PD Preps Insider: League play set to kick off

The football scene ramps up this weekend with the start of league play in the North Bay League and Sonoma County League.

Unbeaten Windsor, coming off a bye week, tops the Friday schedule with a home game against Ukiah. The Jaguars had an impressive 49-27 win in their most recent game on the road against defending NCS champion Miramonte. Another key NBL game matches once-beaten Maria Carrillo at Montgomery. In the SCL, Petaluma is at winless Sonoma Valley in hopes of validating the Trojans’ 3-1 start.

Maybe the best game of the weekend is a non-league assignment for No. 1-ranked Analy. The Tigers play at McClymonds on Friday.

A family affair

Arguably the two best players in girls soccer in the North Bay had doppelgangers running around the field with them Monday night when Maria Carrillo hosted crosstown rival Montgomery.

Maria Carrillo’s Maddy Gonzalez, a junior and last year’s Large School Player of the Year, teamed up with younger sister Kitana Gonzalez, a freshman. On the other side of the field, Montgomery’s Taylor Ziemer, a junior and runner-up as last year’s Large School Player of the Year, was playing give and go with someone she likely has spent a bit of time on the soccer field with: her sister, freshman Tera Ziemer.

Carrillo dominated the game and came away with a 4-0 victory, but it wasn’t hard to get a glimpse of things to come from both squads.

Empire teams ranked

Led by Analy, the Empire’s top football teams made initial state prep bowl rankings for Northern California.

Analy was fourth in the MaxPreps Division 3 and fifth in Cal-Hi Sports Division 3.

St. Helena was fifth in MaxPreps Division 4 and sixth in Cal-Hi Sports Division 4.

Cardinal Newman was 10th in MaxPreps Division 3 and on the bubble in Cal-Hi Sports Division 3.

The rankings figure into teams selected to play regional finals to earn spots in the CIF Football State Championships

Pumas begin comeback

Locally, the Maria Carrillo girls soccer team continues to be the dominant program. Nationally, the Pumas have finally been knocked from their perch.

Carrillo went into this season as the top fall team in the nation (many schools across the country play in winter or spring), as ranked by Top Drawer Soccer. It wasn’t surprising when you consider that the organization awarded the Pumas girls each of the past two fall national championships.

Maria Carrillo held the top spot through Top Drawer’s Sept. 16 rankings, but a 1-1 tie against Issaquah (Wash.), another top-25 team, on Saturday dropped Deb LaPrath’s squad to No. 5 in the country in the list released Tuesday. Right behind the Pumas in the national rankings? Archrival Montgomery High, at No. 6.

But on Monday, Carrillo had showed it wasn’t quite ready to relinquish its stranglehold, downing the Vikings in an impressive 4-0 victory that ran the Pumas’ unbeaten streak to a remarkable 58 games. Consider it a clear message: Carrillo wants the No. 1 spot again.

Note: Maria Carrillo and Montgomery are the only Redwood Empire girls teams currently in the Top Drawer top 50, and no boys teams make the cut.

Rancho right at home

The Rancho Cotate football team certainly loves its home cooking. The Cougars have a 25-game home winning streak, which was extended Friday in its 2014 home opener with a 56-22 win againts American Canyon.

“I don’t know what it is, maybe the magic of the home field,” Rancho coach Ed Conroy said. “Whatever it is I wish I could bottle it up and take it with us on the road.”

Since the beginning of the 2009 season the Cougars are a remarkable 27-1 at home. Rancho is a much more modest 15-13 on the road and 5-5 at neutral sites. The last home loss for the Cougars was against Maria Carrillo, 35-25, on Oct. 9, 2009.

Rancho has four home games remaining this season to continue its home winning streak, including hosting the next three games (Casa Grande on Friday, Montgomery Oct.3, and Cardinal Newman Oct. 10).

Kerry Benefield and Richard J. Marcus contributed to this report.