At a glance: Middletown vs. Salesian


At Alhambra High School, Martinez

Time: 7 p.m.

Last week: Middletown defeated Healdsburg 10-0. Salesian defeated Ferndale 76-28.

Notable: Familiar foes, the Mustangs and Pride meet for a second time this season. Salesian took an entertaining 57-52 win at Middletown early in the season. Two years ago, the schools hooked up twice with the Mustangs winning first and the Pride prevailing in a small school section semifinal.

Both teams return a stable of key players from a year ago. Middletown’s terrific tandem of Jake Davis — the power — and David Pike — the speed — were able to grind out nearly 4 yards per carry in the mud against a formidable Healdsburg defense to help the Mustangs control the contest. Quarterback Kyle Brown was efficient, hitting four different receivers, including a scoring pass. But the Mustangs must get the running game going to give Brown time to throw, often off play action.

Running is Salesian’s strength as well with Aaron Prier an explosive back — 277 yards and four touchdowns against a tough Ferndale team — and Marcial Malic complementing him. The offense is in steady hands with three-year starter Ikaika Woolsey, who can hit for big passes when defenses push up to stop the run. Mark DeLuca is the prime target.

Middletown’s defense helped carry the Mustangs against Healdsburg with linebacker Jereomy Hoefer making big stops and coming up with a fumble. A healthy Davis is the defensive engine at linebacker and bolsters the unit after sitting out the Salesian loss. Connor Chick came up with two interceptions last week and is a sure tackler in the defensive backfield.

The game’s biggest defensive presence should be Freddie Tagaloa, a Division I college prospect anchoring the Pride line with size and speed. Malic can shut down receivers as well as prevent big plays at free safety. Still, the Mustangs defense could be the difference. While the Mustangs have eight shutouts, Salesian has given up big scores in several games.

Number to note: Pike and Davis have combined for 2,300 yards rushing on the season. The 76 points Salesian put up against Ferndale and the 57 versus Middletown are staggering because both opponents are perennial powers.

Pick: Middletown 38, Salesian 35

— Michael Coit, The Press Democrat