Large School Football Game Previews

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate (5-2, 3-0 NBL) at Cardinal Newman (6-0-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: Today, 7 p.m.
Last game: Rancho Cotate defeated Ukiah, 70-18. Newman edged Montgomery, 41-34.
Notable: The North Bay League title will be decided tonight. Yes, both teams will have two regular season games remaining, but those figure to be lopsided contests. Rancho will go to Santa Rosa (2-5) and then host Maria Carrillo (3-4). The Cardinals visit Piner (1-6) and Santa Rosa … Rancho is the defending champ and beat Newman, 27-21, in Rohnert Park last year … The big question tonight is whether Newman’s offense will run as smoothly with Zach Rodriguez under center as it did with the injured Matt Sullivan … Rancho coach Ed Conroy watched films of both players running the offense. “In the Montgomery game, I didn’t see much change in the offense when Sullivan went out (fractured fibula late in the first quarter) and Rodriguez took over,” Conroy said. “The play calling didn’t change.” … The main difference between Sullivan and Rodriguez is running style. Rodriguez, who is 6-foot-3, runs straight up. Sullivan, who is 5-foot-10, looks like a running back when carrying the ball. Rodriguez should be an easier target for the Cougar defense to tackle … Conroy said his offense hasn’t seen a defense as strong as Newman. “We know they’ll be blitzing and are very physical up front,” he said. “Last year, we were able to neutralize that with a strong running game (Brian Dworkin and Poueu Peliti-Gore). This year, we’re not as strong running the ball, so we’ll have to pass more. We’ve had great practices leading up to the game.”… Vaimaa Taito, the Cougars’ linebacker, is the best in the Empire and in recent weeks, he’s also getting more touches at halfback … It’s homecoming and senior night.
The pick: Cardinal Newman 14, Rancho Cotate 7

Casa Grande (5-2, 2-1 SCL) at Sonoma Valley (4-3, 1-2)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last game: Casa Grande held on against Analy, 10-9. Sonoma Valley won at El Molino, 28-21.
Notable: In his 28th season, Sonoma coach Mick O’Meara is doing one of his best coaching jobs … After a 1-9 campaign in 2010 and with a young squad, O’Meara has his team above .500 with only three games left in the season … The El Molino game was the 300th O’Meara has coached for the Dragons. With 2:00 remaining, El Mo was inside the Sonoma red zone when Chris Swanson intercepted his third pass of the game and returned it to the Lions’ 32. Five plays later, Keenan Tuohy caught the game- winner in the end zone … O’Meara said his team still needs to cut down on mistakes … As he’s done all year on defense, Steven Bentley saved Casa in the win over Analy. He blocked what would have been the winning field goal with 18 seconds on the clock. This year, Bentley has blocked three kicks and intercepted five passes. On the other side of the ball, he’s caught four JaJuan Lawson passes for TDs. Lawson, a sophomore, is completing 66 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 16 TDs and three interceptions … Elijah Qualls, the Gauchos’ 260-pound running back, continues to be difficult to bring down.
The pick: Casa Grande 35, Sonoma Valley 20

Santa Rosa (2-5, 0-3 NBL) at Montgomery (2-6, 2-2 NBL)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last game: Santa Rosa lost to Piner, 45-21. Montgomery lost to Cardinal Newman, 41-34.
Notable: The Vikings will have a new starting quarterback in Chris Hester. He replaces Danny McRae, who injured the ligament between the thumb and index finger on his throwing hand. X-rays were negative and McRae will play defensive back, but he can’t grip the ball to throw. Hester came in midway through the fourth quarter in the Newman game and led the Vikings to a TD that briefly made the score, 34-34 … Coach Jason Franci said his team didn’t have a particularly good week at practice, but he doesn’t expect a letdown against Santa Rosa … The Panthers have lost five straight, but do have three big running backs — Jahray Hayes (195), Tyree Collins (195) and Anthony Ross (225) … “They’re tough to bring down,” Franci said. “Our linemen need to bring them down before they get up a head of steam.”
The pick: Montgomery 28, Santa Rosa 14

El Molino (4-4, 2-2 SCL) at Windsor (7-0, 3-0)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last game: El Molino lost to visiting Sonoma Valley, 28-21. Windsor defeated Healdsburg, 27-15.
Notable: The Windsor faithful are hoping tonight isn’t deja vu. Last year, the Jaguars were also 7-0 going into their game with El Mo. The Lions pulled off a 21-7 upset … First-year coach Rob Gatrell said his team showed it can handle adversity by the way they came back and beat Healdsburg. “We hadn’t trailed all year and when we found ourselves down 13 points, we found a way to come back,” Gatrell said. “So, the kids learned a lot; they don’t have any quit in them and they can handle adversity.” Gatrell was happy with his defense, but said the offense made a few mistakes that have been corrected this week in practice. Gatrell is leery of El Molino because he remembers the Lions upset Casa Grande. “Still, if we execute, we’ll do fine against anybody,” he added.
The pick: Windsor 49, El Molino 7

Maria Carrillo (3-4, 2-1 NBL) at Ukiah (4-3, 1-3 NBL)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last game: Maria Carrillo had a bye. Ukiah lost at Rancho Cotate, 63-18.
Notable: Neither team has a shutdown defense. The Pumas allow 35 points per game while Ukiah gives up an average of 34 … So, looking at the offenses, the edge goes to more experienced Ukiah. Senior Trevor Taylor completes 69 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 21 touchdowns, eight each to Michael Michael and Kyle Hammond. When the Wildcats don’t pass, running back Chris Berg is averaging nearly six yards per touch … Carrillo won two straight going into its bye week. Junior quarterback Julian Gonzalez was the hero in the 39-27 win over Santa Rosa on Oct.14. He ran for two scores, passed for two and returned an interception for another … The Pumas have 12 sophomores on the team.
The pick: Ukiah 42, Maria Carrillo 27

Piner (1-6, 1-3 NBL) at Elsie Allen (1-5)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Piner rallied to defeat Santa Rosa, 45-21. Elsie Allen had a bye.
Notable: The Prospectors are coming off their “Don’t Stop Believin’ “ victory last Saturday when they scored 38 unanswered points en route to their first win of the season … The Piner players were radiating with confidence afterwards and looking forward to visiting Elsie Allen where they have a good chance to win again … Sophomore Noel Hernandez threw for four touchdowns and 220 yards … Two of those scoring strikes went to junior Natu Hezchias … Last year, the Prospectors lone victory was a 64-35 triumph over the Lobos … EA’s first-year head coach Larry Mahre says his team is looking forward to tonight’s game and believe they can win … “It’s going to be an exciting game,” Mahre said. “We’ll just to see how it shakes out.” … The Lobos’ fortunes are definitely improving. Besides the victory over Emery (45-12 on Oct. 7), they’ve been close against El Molino (7-point loss) and Fort Bragg (4-point defeat) … The Elsie Allen faithful have been turning out for home games and Mahre said that definitely motivates his players.
The pick: Elsie Allen 20, Piner 13

Petaluma (0-7, 0-3 SCL) at Analy (4-4, 1-3 SCL)
Kickoff: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Petaluma had a bye. Analy lost at Casa Grande,10-9.
Notable: Analy, the best .500 team in the Empire, has work to do if it wants to play post-season football … “The position we’re in now means we have to win out to solidify a position in the NCS playoffs,” coach Dan Bourdon said … That road begins tonight with Petaluma and concludes Nov. 11 at Sonoma Valley … The Tigers have absorbed two one-point losses. The one against Casa was excruciating. Place-kicker Omar Galvan, precise all season, missed an extra point in the fourth quarter that would’ve made the score, 10-10. Then, he had a 32-yard field goal blocked with 18 seconds left on the clock … To make the loss even more painful, running back Dylan Mathias suffered a concussion on the last play of the game and won’t play tonight … Petaluma hasn’t played since losing the Egg Bowl to Casa Grande (35-9) on Oct. 15 … The time-off has helped the Trojans get healthy. They have had their season compromised by serious injuries.
The pick: Analy 49, Petaluma 7