. 25, 7 p.m. (Though there stands a good chance that the eventual champion will not have a perfect record in EBAL play, this game should go a long way in determining who claims the title, as it did last year.)
Mission Valley Athletic League
In its second year without James Logan, the MVAL looks wide open. Newark Memorial is the defending champion, but the Cougars seem to be missing something after coach Rich Swift passed away unexpectedly in the offseason. The Cougars do have several returning starters, though, so don’t count them out despite a slow start.
Maybe this is Moreau Catholic’s year? The Mariners have arguably the best player in the league, junior Jason Hinton, who is off to a monster start and already has surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark. The reigning MVAL Offensive Player of the Year has his team averaging 46.2 points in a 4-0 start.
American is also off to a pretty good start. The Eagles, who have caused trouble for some opponents with their no-huddle offense, could be a sleeper.
Washington is 0-3, but the Huskies have played the toughest schedule of any MVAL team by a pretty wide margin. They’re certainly still in the conversation even though the nonleague record is ugly.
Favorite: Moreau Catholic
Challengers: Washington, Newark Memorial
Surprise team: American
Mark down this date: Moreau Catholic at Washington, Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m.
Tri-County Athletic League – Rock Division
El Cerrito ran away with the TCAL-Rock title a year ago on its way to the NCS Division III championship game. The league is once again El Cerrito’s to lose. The Gauchos, led by Pac-12 commits D.J. Calhoun, Adarius Pickett and Jalen Harvey, have started 2-2 but they’ve played a schedule geared to prepare them for the postseason.
St. Mary’s has fared well to start the season. The Panthers dropped their opener to Miramonte, then went on to rout Riordan-San Francisco and Albany. They could very well be the next best team in the TCAL-Rock.
Salesian is seemingly always a NCS Division IV contender under Chad Nightingale, though a 28-6 loss to Hercules might signal that this year’s team still has quite a bit of work to do.
Favorite: El Cerrito
Challengers: St. Mary’s, Salesian
Surprise team: PinoleValley. (There’s not really a team in the bunch that is better than expected, so I’m listing Pinole Valley as a surprise because I didn’t think they’d start the season 0-4.)
Mark down this date: St. Mary’s vs. El Cerrito at DeAnza High, Nov. 1, 7 p.m. (El Cerrito will be heavily favored, but it still might be the Gauchos’ closest TCAL game.)