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High school football: Friday's game previews

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A closer look at Friday's area high school football games:

CARDINAL NEWMAN (8-0, 5-0) at RANCHO COTATE (8-0, 5-0)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Cardinal Newman defeated Windsor, 20-10. Rancho Cotate won at Maria Carrillo, 35-21.
Notable: The game of the year in Redwood Empire football brings together two of the state’s 47 unbeaten teams … When playing on their home field, the Cougars are 14-1 since 2010. The lone loss was to Concord in last year’s North Coast Section playoffs … “I think home field is a big edge for us,” coach Ed Conroy said. “We’ve played our best games since the new stadium was built.” … The Rancho defense also picks it up a notch at home. The unit has allowed seven points (a touchdown by Casa Grande) in three games … Linebacker Fono Misi, the key player on defense with a team-high 89 tackles, is healthy again after missing last week’s game. … “For us to win this game, we must continue to play great defense,” Conroy said. “Another key for us is to come out strong. In several games this season, we’ve been lax early and then turned it on. You can’t play like that against a good team like Newman.” … This year, Rancho is throwing the ball more. That’s because quarterback Michael Courchaine is up to the task. The senior is completing 64 percent of his passes, averaging 151 yards and has 15 touchdowns … The presence of Jalon Luque gives the Cougars a balanced attack. The running back has rushed for 1,143 yards, an average of 143 per game … Newman has scored more points (343-293) than Rancho while the home team has allowed fewer points (63-71) … The Cardinals have an excellent running game behind Philip Wright and Kenny Carter. Wright was getting the bulk of the headlines early in the season, but in the past three weeks Carter has scored seven TDs. He had all three scores in the Windsor game and gained 274 yards … Rancho’s defense will probably emphasize stopping the run and allow Cardinals QB Keaton Dunsford to try and beat them through the air … Newman’s final regular-season game next Friday is at Casa Grande while Rancho hosts Santa Rosa.
The pick: Rancho Cotate 17, Cardinal Newman 7

ANALY (9-0. 5-0) at PETALUMA (4-4, 4-0)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Analy defeated Elsie Allen, 69-0. Petaluma did not play.
Notable: This is Analy’s regular-season finale and if the Tigers win, they’re Sonoma County League champs … The Trojans can assure themselves at least a tie for the crown with a victory. Petaluma winds up its regular season next Friday at Sonoma Valley … “We’ve used the bye week to get back to basics and fine-tune several things,” coach Rick Krist said. “The kids are excited and believe they can win.” … Four weeks ago, Petaluma wasn’t playing like a title contender. The Trojans were 0-4 … “We had a team made up mostly of young players and a few that hadn’t played much competitive ball,” Krist said. “When we came of age as a team, we started winning.” … To win tonight, Petaluma must stop the high-powered Analy offense that is averaging 53 points per game … “They’re exceptional athletes and our best chance to stop them is by keeping them off the field,” Krist said. “We’ll have to put together some long drives.” … The Tigers’ are adept at both running and passing … .QB Darin Newman is passing for an average of 190 yards per game. He’s thrown 28 scoring strikes, a majority of those to Aaron Maher (12) and Dylan Mathias (seven) … When coach Dan Bourdon calls a running play, Kyle Lewis is the man. He’s averaging 8 1/2 yards per rush and has scored eight TDs despite being injured earlier in the year.
The pick: Analy 42, Petaluma 14

CASA GRANDE (6-2, 4-1) at WINDSOR (3-5, 2-3)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Casa Grande defeated Ukiah, 62-14. Windsor lost at Cardinal Newman, 20-10.
Notable: After capturing an NCS championship in 2011, Windsor finds itself needing to win its final two games to be eligible for this year’s tournament … The Jaguars finish up the regular season next Friday, traveling to Montgomery … As for Casa, there’s a chance they could still get a share of the NBL title … The Gauchos’ offensive line is getting healthier following mid-season injuries … Coach Trent Herzog has moved 285-pound Division I prospect Elijah Qualls from running back to center. “He’s made a good transition,” Herzog said. “He opens up holes for our running game and gives our quarterback (JaJuan Lawson) more time to pass.”
The pick: Casa Grande 21, Windsor 14

MARIA CARRILLO (3-5, 2-3) at MONTGOMERY (2-6, 1-4)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Maria Carrillo lost to Rancho Cotate, 35-21. Montgomery lost to Santa Rosa, 28-7.
Notable: Carrillo needs to win its last two games to be eligible for postseason play. The Pumas finish the regular season next Friday with a home game against Ukiah … “If we play smart, we’ll do just fine,” coach Jay Higgins said. “Our weakness this year has been inconsistency in our execution and decision making.” … Higgins saw an improvement in the Rancho game and hopes that trend continues tonight.
The pick: Maria Carrillo 35, Montgomery 7

UKIAH (1-7, 0-5) at SANTA ROSA (3-5, 1-4)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Ukiah lost to Casa Grande, 62-14. Santa Rosa defeated Montgomery, 28-7
Notable: Coach Dave Duncan has achieved one of his preseason goals. “For too long, the players in the program didn’t feel they could compete in the NBL,” he said recently. “They’d get behind and give up. We needed to change that way of thinking.” … Against Montgomery, Santa Rosa accomplished something not done in 22 years — beat the Vikings … A win tonight will double the Panthers’ win total from last season … Running back Jahray Hayes should surpass the 1,000-yard mark in this game. He now has 965, averaging 7.5 yards per touch.
The pick: Santa Rosa 28, Ukiah 14

PINER (2-6, 1-3) at EL MOLINO (1-7, 1-3)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Piner defeated Healdsburg, 35-28. El Molino lost to Sonoma Valley, 41-13.
Notable: Kudos to Piner and coach John Antonio for surpassing last year’s win total with two games remaining … And the final two games are very winnable (El Molino and Elsie Allen) … The Prospectors were in position to win two other games. They led Drake by 11, but lost and they missed a two-point conversion in the 13-12 defeat at Petaluma … In the Healdsburg game, quarterback Noel Hernandez passed for 403 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot junior now has 2,110 on the season … Eight of his scoring tosses were to Natu Hezchias … El Molino is hoping to have one of its best players, Owen Sunke, back at full strength. He was injured early in the season.
The pick: Piner 42, El Molino 13

SONOMA VALLEY (5-3, 3-1) at ELSIE ALLEN (0-8, 0-4)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Sonoma defeated El Molino, 41-13. Elsie Allen lost at Analy, 69-0
Notable: Like Piner, the Dragons have surpassed last year’s win total (four) with two to play … In fact, this is already Sonoma’s best season since the school went 5-5 in 2008 … A big reason for this year’s success is quarterback Dan Deely. He’s figured in 23 TDs. Fifteen of those were through the air and he rushed for the other eight … The defense has also improved, thanks to the team’s leading tacklers, Skyler Marciel (69) and Jonny Amandoli (61).
The pick: Sonoma Valley 54, Elsie Allen 0

ST. HELENA (8-0, 5-0) at FORT BRAGG (7-1,5-0)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: St. Helena won at Clear Lake, 26-13. Fort Bragg rallied past Willits, 33-32.
Notable: This game will put the winner atop the North Central League I standings with one game to play … Fort Bragg winds up the regular season at Cloverdale while St. Helena hosts Willits … The Timberwolves are 5-0 at home this season and Saints coach Brandon Farrell is expecting a difficult game … “It’s a hostile environment up there,” he said. “They’re going to give us everything we asked for and more.” … St. Helena does have the weapons to play a good team on the road. QB Richard Hoppe has thrown 23 touchdowns and only one interception … Sebastian Segura, the team’s leading ground gainer (7 1/2 per touch), will play after missing the Clear Lake game … Fort Bragg trailed Willits, 32-13, in the third quarter and came back to win.
The pick: St. Helena 21, Fort Bragg 14

CALISTOGA (5-3. 3-2) at TOMALES (5-3, 3-2)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Calistoga edged Upper Lake, 10-6. Tomales lost at St. Vincent, 34-0.
Notable: Tomales might not be at full strength. Two starters suffered injuries in the St, Vincent game — Brennan Potts (right arm) and Cody Titus (elbow) … The Braves are 8-1 at home over the past two years … Anthony Felciano was held to season-low 122 rushing yards against St. Vincent … Calistoga has made the biggest turnaround among Redwood Empire schools. Last year, the Wildcats didn’t win a game … That was the first league defeat for Upper Lake … Running back Dylan Alvarado led the Calistoga offense with 122 yards on 10 touches.
The pick: Tomales 14, Calistoga 7

LOWER LAKE (1-7, 1-4) at WILLITS (5-3, 3-2)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Lower Lake beat Cloverdale, 26-7. Willits was edged by Fort Bragg, 33-32.
Notable: Coach Nat Collicott is guarding against a letdown after his team let a big lead slip away against Fort Bragg. The Wolverines are 4-0 at home this season … When the two teams met last year, Willits walked away with a 71-26 victory.
The pick: Willits 34, Lower Lake 13

CLOVERDALE (1-8, 1-4) at MIDDLETOWN (5-3, 3-2)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Cloverdale lost at Lower Lake, 26-7. Middletown beat Kelseyville, 34-0.
Notable: This has been a one-sided series in recent years. Since 2008, the Mustangs have outscored the Eagles, 140-44 … Middletown is 3-1 at home this season.
The pick: Middletown 42, Cloverdale 13

LAYTONVILLE (6-0, 4-0) at POTTER VALLEY (4-3, 3-1)
Kickoff:
7:30 p.m.
Last week: Laytonville won at Point Arena, 46-6. Potter Valley defeated Rincon Valley Christian, 58-24.
Notable: This is the second time the schools have met this year. The Warriors won the earlier meeting, 42-20 … .The 20 points is the most allowed by Laytonville. The Warriors are scoring at a 60-point per game clip while the defense is holding opponents to just over 7 points … The Potter Valley offense has heated up over the past month. The Bearcats have averaged 43 while winning three-of-four.
The pick: Laytonville 60, Potter Valley 14