Newman faces tough foe; Healdsburg, Middletown clash

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman running back Stephen Tomasin. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD)

Following is an in-depth look at two North Coast Section semifinal games.

CARDINAL NEWMAN (9-3) AT MIRAMONTE (11-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Last Week: Cardinal Newman defeated Bishop O’Dowd, 56-35. Miramonte defeated San Marin, 23-0.

Story line: Cardinal Newman faces another Diablo Foothill Athletic League playoff opponent after handling Campolindo in the first round. But this game is on the road and Miramonte also easily beat Campolindo, winning a league that sent five teams to the section playoffs.

The Matadors get a Cardinals squad that is playing its best football of the season. The slow starts that concerned Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin haven’t been a problem in the playoffs. The Cardinals put up 21 first-half points against Campolindo and 28 in the Bishop O’Dowd win.

Cardinal Newman running back Stephen Tomasin is having fun, averaging more than 10 yards per carry in piling up 432 yards rushing — and 10 touchdowns — in the two playoff contests. Quarterback Matt Sullivan has run well, but also has connected on more than half his passes in the playoffs, three for touchdowns. Brian Albin, Chris Quock and Tomasin are clutch receivers.

Miramonte likes to pass with Ross Anderson (19 touchdowns, zero interceptions) the DFAL’s top quarterback. Cardinal Newman defensive backs Albin and Tim Moreno will be tested and the Cardinals linebackers, led by Thomas Robles and Daniel Benjamin, must be active in pass defense. Miramonte receiver Anthony Piganelli is the top target, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch. But the Matadors are even more prolific running the ball. Anderson is a 1,000-yard rusher and John Coupin had 120 yards and two scores last week. With nine field goals, including three last week, Piganelli is a scoring threat at place kicker. On defense, Miramonte allowed the second-fewest yards in the DFAL and has allowed only an Analy field goal in two playoff contests.

Numbers to note: Cardinal Newman’s offense has averaged nearly 350 yards and 45 points per game in the Cardinals’ two section playoff wins. Also notable, the teams have 16 North Coast Section football titles between them (Cardinal Newman with nine, Miramonte seven).

Pick: Cardinal Newman 31, Miramonte 20

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HEALDSBURG (8-3) AT MIDDLETOWN (11-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Last week: Healdsburg defeated Fort Bragg, 41-20. Middletown defeated El Molino, 27-13.

Story line: For the second week in a row, the Sonoma County and North Coast leagues match up after Healdsburg and Middletown won their quarterfinal contests handily.

Quarterback Max Opperman returns for Healdsburg, though the Greyhounds fared well against Fort Bragg with backup Luis Nieves, who threw for 134 yards, while running back Carson Seanor scampered for 245 yards and four touchdowns.

Middletown’s dynamic rushing tandem of Jake Davis (189 yards and two touchdowns) and David Pike (151 yards and a score) played well last week. The team that can slow the run could gain an edge.

Leading up front for Healdsburg is Gary Randolph, who averages more than 7 tackles per game, and Matt Spillane. At linebacker, Adam Hendrickson anchors the defense with Travis Arreguin, George Brush and Nick Mariani looking to limit the Mustangs’ big gains.

Luke Parker is strong on Middletown’s defensive line. A healthy Davis is the unit’s leader, but Jeremony Hoefer developed into a stopper in Davis’ absence and exemplifies the Mustang’s fast, aggressive defense.

Both teams can strike for big plays with the pass. Middletown’s Kyle Brown has better numbers; Opperman has faced tougher defensive backfields.

Turnovers and penalties can make a big difference in a tight game, but both teams are well coached and rarely hurt themselves.

While the Greyhounds are looking for consecutive wins for the first time in two months, the Mustangs have won 11 straight since opening the season with a 57-52 home loss to Salesian, a team that looms on the other half of the section playoff bracket.

Number to note: David Pike set a Lake County prep record for touchdown runs this season with 33.

Pick: Middletown 27, Healdsburg 20