San Ramon Valley could be tested against Foothill this week
Nate Smith

NCS Games of the Week: Early league games have bearing on title races

October 3, 2019

With league play in full swing, the best match-ups each week become those with the biggest impact on league title races. There are certainly a few of those this week, especially in the HDN, VVAL and MCAL where top contenders for the crown all clash in early October.

All rankings displayed are this week’s NCS rankings.

No. 20 Foothill (4-1) at No. 9 San Ramon Valley (4-1), Friday, 7 pm

One of the top stories out of the EBAL so far this season has been the resurgence of Foothill, after there had been off-season debate over whether the Falcons should be dropped to the Valley Division. Instead, Foothill has reeled off four straight wins in convincing fashion and needs just one more to become post-season eligible.

But now is the part of the year where it truly gets tough for the Falcons, who are a Division 2 school playing in a league full of Division 1 opponents. Mountain Division action starts this week with San Ramon Valley, whose only loss came out of section to a loaded Monterey Trail squad. The Wolves are coming in after arguably their two best performances of the season, pulling away to one-sided wins over Freedom and Dublin in the past two weeks.

Sophomore quarterback Jack Quigley has improved weekly in his first varsity season, having now thrown for 871 yards with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Meanwhile, Jacob Himan got untracked in last week’s win over Dublin, gaining 168 yards on the ground, and the defense has been a turnover machine. Jered Kenny leads the way with four interceptions.

For Foothill, the key to the game normally revolves around getting the ball in the hands of senior two-way standout Pete Montini. Jayden Payne has also emerged in the backfield as a threat running the ball, but Montini lines up at multiple positions and displays a varied skill set. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound H-back will line up anywhere in the backfield to get the ball, but then also take his frame to tight end, the slot and out as a single receiver, where he creates mismatches on deep routes and even screens and delay routes underneath.

“Foothill is an aggressive team that will challenge us up front,” said San Ramon Valley coach Aaron Becker. “We need to protect the quarterback and play smart defensively to try and minimize the big plays that (Montini) gets.”

Foothill won three straight in this rivalry, from 2014-2016, but San Ramon Valley has won the last two meetings, including a 24-10 decision last season in which the Wolves shut down the Foothill rushing attack while gaining over 200 yards on the ground with their offense.

No. 1 De La Salle (5-1) at No. 4 Monte Vista (4-1), Friday, 7 pm

Both programs are ranked in the top four of the section, but anything less than a convincing De La Salle win would send shockwaves across the region.

The Spartans have dominated five straight solid opponents since a season-opening loss to St. Thomas Aquinas-Fort Lauderdale, while Monte Vista’s lone loss came on a missed field goal at the end of the game against Liberty. The Mustangs’ defense has not allowed a touchdown in three of their five games this season, including the last two weeks.

No. 22 American Canyon (6-0) vs No. 23 Napa (4-1) at Memorial Stadium, Friday, 7 pm

Two teams with VVAL title aspirations will clash on Friday, as both American Canyon and Napa are off to blazing starts.

After going 0-10 last season, Napa has won three in a row following a loss to Nevada Union and is all of a sudden a league championship and playoff contender under new head coach Richie Wessman. Junior Brock Bowers – who seemingly holds scholarship offers from every major program in the country – is the marquee name on the roster, with 20 catches for 591 yards and nine touchdowns. However, quarterback Isaiah Newton has also been highly efficient, completing 67 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while junior Benito Saldivar has averaged over 14 yards per carry.

American Canyon has dominated nearly all competition to open the season, averaging nearly 265 rushing yards per game in the process. The Wolves have outscored all opponents by a combined margin of 211-36. Quarterback Vance Eschenburg is the trigger man for the offense, with 520 passing yards and 381 rushing yards.

This will be just the second meeting all-time between these programs, with American Canyon winning 35-7 last season.

Ygnacio Valley (5-0) at College Park (4-2), Friday, 7 pm

Ygnacio Valley’s 35-8 win over Mt. Diablo last week made the Warriors playoff-eligible, but they are looking for much more under coach Bryan Shaw, with a chance to exceed five wins for the first time since 2010.

College Park, meanwhile, made itself a player in the DAL-Valley title race with its last-minute 34-27 win over Northgate last week.

“We have to come out fast on both sides of the ball. The past couple weeks, it has taken us almost a half of football to start playing with the tempo and rhythm we want. Our players have to be disciplined,” Shaw said. “College Park is a well-coached team and they take advantage of even momentary lapses of focus.”

College Park has won nine of the last 10 meetings between these programs, including a 49-0 victory for the Falcons last fall. The lone Ygnacio win during that stretch was in 2017, a 34-24 Warriors’ victory.

Ferndale (3-2) at Hoopa Valley (2-2), Friday, 7:30 pm

One team will get an early leg up in the HDN-Little 4 title race, as the two co-leaders meet on Friday night.

Ferndale took down Arcata in a shootout last week, while Hoopa Valley used five touchdown passes from John Smith to beat McKinleyville.

Hoopa Valley won both meetings between these teams last year, which snapped a 27-game Ferndale win streak dating back to the start of the MaxPreps era.

San Marin (4-1) at Redwood (4-1), Saturday, 2 pm

Two of last year’s MCAL tri-champions meet this Saturday, with both programs off to strong starts and with aspirations for repeating their titles.

San Marin has won three straight following a loss to Moreau Catholic, and got a strong effort on the ground last week from running back Dante DiMare to roll past Drake. Redwood, meanwhile, has won four straight since a season-opening loss to Berkeley, rolling past Tamalpais and Terra Linda in the Giants’ first two league games.

Recent history between these teams has been all San Marin, as the Mustangs have won nine straight meetings against Redwood.

Best of the Rest

Points could be coming in bunches when unbeaten St. Bernard’s heads south to visit 4-1 Templeton. The Crusaders have scored 214 points in five games, while Templeton had a 69-61 win over Carmel earlier this season.

A key EBAL-Valley battle will happen when Granada visits Dublin, as both teams need a win to make a statement for inclusion in the Division 2 playoffs.

El Cerrito has struggled outside league play, but has a chance to erase that when the Gauchos open TCAL-Rock action at St. Patrick-St. Vincent. Depth has been an issue for both programs in the early part of the season.

St. Vincent de Paul carries a three-game winning streak down the coast as the Mustangs head to Morro Bay, which has also won three in a row.

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