NCS football playoffs kick off tonight

Rancho Cotate's Poueu Peleti-Gore slips through the Montgomery defense during their game on Oct. 8. The Cougars take on Arroyo tonight at 7 in the first round of the NCS playoffs. Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Coach Dan Bourdon is hoping that Analy’s football season doesn’t end precisely the way it began — with a loss at Miramonte.

It was “Week Zero,” as Bourdon called it, when the Tigers traveled to Orinda to kick off their season against the Diablo Foothill Athletic League power. They left with a 21-7 loss. Analy rebounded to put together a solid 5-5 season, and now heads southeast again as the No. 14 seed in the North Coast Section Division 3 playoffs.

Miramonte, which went 9-1 and claimed its first DFAL title since 2005, is the No. 3 seed.

“I think our kids are feeling good,” Bourdon said. “We kind of hit a rough patch. Our morale was down a bit after that three-game losing streak. But we got a win (against Sonoma Valley), and it’s a whole new mentality now. It’s playoffs. The team is 0-0, and we’re looking forward to getting another shot at Miramonte. We know we’re a good team. But when it’s a 16-team tournament and you draw a 14 seed, it’s a given that you’ll have a tough draw.”

The Matadors, who made it to the Division 3 semifinals each of the past two years, have a potent offense. The linchpin is 6-foot-5 junior quarterback Ross Anderson, who passed for 1,389 yards in 2010 and threw 19 touchdown passes without a single interception. Oh, he runs well, too. The 21 points Miramonte scored against Analy represented its lowest output of the season.
Bourdon knows his Tigers will have to do what other teams haven’t, and create some turnovers against the Matadors. They may need a little luck, too.

“Our defense, when we’re playing well, can stop the run really well,” Bourdon said. “Our guys up front in the box kind of carry us. But our offense will have to have a better night than we’ve had the last five weeks. We have the tools to be successful. We just have to execute.”

Other games today involving Redwood Empire teams:

DIV. 5: UPPER LAKE AT TOMALES

There aren’t many communities more football-crazy than Tomales, and yet there are disadvantages to playing in a rural outpost. Case in point: The Braves lost one of their two-way starters on the line, junior Tyler Crevelli, when a cow stepped on his foot and the wound became infected.

Coach Leon Feliciano lost two other key players, center Juan Avalos and TE/DB Miguel Hernandez, to knee injuries and had two other players quit, a rarity in Tomales. By the end of the regular season, the Braves were suiting up only 14 players. They were able to mask their lack of depth while playing nine-man football, but had to bring up a couple of JV players for the strictly 11-man playoffs.

Despite the setbacks, the Braves (8-2) have been clicking on all cylinders offensively. They have a stable of young backs, a big offensive line and a quarterback, Javi Isias, who can throw deep when called upon. Today, No.3 seed Tomales will face a sixth-seeded Upper Lake team that brings an aggressive, blitzing defense.

The Cougars carry an unsightly 1-9 record into the sectionals, but Feliciano knows they’re better than that. “They qualified because they’re 1-0 against Division 5 teams,” he said. “They beat Calistoga, a team we know well. Beat them 27-0 (on Sept.11). We know they’re not bad.”

The Cougars have Feliciano’s full attention. Still, he can’t help but notice a possible date with St. Vincent in the second round. St. Vincent beat Tomales, 34-8, earlier in the season, one of the Braves’ two losses, and you know the Braves are thinking about revenge.

“I don’t think it’s a distraction, it’s an incentive,” Feliciano said. “I addressed it right away. That’s OK if you’re thinking about St. Vincent if you use it as an incentive, but you still have to beat Upper Lake to get there.”

DIV. 3: CAMPOLINDO AT CARDINAL NEWMAN

This is a rematch of a 2008 NCS Division 2 semifinal, and Cardinal Newman would love to see a similar result. The Cardinals won that game, 38-28, and went on to win the section title.

On paper, Newman’s chances look great. Paul Cronin’s team played a typically strenuous preseason schedule, finished 7-3 and nabbed a No.2 seed. Campolindo, the No.15 seed, went only 1-5 in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League (5-5 overall), but look closer and you’ll see that three of the Cougars’ losses were by four points or less.

This isn’t one of those juggernaut Cardinal Newman squads, but it’s pretty good, the only losses coming to Valley Christian, Palma and Rancho Cotate — teams that combined to lose two games this season. Quarterback Matt Sullivan and halfback Stephen Tomasin are among the Cardinals’ primary weapons.

DIV. 2: ARROYO AT RANCHO COTATE

Rancho Cotate (9-1) had a breakthrough season in 2010, going undefeated in North Bay League play, beating Cardinal Newman for the first time in eight years and getting the No.3 seed in Division 2 — which equates to being honored as the Redwood Empire’s top team.

The Cougars’ only loss of the season was 23-21 to Pinole Valley, which finished 9-0-1 and is the second seed in the division. Quarterback Poueu Peleti-Gore and running back Brian Dworkin lead an offense that averaged 41.6 points per game. The Rancho defense, meanwhile, yielded an average of 9.6 points.

Ed Conroy’s team doesn’t get anything like a bye in Round 1, though. No.14 seed Arroyo of San Lorenzo tied for second in the Hayward Area Athletic League and enters weekend play with a five-game winning streak. The Dons (6-4) are back in the playoffs after a two-year absence, thanks largely to the running of Michael Young (991 yards, 13 touchdowns).

DIV. 4: ST. HELENA AT MIDDLETOWN

All season long, the NCL I North proved its superiority over the NCL I South. Now it’s time to prove that dominance carries over to the playoffs.

The champions of those sibling leagues meet today when St. Helena (5-5) of the South travels to face Middletown (9-1) of the North. The Saints are the No.13 seed. The Mustangs secured the No.4 with one of the quietest super-seasons you’ve never heard about. After falling 57-52 to Salesian (which wound up as the No.3 seed in Div. 4) in the season opener, the Mustangs won nine straight games by an average score of 46-3 under coach Bill Foltmer. That included a 40-7 win over St. Helena on Oct.15.

The Saints clearly will be hard-pressed to reverse the outcome. But Brandon Farrell’s team did go 4-1 in league play, finishing the regular season by scoring a combined 115 points against Clear Lake and Upper Lake. Running back Charles Bertoli (1,129 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) is the player to watch.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.