NCS football: Cardinal Newman vs. Encinal

CARDINAL NEWMAN (10-3) VS. ENCINAL (12-1)
At Rancho Cotate High School
Time: Today, 7 p.m.
Last Week: Cardinal Newman defeated Miramonte 42-17. Encinal defeated Marin Catholic 20-15.

Notable: Two teams that run well, have efficient passing games and defenses featuring more than a handful of players who swarm to the ball means this contest should be close. Cardinal Newman will be challenged to pile up points as they have the first three section playoffs games — 44 an outing. But Stephen Tomasin has run through some good defenses, averaging 214 yards and 4 touchdowns per playoff game, and Matt Sullivan has found a rhythm in completing more than half his passes, including 6 for scores. The offensive line is in sync led by center James Pennington.

Equally formidable are the Jets with Bay Shore Athletic League MVP Jonathan Allen, who averages 100 yards a game and had the go-ahead score in last week’s upset of top seed Marin Catholic. Complementing Allen are Paul Okamura and Jon Trodder, with more than 1,500 yards rushing combined. Cardinal Newman must respect Encinal’s passing as Andrew Ve’e is accurate and can hit for the big play with Bo Banks averaging 30 yards a catch. Bolstering the Cardinals defense is the return of lineman Courtland Palmer from a knee injury in the season’s second game to team with stalwarts Phil Wright and Garrett Guanella. Linebacker Daniel Benjamin has been active both in supporting the run defense and limiting big passing plays.

Leading the Jets defense are four first team all-league players: Linebacker Kaniela Kahuanui has 8 sacks this season and averages 6 stops a game; Eric Penrose has a high number of tackles for a defensive lineman; Okamura jumps on running plays from free safety; Banks also supports the run defense well from his cornerback position. While the Cardinals have the advantage of playing on familiar turf at North Bay League rival Rancho Cotate’s field, Encinal traveled well in last week’s comeback win over defending section champion Marin Catholic. The Jets won the title in 2008 and the former 2A South in 1980. This being an even year, Cardinal Newman could feel more confident after taking the Division 2 and former 3A crowns in 2008 and 2006.

Number to note: Three was the magic number for Cardinal Newman last week. The Cardinals forced 3 turnovers, and three different receivers — Tim Moreno, D.J. Mayogarl and Brian Albin — caught touchdown passes.

Pick: Cardinal Newman 24,
Encinal 13

— Michael Coit, The Press Democrat