NCS Playoffs: A look at Friday’s football games

ARROYO (6-4) AT RANCHO COTATE (9-1)
Time:
7 p.m.
Last week: Arroyo defeated San Lorenzo 42-19. Rancho Cotate defeated Maria Carrillo 20-14.
Notable: Arroyo takes a five-game win streak on the road. Rancho Cotate hasn’t lost in two months. Coming off its second overtime win of the season, Rancho Cotate appears primed for playoff football. The Cougars’ triple-option attack is humming with Rancho Cotate’s all-time rushing leader, Brian Dworkin, piling up yardage, complemented by quarterback Poueu Peleti-Gore and fullback Jason Celli. Defense, though, could be the key. The Dons’ balanced offense — third in the Hayward Area Athletic League — is led by running back Michael Young, with nearly 100 yards a game, and quarterback Nickolas Taylor, who completes half his pass attempts. Four receivers have more than a dozen catches led by Justin Porter, who averages 15 yards a grab. Top tacklers are Josh Jacini and Micah McMurray, who has 12 sacks.
Number to note: Rancho Cotate rolled up 300 yards rushing against a solid Maria Carrillo defense last week with Brian Dworkin accounting for 218.
Pick: Rancho Cotate 34, Arroyo 20

CAMPOLINDO (5-5) AT CARDINAL NEWMAN (7-3)
Time:
7 p.m.
Last week: Campolindo lost to Las Lomas 30-28. Cardinal Newman defeated Santa Rosa 59-13.
Notable: Despite three losses to end the regular season, Campolindo was competitive in the tough Diablo Foothill Athletic League. Cardinal Newman bounced back from an overtime loss to Rancho Cotate three weeks ago. A challenging non-league schedule should help the Cardinals in the playoffs. With its spread offense in rhythm, Cardinal Newman has the double threat of back Stephen Tomasin and quarterback Matt Sullivan, as well as big-play receiver Chris Quock. Linebackers Phil Wright and Thomas Robles have made big stops all season, supporting a sturdy defensive line. The Cougars use several running backs with Derick Margerum the power runner and Reiner Ebarle the speed threat. Quarterback Brett Stephens throws well, averaging nearly 130 yards a game — second in the DFAL — and Karl Thornton has an impressive 44 catches. Lacking a stopper, Campolindo relies on a swarming defense.
Number to note: Both teams can move the ball and score with Cardinal Newman averaging 33 points per contest and Campolindo 27 a game.
Pick: Cardinal Newman 35, Campolindo 27

ANALY (5-5) AT MIRAMONTE (9-1)
Time:
7 p.m.
Last week: Analy defeated Sonoma Valley 29-0. Miramonte defeated Alhambra 49-28.
Notable: In a rematch of the season opener for both schools, Analy returns to Orinda where it lost 21-7. Entering the playoffs losing three of four, Analy needs to spread the ball around to keep the Matadors off balance. Cooper Maloney can grind out yards, but the Tigers are at their best when quarterback Jake Zanutto — 167 passing yards a game — gets time to connect with Julian Titus-Patino, the possession guy, and Aaron Maher, the big-play threat. Analy linebackers Dallas Hamilton and Issak Olsen average 8 and 7 tackles per contest to anchor the defense. Miramonte, the Diablo Foothill Athletic League champions, has a prolific offense — 24 points was their low mark on the season. Quarterback Ross Anderson is tough to contain. He can run — fourth in the DFAL —and throw — league leader — equally well. Receivers Anthony Piganelli, with 19 yards a catch, and Jack Pietrykowski are prime targets. With a couple of shutouts, Miramonte’s defense also is strong — second in the DFAL.
Number to note: Four of Analy’s defenders average at least 6 tackles a game and the Tigers will need such an effort to contain Miramonte.
Pick: Miramonte 31, Analy 14

ST. HELENA (5-5) AT MIDDLETOWN (9-1)
Time:
7 p.m.
Last week: St. Helena defeated Upper Lake 63-18. Middletown defeated Willits 49-0.
Notable: A rematch of a month ago when Middletown won 40-7, the game features high scoring teams playing with confidence. Middletown — a perennial small school power —Likes to run behind top back David Pike, fast and strong, making him tough to bring down in the open field. A strong supporting cast led by Nolan Thachenko gives the Mustangs a huge edge in controlling the clock, though Middletown often scores quickly. Quarterback Kyle Brown is typically on target when he throws, and Jake Davis is a big-play receiving threat. Middletown’s defense is anchored by Davis and Jermoney Hoefer. Winners of four straight since losing to Middletown, the Saints also boast a breakout back in Charles Bertoli, with more than 1,100 yards on the season. Complementing him is David Fradelizio, with 600 yards. Richard Hoppe completes more than half his passes with Peter Delbondio averaging 16 yards a reception and Alex Quirici scoring six times on 14 catches. The linebacking trio of Quirici, Michael Crean and Dominic Skinner again face a tough test in limiting the Mustangs gains.
Number to note: Middletown has won nine straight since a tough — though entertaining for fans — 57-52 season opening loss at home to Salesian, the East Bay power one spot ahead of fourth-seeded Middletown in the Division IV playoff bracket.
Pick: Middletown 47, St. Helena 14

UPPER LAKE (1-9) AT TOMALES (8-2)
Time:
7 p.m.
Last week: Upper Lake lost to St. Helena 63-18. Tomales defeated Calistoga 52-6.
Notable: An apparent mismatch in a very thin NCS Division V, the Braves should easily handle the Cougars. Running is Tomales’ strength; the Braves grind out nearly 250 yards a game. Michael Guerrero topped the 1,000-yard mark this season. Three other backs get a handful of runs a game led by Andrew Caramagno and Logan Calvi. When the Braves do throw, quarterback Javier Isais spreads the ball around with only Ricky Becerra in double figures for receptions. A sizable small-school front line allows Tomales to control the line on both offense and defense. Charlie Kain-Williams and Justin Kehoe are the top tacklers on the defensive front and linebacker Justin Brady leads with about 9 stops a game. Upper Lake opened the season with a home win against Calistoga and hasn’t won since. But the Cougars’ offense has improved in recent weeks. When the Cougars have the ball, look for the run. Jason Harlan is the leading rusher with over 1,000 yards this season. Linebackers Bradley Brackett and Stoney Timmons have been the most active.
Number to note: Tomales has won five straight league championships and has a 31-game league winning streak.
Pick: Tomales 48, Upper Lake 13

— Michael Coit, The Press Democrat