Petaluma vs. Newman? And other NCS playoff musings

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
This and that while filling out my brackets …
* Coaches don’t like to look too far ahead — don’t want to assume wins, sound overconfident, jinx their team etc. — but bloggers have no such hang-ups.
With that in mind, let’s look at top-seeded Petaluma’s potential road to the NCS Division II title game. It could be quite interesting if Petaluma gets in position to play for its first section title since 1977.
If the Trojans get past Rancho Cotate, they could face Cardinal Newman in the quarterfinals. Petaluma has never met Newman in the postseason and hasn’t met the Cardinals in the regular season since 1996.
In the semifinals, Petaluma would likely face No. 4 Eureka (8-2) or No. 5 Ygnacio Valley (8-2) — sorry it’s too late for me to research the merits of those teams right now — so let’s skip ahead to the finals. That’s where second-seeded Casa Grande could be waiting.
Petaluma has never played its cross-town rivals in the postseason. In 1999, both teams reached the Class 3A semifinals on opposite sides of the bracket, but Casa Grande lost to Ukiah. Petaluma lost to Ukiah in the section title game.
By the way, if Casa Grande and Petaluma meet in the finals and the Gauchos win, do they get to take back the Egg Bowl trophy? I’m guessing no. The Egg Bowl is the Egg Bowl and this would be the NCS Division II title game. But these questions really must be asked.
* Most teams are better in November than in September. And Petaluma is no exception.
I saw the Trojans beat Santa Rosa, 27-0, in their season opener. I thought they looked pretty good.
I also saw Petaluma beat Healdsburg, 62-15, in its regular-season finale on Friday. And I thought they could beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.
OK, I exaggerate slightly. But you get the point.
I mean, the Trojans have scored 117 points the past two weeks against Windsor and Heladsburg, a pair of playoff teams.
Petaluma coach Steve Ellison and his staff watched film Sunday of the Trojans’ 14-12 win against Rancho Cotate on Sept. 25 and Ellison said the difference was striking, “As a coaching staff we watched film and we all felt like we certainly are playing better than when we first played Rancho.”
* Maria Carrillo got the 15th seed and will visit No. 2 Casa Grande on Friday.
With a 4-6 record, the Pumas weren’t guaranteed a spot in the 16-team Division II bracket. So Maria Carrillo coach Jay Higgins wasn’t quibbling about playing the Gauchos again. Casa Grande beat Maria Carrillo, 31-14, in September.
“I honestly didn’t care who we drew,” Higgins said. “Whoever they gave us would have been great. If they gave us an East Bay team, someone we didn’t know, that would have been fun and exciting in its own right. But the way our season went there’s also a whole bunch of teams we’d like to have another crack at.”
* NCS commissioner of athletics Gil Lemmon said No. 16 Rancho Cotate beat out San Lorenzo (6-4) for the final spot in the Division II playoffs. Lemmon said close losses to top teams worked in the Cougars’ favor. Rancho Cotate (6-4) lost to top-seeded Petaluma, 14-12, and to No. 3 Montgomery, 9-6, in overtime.
In case you’re wondering, the Cougars have two more wins than Maria Carrillo, but were seeded lower due in large part to a 35-25 regular-season loss to the Pumas.
* Casa Grande’s two biggest offensive stars — running back Kahlil Keys and quarterback Nick Sherry — are both relatively healthy entering the postseason.
Keys returned for the Gauchos’ 41-6 loss to El Molino on Friday after missing one game with an ankle injury. Keys rushed for 98 yards on 7 carries and scored a touchdown before leaving in the second quarter.
Sherry has been nursing a high ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 30 against Windsor. Sherry is still playing with a slight limp, but he’s been pretty good while gimpy. He’s completed 18 of 30 passes for 319 yards with four touchdowns and one interception the past two weeks.
* Think there’s a big difference between Division IV and Division V in the NCS playoffs? I kind of do.
St. Vincent (7-3) is the top seed in Division V and its three losses came against Middletown (56-23), Fort Bragg (70-27) and Cloverdale (38-7).
In the Division IV bracket, Middletown is seeded fourth, Cloverdale is fifth and Fort Bragg is seventh.