NCL III football preview: Mendocino loaded again in 2014

By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Senior Preston Salmans, an All-Empire selection last season, has helped Mendocino to 
20 consecutive victories. (Photo by Alvin Jornada, The Press Democrat)

Senior Preston Salmans, an All-Empire selection last season, has helped Mendocino to 
20 consecutive victories. (Photo by Alvin Jornada, The Press Democrat)

Four eight-man football stars helped put the North Central League III in the spotlight last season, earning All-Empire spots in the process. Three of those standouts will return to make a tremendous impact this season.

Mendocino star Reed Carter has graduated, but teammates Preston Salmans and Kyle Moore return for the 2014 season. Rincon Valley Christian senior Daniel Maples is also back.

Here are four things to know about the NCL III this season:

GAME-CHANGING DUO

Mendocino, which opened the season with a 44-6 win against Round Valley, fields a team in which one-fourth of the lineup is composed of All-Empire stars.

Salmans was such a gifted pass-catcher as a junior that he earned All-Empire mention as a second-team wide receiver. He was voted Most Outstanding Offensive Player by NCL III coaches, who also named him to the first-team defense as a safety.

With only eight players on the field at a time for each team, the Cardinals start with Salmans playing alongside All-Empire second-team linebacker Moore. He was all-NCL III first team as a back and receiver.

Salmans leads Mendocino in defense of its league title after finishing 5-0 in the NCL III and 8-0 overall in 2013. Salmans completed 18 of 37 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing 58 times for 686 yards and six scores. His 21 pass receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns sparked the Cardinals’ passing game. He was fourth on the club averaging 9.8 tackles per game. Salmans scored an average of 19.8 points per game.

Wait, there’s more. Salmans, now a senior, intercepted six passes a year ago.

Moore (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) averaged 20.3 tackles per game, with 95 solo tackles for the season.

DO-IT-ALL STAR

Daniel Maples returns for his senior season at Rincon Valley Christian as the definition of an all-purpose back.

As a junior, Maples earned All-Empire second-team honors as a defensive back. Coaches also voted him the quarterback on the all-NCL III first team.

The 5-11, 155-pound Maples will play an important role as the Eagles attempt to improve upon a 3-5 overall record last season. While some backs were featured more as a passer or a runner, Maples did both and did both well.

He completed 75 of 175 passes for 1,478 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior. He also rushed 98 times for 665 yards and 11 scores. Things should get even better with his favorite target returning, too. Morgan Guiesponi is back after hauling in 41 passes a year ago for 13 touchdowns.

Maples averaged 5.8 tackles per game as a safety. He intercepted a pass and was in on one sack. He leads the Eagles into action this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Trinity Christian in Monterey.

POINTING TO STARDOM

Cody Cissna was just a sophomore last year while leading Point Arena to a great season. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior could be the next NCL III star to represent eight-man football on the All-Empire team.

He rushed for 1,154 yards on 132 carries to average 144.3 yards per game for the second-place Pirates. Cissna completed 13 of 23 passes in a rush-oriented attack, for 249 yards. His completion rate was 56.5 percent.

The star passed for seven touchdowns and ran for 12.

Cissna and 6-2, 185-pound returnee Tyler Rasmussen, a senior, will be defensive keys, too. Rasmussen led Point Arena in tackles with 7.1 per contest.

Cissna rushed for 205 yards (on 31 carries) and two touchdowns in the Pirates’ season opener Saturday, but they lost 34-28 to Anderson Valley.

A DIFFERENT GAME

Eight-man football is played with the same basic rules as 11-man football. However, in the eight-man game an offense must have at least five players on the offensive line of scrimmage. That allows for two backs or flankers as well as a quarterback. Receivers are not eligible unless they line up at the end of the line of scrimmage or one of the backfield spots.

The eight-man defense typically removes two defensive tackles and one linebacker, according to 8manfootball.net. The high-scoring offenses are accounted for by the problems defenses face. If the defense uses four down linemen with two linebackers, then two deep safeties are vulnerable to the pass.

Most teams use three defensive linemen and three players in the secondary. That protects more against the pass, but can create openings for the rushing attack.