High school football previews: Friday’s NCS games


No. 9 Windsor (5-5) at No. 8 Rancho Cotate (6-4)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: Windsor beat Montgomery, 24-0. Rancho Cotate defeated Santa Rosa, 44-26.

Notable: The Cougars have won 24 straight on their home turf. They haven’t lost since Oct. 9, 2009, when visiting Maria Carrillo escaped, 35-25. “I can’t pinpoint the reason we’ve done so well at home,” coach Ed Conroy said. “The only thing I can think of is that the kids like to play in comfortable surroundings.” … These schools met Sept. 27 in Rohnert Park and Windsor absorbed its worst loss of the season, 43-14. “We’ve talked to the kids about the danger of looking past Windsor,” Conroy said. “They’re a much better team than the first time we saw them.” … Jaguars coach Vic Amick agrees with Conroy’s assessment.“It was the worst game we played all season and Rancho played near-perfect ball. We had two front-line players out and four sophomores starting their first league game. We’re seven weeks better than we were that night.” … The Jaguars needed a win the last night of the season to make the playoffs and they responded by beating Montgomery and posting their only shutout of the season. Going into that game, Windsor had allowed 28 points per game … While the Jaguars have improved, the Rancho home field advantage is too much to overcome.

The pick: Rancho Cotate


No. 13 American (7-3) at No. 4 Montgomery (8-2)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: American defeated Moreau Catholic, 47-21. Montgomery lost to Windsor, 24-0.

Notable: Quarterback Elijah Higgs, who has been sidelined since Oct. 4 with a shoulder injury, has been cleared for action tonight. “He’s going to play positions other than quarterback,” coach Dean Haskins said. “We’re going to take advantage of his athleticism.” … RJ Flores moved into the starting role when Higgs went down and will continue as the first-string signal caller … Montgomery running back Logan Francavilla needs 4 yards to reach the 1,300 mark. He averages just under 130 per game … Henry Stelzner continues to be the nucleus of the defensive unit. The linebacker has 127 tackles and that’s more than twice as many as any of his teammates … American finished tied for second in the Mission Valley Athletic League. The Fremont school loves to run the ball and passes an average of only four times per game. The Eagles boast a pair of running backs nearing the 1,000-yard plateau — Jared Luty (955) and Drew Lyell (923).“Their offense reminds me of what Maria Carrillo runs,” Haskins said. “We’ve been good against the run this season.” … Haskins said his team’s loss at Windsor served as a wake-up call to his players: “They’ve refocused in practice this week and are physically and mentally in a good spot.”

The pick: Montgomery


No. 13 Petaluma (5-5) at No. 4 Analy (9-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: Petaluma beat Sonoma Valley, 24-21. Analy did not play.

Notable: This is the second time this month these two have played. On Nov. 1, the Tigers prevailed, 42-13. “You rarely see the same team two games in a row,” Analy coach Dan Bourdon said with a chuckle. “The final score was a little misleading. It was only 21-10 at halftime. Petaluma had several long drives early and controlled the tempo. We don’t want that to happen again.” … Running back Ja’Narrick James is averaging nearly nine yards per touch for the Tigers … Quarterback Will Smith is completing 67 percent of his passes. He’s thrown for 17 touchdowns and been intercepted twice … TJ Atcheson leads the Tigers in tackles (58) and sacks (5.5) … Credit to Petaluma for putting on a late-season push to reach the playoffs. The Trojans won three of their last four.

The pick: Analy


No. 9 Piner (5-5) at No. 8 St. Patrick/St. Vincent (5-5)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: Piner defeated Elsie Allen, 68-0. St. Patrick/St. Vincent lost at El Cerrito, 49-13

Notable: This figures to be an aerial shootout. Both quarterbacks threw for more than 2,000 yards during the regular season. The Bruins signal caller is Anthony Williams and he has amassed 2,316 through the air. However, the 210-pounder has thrown more interceptions (20) than touchdowns (19) … Piner quarterback Noel Hernandez surpassed the 2,000 mark in the last game of the season … The focal point of St. Patrick’s defense is Jalen Canty. He’s 6-foot-8 and weighs 235 … The Bruins are limping into the playoffs. They haven’t won in more than a month while dropping their last three … Piner is in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. “There’s a lot of anticipation, excitement and nerves among the players,” coach John Antonio said. “We’re feeling everything you’d expect. We’ve had a good week of practice and are ready to go.” … Piner is 1-4 on the road.

The pick: St. Patrick/St. Vincent


No. 1 Middletown (9-1) at No 8. Emery (6-3)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: Emery defeated Stellar Prep, 42-6. Middletown beat Lower Lake, 49-7

Notable: The Mustangs defense has allowed more than one touchdown only once and that was to Salesian in the first game of the year … Austin Benson finished the regular season with 1,412 rushing yards. He gained 148 against Lower Lake and scored four TDs. … Emery comes out of the NCL II/Bay League while Middletown competes in NCL I.During the season, the Spartans lost to St. Vincent and Calistoga … Emery has a balanced offense with rushing and receiving yards about equal. Quarterback Nate Walker is also the team’s leading rusher“Walker is a breakaway threat out of their spread offense,” Mustangs coach Bill Foltmer said. “They’re a fairly athletic group with tall receivers.”

The pick: Middletown


No. 13 Kelseyville (6-4) at No. 4 St. Helena (8-2)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last week: Kelseyville defeated Willits, 58-6. St. Helena beat Cloverdale, 28-7.

Notable: These Division 4 rivals are meeting for the second time this season. It was no contest on Sept. 27 as the Saints won 42-12 … However, the Knights have improved since then. They’ve won three straight while averaging 48 points per game, and in Kevin Duty they have the leading ground gainer in Lake County. The 210-pound senior has 1,477 yards to his credit … St. Helena also boasts one of the best running backs in the Empire in Sebastian Segura. He gained 1,353 in the regular season. “He’s very determined,” coach Brandon Farrell said. “He believes he can score every time he carries the ball. He stays low to the ground and that enables him to spot cracks in the defense.” … Jackson Graff is the stalwart of the Saints defense. He’s been in on 81 tackles and that’s nearly twice as many as any of his teammates.

The pick: St. Helena


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