Here are our top picks for games to check out during the weekend of Sept. 19
El Cerrito (1-1) at AmadorValley (2-0), Friday, 7 p.m. – Coming off a bye, El Cerrito will take on an East Bay Athletic League opponent for the second straight game. The Gauchos took a step forward with a 54-14 drubbing of Livermore after opening the season with a loss to Northern Section power Sutter. But AmadorValley will be a stiffer challenge. The Dons are unbeaten and are also coming off a bye. AmadorValley is averaging 387 rushing yards per game but will need to tighten up its defense a bit against an inexperienced El Cerrito team that is getting better from week to week.
San Leandro (1-2) at Freedom (1-2), Friday, 7 p.m. – Both teams’ records are a little misleading as both have faced some very strong nonleague competition. They had similar results last week. San Leandro played one of the CCS’ top programs, Bellarmine, tough while Freedom couldn’t hold on to an early lead against SJS power Granite Bay as late turnovers made the difference. San Leandro’s win over James Logan last week is looking even better after the Colts upended SanRamonValley last week. The Pirates hope to get standout senior QB Stephen Johnson back soon from a fractured foot.
Northgate (3-0) at Las Lomas (2-1), Friady, 7 p.m. – Northgate is going for a third straight win over its Walnut Creek neighbor in the annual “Battle of the Creek” rivalry game. Las Lomas owned the matchup for many years, but an improved Broncos program has had the upper hand recently. This game should be a good indicator for both teams. Northgate’s defense has been especially good early in the season, allowing just 21 total points in three wins under new head coach Ben Ballard, who was previously the team’s defensive coordinator. Las Lomas owns a two-game winning streak behind dual-threat QB Ben Wood.
Liberty (3-0) at Monte Vista (1-2), Friday, 7 p.m. – Liberty continues to turn heads with its strong start to follow up last year’s breakout season and is eyeing its first win over an East Bay Athletic League team since knocking off Livermore in 2009. Quarterback Joseph Tolentino has played well in the Lions’ first three games, throwing six TDs without an interception. Riley Condon and Dylan Gilfoy have made big defensive plays for Liberty. A young Monte Vista team will try to rebound from being shut out last week by Pittsburg. It’s been a tough couple of seasons for the Mustangs, who missed the playoffs last year. Monte Vista’s sophomore quarterback, Jake Haener, has thrown for 663 yards.
Bishop O’Dowd (1-1) at St. Mary’s (3-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m. – Defense has powered St. Mary’s, the defending NCS Division IV champion, in the early part of the season. Defensive end Ben Schrider has been especially disruptive with seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked punt. But O’Dowd might be the Panthers’ strongest opponent yet. O’Dowd suffered a last-minute loss last week against Wood-Vacaville to fall to 1-1 under new head coach Napoleon Kaufman.