PDPreps Insider: A Peek Behind the Scenes

Stuck in traffic again

A familiar foe from the East Bay returns to the Empire for a prep football contest Friday.

After winning in Windsor last week, Benicia will have to battle traffic on the 101 again when they face Maria Carrillo this Friday. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

After winning in Windsor last week, Benicia will have to battle traffic on the 101 again when they face Maria Carrillo this Friday. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Benicia — coming off a last-minute win at Windsor — heads back to Sonoma County on Friday to play Maria Carrillo.

“We get to fight the 101 traffic two weeks in a row,” said Benicia coach Craig Holden. “They look pretty good. I think it’s a pretty good matchup.”

The contest is the third consecutive meeting between the schools. Benicia won, 31-21, a year ago at home, and 35-21 two seasons back at Maria Carrillo.

If the play of both squads so far this season is any indicator, Friday’s game could be close. Benicia won its opener in overtime and scored the winning touchdown at Windsor with 18 seconds left. Carrillo fell in the final minute to Analy at home.

Small school powers collide

Middletown opening on the road with a win at Salesian could be the springboard for one special season.

For eight straight seasons, Middletown has opened the football campaign against Salesian. Middletown has come through the early tests against the North Coast Section powerhouse with mixed results — yet always better prepared for the season ahead.

The 21-14 win Saturday in Richmond was Middletown’s second victory in the annual opener, the last coming in 2008.

The contests are often close. And twice the season openers have been preludes to postseason matchups. Salesian edged Middletown by one point in an NCS Division 4 semifinal in 2008. Two years later, Salesian came from behind to defeat Middletown in the section final.

Middletown has three section football championships, in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Salesian took section titles in 2010 and 2011.

The mutual respect between the small school prep powers continues to provide memorable matchups anticipated by Empire football fans.

Rankings respect

Empire football teams are well represented in the weekly prep football polls tracking contenders for state bowl games.

In Northern California Division 2, Rancho Cotate (1-0) is third and Casa Grande (2-0) fourth, according to Cal-Hi Sports. Cardinal Newman is third in Northern California Division 3. Those teams, along with Analy, made the Cal-Hi Sports Bay Area Top 25. Cardinal Newman was highest at No.7, Rancho Cotate 14th, Casa Grande 18th and Analy 20th.

Equipment check

Hey, Redwood Empire football players, check your gloves.

Starting immediately (well, maybe), high school players across the nation are prohibited from wearing gloves that don’t have a stamp of approval from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

The rule, in the works for three years, was supposed to go into effect at the start of the season, but officials have been cutting teams slack. That won’t continue forever. Starting soon, any player wearing non-approved gloves will earn a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Rancho gets a surprise

Because Rancho Cotate had not played a game before Friday’s tilt against Alhambra, the Cougars were unable to trade film with the Bulldogs.

The Rancho coaches were able to find a 2013 highlight film on the Internet, but it didn’t include many special-teams plays — so the Cougars were a bit surprised by Alhambra’s reliance on the onside kick. The Bulldogs called the play on their first two kickoffs, and recovered the first one to start the game.

Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy was incensed after the opening kickoff, insisting an Alhambra player touched the ball before it went 10 yards.

Cougars stout against the run

Lost in the excitement of Rancho Cotate’s 21-14 win over Alhambra was the Cougars’ strong run defense. The visitors gained 72 yards on 20 carries. Ciazonne Ratto-Foster, the Bulldogs’ shifty back, had just 41 on 13 attempts. Leading the way for Rancho were defensive lineman Steven De Souza and linebacker Tanoa Peleti.

Hustle plays

Second effort played a big role on pass plays in the Rancho-Alhambra game. The first score of the game came when Rancho Cotate sophomore receiver Chris Taylor-Yamanoha bobbled a pass behind the Bulldogs defense, then gathered it in while falling to the ground for a 30-yard touchdown. The Cougars were up 14-0 in the second quarter when their defensive back, Josh Belda, appeared to break up a deep pass. But Alhambra’s Monte Cabrera stayed with the ball and hauled it in for a 14-yard gain. The Bulldogs were in the end zone shortly thereafter.

A friend in need

Sportsmanship lives.

Everybody at Tuesday afternoon’s Rincon Valley Christian-St. Vincent soccer match in Petaluma saw the evidence.

Late in the match, St. Vincent’s Maxwell Cantrell started limping. RVC’s David Sammon asked if he was all right, to which Cantrell said it was just a cramp.

Now, Sammon and Cantrell were teammates on the Petaluma United team. But what happened next isn’t seen much on any playing field — Sammon stood over Cantrell and helped his opponent stretch out the cramping muscle.

Press Democrat Staff Writers Phil Barber, Michael Coit and Bob Padecky contributed to this week’s notebook.

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