By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Here's a look at Friday's NCS football matchups:
LAS LOMAS (5-6) at RANCHO COTATE (10-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Last week: Las Lomas defeated Washington, 31-14. Rancho Cotate had a bye.
Notable: “They’re a much better team than their record shows,” Rancho coach Ed Conroy cautions when asked about Las Lomas. “They play a strong schedule and have lost to some quality teams like Bishop O’Dowd and Northgate. The coaching staff isn’t taking them lightly and we’ve certainly made that point with the players.” … The circumstances are somewhat similar to the NCS playoffs in 2008. Like this year, Rancho had a bye in the opening round and Las Lomas came to Rohnert Park as the underdog. The Walnut Creek team pulled a shocker, 21-17 … Rancho quarterback Michael Courchaine set the school’s single-season record for passing TDs in the regular season finale. He now has 19, two more than the previous record, which had stood for 41 years … Courchaine, a senior, didn’t start as an underclassman. “I did not expect him to progress as quickly as he has,” Conroy said. “We added the spread offense this season and he does a great job running it.” … Jalon Luque is the Cougars’ other offensive weapon.The running back is averaging 11 yards per carry … On the other side of the ball, the Rancho defense could be the best in the Redwood Empire. The Cougars allow just under eight points per game. Forming the nucleus of the unit are: Carlos Soto, Tanoa Peleti, Ty Brantley and Fono Misi … “We’re a talented team,” Conroy said. “If we are consistent and play like we can, we’ll be fine.”
The pick: Rancho Cotate 35, Las Lomas 14
ENCINAL (7-5) at CARDINAL NEWMAN (10-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Last week: Encinal upset Novato, 22-21. Cardinal Newman defeated Sonoma Valley, 44-7.
Notable: This is a rematch of the 2010 NCS Div. 3 finals. Newman won that one, 35-7 … The Cardinals also played at Novato this year, beating the Hornets, 24-0 … Kenny Carter, Newman’s leading rusher, is expected to see action after sitting out the past two games with a strained knee. Despite missing time, the senior has gained 1,056 yards and is averaging seven per carry … The Newman defense has been smothering the past two months. Over the last eight games, they’ve held opponents to an average of 6.7 points … The “D” unit has 20 interceptions, led by Matt Derner’s six. Chris McDonell and Travis Peccorini have four each … Philip Wright has a team-high five and Hunter Sikes has four … As for fumble recoveries, Chris Steele leads the waywith four … Chris Codding is the team leader in tackles with 104 … QB Keaton Dunsford figures to surpass the 2,000-yard passing plateau tonight. He has 1,981 and has completed 61 percent of his passes, 20 of those for TDs. The junior has benefited from great pass protection by his line and a top receiving corps. Wright’s eight scoring catches are tops on the team. Jacob Webb is next with six.
The pick: Cardinal Newman 35, Encinal 10
ANALY (11-0) at CAMPOLINDO (10-1)
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Last week: Analy defeated Tamalpais, 35-7. Campolindo defeated Terra Linda, 38-19.
Notable: Both schools played at Miramonte and the score comparison gives Campolindo the edge. The Cougars won their game, 35-13, while Analy prevailed, 41-34 … “Without a doubt, Campolindo will be the best team we’ve seen,” coach Dan Bourdon said. “They don’t make a ton of mistakes and they’re athletic and disciplined.” … Penalties have been a problem all year for the Tigers, and Bourdon has been preaching to his team about the perils of giving away yardage at this time of year … QB Darin Newman and wide receiver Aaron Maher have formed one of the most prolific passing partnerships in the Empire. The two have combined for 13 TDs and Maher is averaging 20 yards per catch. Newman has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,889 yards … Running back Kyle Lewis balances the offense as he averages more than eight yards per touch … Analy’s defense has allowed fewer points. The Tigers surrender 11 per game and Campolindo gives up 17. “I want to be practicing next week,” Bourdon said. “Not spending Thanksgiving sitting around with my family.”
The pick: Campolindo 35, Analy 28