NCS playoffs: Football teams prepare for semifinal matchups

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After Casa Grande handed the Montgomery football team its first loss of the season on Sept. 27, Gauchos coach Trent Herzog sounded a prophetic note.

“My hat’s off to them,” Herzog said. “They’re gonna be a playoff team. I told coach (Dean) Haskins we’ll see ’em again.”

Two months later, Casa and Montgomery are preparing to square off for a second time. This time it’s in the semifinal round of the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs, guaranteeing that a North Bay League team will play for the D2 championship this year.

And the Sonoma County League isn’t done yet, either. Analy plays in a Division 3 semifinal game at 1 p.m. today, 6 hours before the Vikings and Gauchos kick off at Casa Grande High.

The Tigers’ assignment couldn’t be tougher. They play at Marin Catholic, the defending D3 champion and a team that has played in the title game three of the past four years. Marin Catholic, champion of the Marin County Athletic League, is 11-0. Analy is 11-1, its only blemish a 23-13 loss to Miramonte on Sept. 13.

The Tigers, already enjoying one of the best seasons in school history under coach Dan Bourdon, are chasing their first NCS title.

Featuring an opportunistic defense and the dynamic moves of do-everything halfback Ja’Narrick James, Analy is riding a wave of confidence after outlasting traditional power Cardinal Newman last week in a quarterfinal playoff game.

Like Analy, Montgomery is a No. 4 seed trying to dislodge a No. 1 today.

Casa Grande has been one of the Redwood Empire’s stronger teams over the past five seasons, but the Gauchos have taken it up a notch this season.

Riding the arm and legs of athletic quarterback JaJuan Lawson and the tough running of John Porchivina, Casa (12-0) has its first 12-win season ever, and is hoping to cap the run with its first NCS football banner.

Montgomery (10-2) might be the underdog among the trio of surviving local teams, but it’s also the only one of the three that has captured section championships.

The Vikings won it all in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Those titles seemed like ancient history as Monty stumbled through consecutive losing seasons from 2010-12, but Haskins and his assistants have resurrected the program.

An upset of Casa Grande would be icing on the cake.

The winner of the Gauchos-Vikings game will play the Miramonte contest in the Division 2 final. If Analy survives, it will take on El Cerrito for the Division 3 championship. Both of those would be next Friday or Saturday.

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