East Bay football rankings — 10/8

Here’s our East Bay rankings after the sixth week of play.

Team Record Last Week Up Next
1. De La Salle 4-1 1 vs. San Ramon Valley
2. Clayton Valley Charter 4-1 2 @Mt. Diablo
3. Foothill 6-0 3 vs. Livermore
4. Monte Vista 4-1 4 @Amador Valley
5. Pittsburg 4-1 5 @Freedom
6. California 4-1 6 vs. Granada
7. Antioch 5-0 7 @Heritage
8. Campolindo 5-1 8 vs. Alhambra
9. James Logan 5-1 11 @Atascadero
10. Freedom 3-2 10 vs. Pittsburg
11. Amador Valley 4-1 12 vs. Monte Vista
12. Miramonte 6-0 13 @Dougherty Valley
13. McClymonds 5-0 14 vs. Castlemont
14. American 5-1 NR @Washington
15. Swett 5-0 NR vs. Berean Christian

On the bubble: Dublin (4-1), Moreau Catholic (5-1), Piedmont (3-2). The East Bay rankings are compiled by the Bay Area News Group, selected from high schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.




Prep football: Amador Valley edged Granada in EBAL showdown

Ledre McCullough rushed for three touchdowns in the second half and, as Amador Valley coach Rick Sira put it, the Dons “held on for dear life” in a 29-22 EBAL win over host Granada on Oct. 1.

“It was just a great high school football game,” Sira said.

Amador Valley ruined the Matadors’ homecoming game by collecting itself at halftime, when it trailed 16-7.

“Early in the game we turned the ball over and they took advantage of that,” said Sira, noting a 10-0 deficit. “We had not played to the best of our ability. Granada did a good job, not to take away from them. We needed to do the things we were capable of and play at the level we knew we could.”

The Dons (4-1, 1-0 EBAL) did so behind McCullough, who rushed for 229 yards on 29 carries. Along with a 20-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner, he senior scored on runs of 44 and 3 yards.

The latter, which gave Amador Valley its first lead, was set up by a 31-yard toss from senior quarterback Ronnie Jones to senior wide receiver Grant Huggins.

“It was a really gigantic play on a broken play to keep us in that situation,” Sira said. “If we don’t score there, it gets dark quickly.”
McCullough finished off that drive and, after he scored again, the teams traded punts until Granada (3-3, 0-2 EBAL) got in gear. The Matadors made it to the 30-yard line with a 14-yard drive in the waning minutes, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Throws into the end zone on third and fourth down were broken up, the latter by senior cornerback Vincent Ruso.

Sira praised the play of senior safety Matthew Mahurni, junior lineman Mason Bartolo and senior linebacker/tailback Patrick Loughnane — who scored on a 14-yard run in the first half.


East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (6-7) — The Cougars took care of business against Acalanes and Dougherty Valley, both teams that have been ranked this season, and attended another stacked tournament, the Presentation Panther Challenge, where they went to three sets with three teams that have a combined 41-9 record.
  2. Monte Vista (13-3) — After falling behind early in the first set against Foothill on Thursday, the Mustangs raced to a 3-1 win over the then No. 3 Falcons before sweeping No. 9 Granada.
  3. Bishop O’Dowd (7-3) — A quiet week for the Dragons included only a sweep of Berkeley, but they’ve clearly faced tougher opponents than Head-Royce.
  4. Head-Royce (16-0) — The Jayhawks, who have only dropped two sets all season, kept their undefeated streak going with three sweeps in league play.
  5. Foothill (12-5) — The Falcons lost on the road to Monte Vista but came back to sweep California.
  6. Miramonte (11-5) — The Mustangs beat No,. 7 San Ramon Valley and No. 12 Alhambra, impressive enough to bump them up eight spots.
  7. San Ramon Valley (10-4) — Though the Wolves lost to No. 6 Miramonte, they defeated No. 8 Carondelet and No. 10 Amador Valley.
  8. Carondelet (11-5) — A win over Granada offsets a loss to No. 7 San Ramon Valley, pushing the Dons into the rankings from the bubble.
  9. Granada (10-6) — In a pair of five-set thrillers this week, the Matadors beat No. 11 California and lost to No. 8 Carondelet.
  10. Amador Valley (9-5) — After sweeping No. 11 California, the Dons were swept by No. 7 San Ramon valley and St. Francis, ranked No. 3 by the San Jose Mercury News.
  11. California (12-5) — Four straight losses, including to No. 10 Amador Valley and No. 5 Foothill, drops the Grizzlies four spots.
  12. Alhambra (14-4) — The Bulldogs had a tough week, not only suffering their first, second, third and fourth defeats but also losing their libero to a concussion.
  13. Albany (12-5) — The Cougars edged No. 15 Saint Joseph Notre Dame in five sets before a 2-2 trip to the St. Ignatius Golden Gate Challenge, where they beat defending NCS D4 champ Marin Catholic.
  14. James Logan (13-4) — Winning seven times this week extended the Colts streak to nine victories and vaulted them into the rankings despite not being on the bubble last week.
  15. Saint Joseph Notre Dame (12-4) — The Pilots fell to No. 13 Albany in five sets but beat St. Patrick-St. Vincent, a NCS D4 semifinalist last year.

Girls volleyball: Alhambra aiming at NCS playoffs after extended absence

A year after registering its first Diablo Foothill Athletic League win since 2007, the Alhambra High girls volleyball team is taking aim at North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs.

The Bulldogs’ 14-match win streak to start the season sure seems like reason to believe it could happen for the first time in, well, a while.

“Nobody knows exactly when but everybody thinks it’s been at least 20 years” since Alhambra made the postseason, coach Willie Marchesano said. “The girls have put a lot of work. I’ve got to give them props.”

Eleven players returned from last year’s 12-18 squad, which graduated only senior libero Glenna Herbert, and Marchesano said all eleven elected to participate in open gym sessions this summer.

“In the past we’ve been pretty good hitting-wise, but people weren’t playing defense,” said Marchesano, a Northgate alum whose twin brother Andrew is an assistant at Alhambra. “They’re really buying into the fact that they need to be good at defense.”

The change was immediately obvious, with road sweeps of Mt. Diablo, Ygnacio Valley and Antioch to start the season. Five more wins later, including a 3-2 victory over Freedom, the Bulldogs won all five of their matches in the third tier of the East County Invitational, even beating Freedom 2-0.

“I’m very impressed by the work they put it and how much better they are in four years,” Marchesano said. “Before, teams couldn’t wait to play us, but now they’re like, this team is a real challenge.”

Alhambra ran into its second challenge of the season in its Sept. 24 league opener at Miramonte. Senior libero Emma Farr sustained a concussion during a match that the Matadors won 3-1. “She got blasted in the face,” Marchesano said of Farr, who will be out at least another week.

That didn’t bode well for the Concord Varsity Tournament last weekend, when the Bulldogs went 2-3. “We lost we couple matches we definitely would have won with her,” Marchesano said. But even then Alhambra pushed Benicia, which was 29-2 and a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinalist last year, to a third set before falling.

That’s because Farr is far from the only skilled Bulldog. Senior captains Haley Jones and Lexy Swenson, middle blocker and setter respectively, lead the way with senior middle blocker Lexi Hammer also integral. Marchesano also mentioned junior outside hitter Ainise Taimani, a returning starter who missed the first few weeks while recovering from a leg fracture, and freshman middle blocker Sterling Parker, who stands 6-foot-1-inches.

“The cool thing is, this is the deepest team we’ve ever had, so it makes practices much better,” said Marchesano, who is in his fourth year with the program and third at the helm. “When they play each other at practice, everybody is just about equal.”


Prep football: Berean Christian beat Salesian for first time since 2001

Berean Christian High football downed Salesian on Saturday for the first time since 2001 with a second-half surge powered by inserted quarterback Vince Guarisco and an interception returned for a score by Isaiah Hodgins in the 47-30 win.

Berean Christian coach James Hodgins said he prepares his team to treat all games with the same importance. “But the reality is,” he said, “it had some special meaning to us because we hadn’t beaten them in so long and because the rivalry has been so lopsided over the years.”

For example, Salesian has won the last four matchups by a combined score of 188-27. This time, Salesian took an early 8-0 advantage and led 8-7 at halftime, ceding only a 92-yard punt return for a score by Isaiah Hodgins — the coach’s son.

But the third quarter proved problematic for the Pride. Guarisco, who came into the game in the second quarter, found senior receiver Michael Fulton for a 28-yard score that put Berean Christian up 14-8. After Salesian tied the game at 14-all midway through the third quarter, Guarisco tossed a checkdown to Joshua Smith which the senior receiver ran 84 yards for a touchdown.

“He turned on the jets and took off,” James Hodgins said of the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Smith. “I tell the colleges when they come around that he’s the biggest guy on the field, but he’s also the fastest.”

Then Isaiah Hodgins snagged his second interception of the game and returned it 46 yards for the pick-six for a three-score advantage. Salesian junior Alex Hutchison ran the kickoff back to edge Salesian within 34-22 before Berean Christian senior Joey Esco scored a 74-yard rushing touchdown. Salesian scored again but couldn’t convert an onside kick, ending its comeback attempt.

“Our guys just made plays,” James Hodgins said. “Those big plays gave us the momentum and gave us what we needed to put it past them.”


Girls volleyball: Monte Vista fends off Foothill in EBAL victory

DANVILLE — Senior Maclaine Fields made her presence known Thursday night at Monte Vista High School, blocking six shots and assisting on two others as the Mustangs’ girls volleyball team rallied from early first-set deficit to secure a 3-1 match victory over visiting Foothill.

“She had a lot of one-on-one blocks,” Monte Vista coach J.J. Utchen said. “The different of the match was, we took control of the net.”

Asked about memorable moments in the East Bay Athletic League match, Mustangs junior E’lan Riter said simply: “Mac’s blocks.”

Lots of credit goes to Riter, too, since she tallied team-highs of 13 kills, 24 digs and seven aces. Several of her swings added momentum for Monte Vista (12-3, 2-0 EBAL), which coasted in sets two through four but trailed big in No. 1.

Foothill (8-3, 1-1 EBAL) built first-set leads of 15-6 and 19-10 partly thanks to four of senior Erin Page’s six aces.

“They came out with all guns blazing, totally fearless,” Utchen said, lauding the Falcons.

A block by Fields edged Monte Vista within 19-14 and induced a timeout from Foothill coach Dusty Collins.

“They turned us on our heels very quickly,” Collins said. “And that’s what it felt like for the rest of the match.”

The Mustangs tied things up at 19 and 23 — boosted by another Fields block, two aces by Ava Patterson and a pair of kills by Morgan Burroughs — but Foothill prevailed on a service error and a block by sophomore Hana Okuhara (6 aces, 9 digs).

That first-set surge, though, spilled into the second set. Monte Vista pulled away midway through the second set and coasted to a 25-18 win.

In the third set, Monte Vista took an early lead largely because junior Alex Nickerson accomplished the volleyball version of a hat trick: ace, kill, block. And again the Mustangs galloped to a 25-18 win.

Foothill fought off a fourth-set deficit of 23-16 with the help of Andrea Paduraru, who totaled 16 kills two days after missing a match because of flu-like symptoms. Also integral was senior libero Taylor Campbell (15 digs).

The Falcons inched within 24-21, but Burroughs buried a swing to end the match.



East Bay girls volleyball rankings, with comments

  1. Campolindo (4-5) — Sure, the Cougars lost four times at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, but two of those defeats included to the eventual tournament champion and a powerhouse program from Georgia. Finishing 15th at a prestigious 63-team tourney is impressive enough to stay top these rankings.
  2. Monte Vista (11-3) — The Mustangs only lost once, to eventual champ Redwood, at the loaded East County Invitational and opened league play Tuesday with a sweep of Amador Valley, moving them back up a spot. But watch out for Thursday’s league match against Foothill, which I’ll be covering.
  3. Foothill (8-2) — Dropping matches to eventual East County Invite finalists Redwood and Pleasant Grove was buffered by the fact that both were in three sets. In other words, the Falcons weren’t far from winning the tournament, and swept Lowell-S.F. in the third-place match and Livermore in their league opener Tuesday.
  4. Bishop O’Dowd (6-3) — After falling to defending CIF Division 3 champion Sacred Heart Cathedral last week, the Dragons have won three times including over host Valley Christian, the school that beat SHC for the Central Coast Section Division 3 title last year.
  5. Head-Royce (13-0) — The Jayhawks rolled through St. Joseph Notre Dame’s D5 Showcase last weekend, winning four times without dropping a set. That keeps them unbeaten and unable to be ignored, moving up three spots in our rankings.
  6. San Ramon Valley (3-3) — The Wolves bounced back from three losses to strong teams at the East County Invite — including Foothill by a 2-1 set score — by sweeping a decent Carondelet team Tuesday. They have three more matches to prepare for a rematch with Foothill followed by a face-off with rival Monte Vista.
  7. California (12-3) — The Grizzlies swept Liberty before starting the 3-0 in the second tier of the East County Invite, enough momentum to keep them high despite a tourney loss to upstart Dougherty Valley and a 3-2 road defeat at the hands of Granada on Tuesday.
  8. Granada (10-4) — Downing Cal on Tuesday impressed nonetheless, adding to the Matadors’ win streak after two sweeps last week.
  9. Alhambra (12-0) — A 4-0 run through the third tier of the East County Invite kept the Bulldogs unbeaten ahead of their toughest test this season, Thursday at Miramonte.
  10. Liberty (9-3) — Being swept by Cal shows the Lions are vulnerable, though they still have sweeps of Granada and Dougherty Valley.
  11. St. Joseph Notre Dame (11-3) — The Pilots won four times at their own D5 Showcase last weekend, only falling in the finale to unbeaten Head-Royce.
  12. Dougherty Valley (5-6) — Placing second in the second tier of the East County Invite boosts the Wildcats into our rankings, especially since that included a win over California.
  13. Acalanes (4-3) — Splitting four matches at the East County Invite slides the Dons down, even though one of their wins was over Miramonte.
  14. Miramonte (5-3) — The Matadors did not have a good showing at the East County Invite, losing in two sets to San Ramon Valley and Acalanes.
  15. Amador Valley (8-3) — League play opened with a sweep at the hands of Monte Vista, dropping the Dons two spots and closer to the bubble.

On the bubble: Albany (7-3), Carondelet (6-3), Irvington (8-4), Dublin (8-4), Arroyo (11-6).


East Bay football rankings — 9/23

Here’s our East Bay rankings after the fourth week of play.

Team Record Last Week Up Next
1. De La Salle 3-1 1 BYE
2. Clayton Valley Charter 3-1 3 BYE
3. Foothill 4-0 4 vs. Granada
4. Monte Vista 3-0 7 @Livermore
5. Pittsburg 3-1 6 vs. Vacaville
6. California 2-1 6 vs. San Ramon Valley
7. Antioch 4-0 8 @Pinole Valley
8. Campolindo 3-1 5 vs. Dublin
9. Freedom 3-1 9 @Will C. Wood
10. Moreau Catholic 4-0 11 @Mission San Jose
11. James Logan 3-1 10 @Castro Valley
12. Amador Valley 2-1 13 vs. Northgate
13. San Ramon Valley 1-2 12 @California
14. Miramonte 4-0 14 @Alhambra
15. McClymonds 3-0 NR @Stagg

On the bubble: Concord (3-1), Piedmont (3-1), Pinole Valley (3-1). The East Bay rankings are compiled by the Bay Area News Group, selected from high schools in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.