Las Lomas pulled away from Acalanes last week and continues to bolster its playoff resume
Ethan Khakmahd

North Coast Section Playoff Projections

October 18, 2019

With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoff picture gets a bit clearer every week. Following section seeding criteria, especially head-to-head and common opponent results, we will rank teams accordingly each week, and discuss the criteria used and how these seeds may change in the near future.

We started the process a few weeks ago by seeding all eight teams in each division, but with limited analysis, which continues to evolve each week. This year features more divisions, but half as many teams getting into each bracket. We will try to note match-ups which will have the largest impacts on our projections. Also, we do this under the assumption that every eligible team will apply for the post-season, and only change that assumption in the final couple weeks if a coach makes it clear that their program does not intend on applying.


Projected seeds:

1. De La Salle

2. Liberty

3. Pittsburg

4. Monte Vista

5. James Logan

6. California

7. San Ramon Valley

8. Amador Valley

Rationale: Last week, we mentioned the predicament of San Ramon Valley needing to win one more game to get eligible, and the difficult schedule in front of the Wolves. Well, they wasted no time, knocking off Clayton Valley to get their fifth win. The team that knocks back out is Antioch, who has a head-to-head loss to Amador Valley, who could also likely end up with an automatic berth if the Dons win the EBAL-Valley Division.

Nothing has changed at the top of our projections here. The five through seven slots could go in any order. California and San Ramon Valley both have wins over Clayton Valley, which is better than Logan’s win over San Leandro, but SRV also has the loss to Foothill, who lost to San Leandro. If San Leandro runs the table in the WACC-Foothill, however, that increases the quality of Logan’s victory there, and there is also the matter of the common opponent score against Heritage; California won in a close, competitive game, while Logan was victorious in a very one-sided contest.

Liberty and Pittsburg will decide their slots on the field this week, and a close game will likely keep those two schools in the two and three slots, but a one-sided contest could send either team sliding to the dreaded four seed.


Projected seeds:

1. Campolindo

2. San Leandro

3. Foothill

4. Clayton Valley

5. Vintage

6. Redwood

7. Livermore

8. Dublin

Rationale: Why have we dropped Clayton Valley in this week’s projections? It has to do with common opponent, and remember that Foothill beat the San Ramon Valley team which just handed Clayton Valley its second straight loss in EBAL play. That being said, this week’s tilt between Foothill and Clayton Valley will not only determine seeding between those programs, but could be a make-or-break game for the Ugly Eagles in terms of playoff eligibility, considering they finish the season with Monte Vista and De La Salle.

That means right now that Campolindo has a bead on the top seed, but the Cougars still have to face Las Lomas, and a defeat to the Knights could potentially cost them that top seed. San Leandro just took down Bishop O’Dowd, and has Encinal as its final big hurdle remaining in the regular season to claiming a league title. The Pirates have that season-opening win over Foothill, and both defeats are to Division I opponents – Monte Vista and James Logan. The scores against Monte Vista and Foothill could become very relevant when comparing San Leandro to Clayton Valley, as long as the Ugly Eagles pick up a win this week.

Vintage is in line to become an outright league champion again, after a big win over American Canyon, but looking the strength of each team’s schedule, the Crushers could use a little help if they want to move up in seeding. If they end up as the only league champion among the top five teams, a higher seed could certainly be in the works.

Redwood’s wins over San Marin and Tamalpais put the Giants in the driver’s seat for the MCAL title, though the designation will go to Marin Catholic. Redwood does have a bad loss to Berkeley, but that was in the season opener and late-season results hold a bit more water. Dublin’s win over Granada clinched eligibility for the Gaels, but Livermore’s win over Dublin last week puts the Cowboys in very good position. The debate between Livermore and Redwood for the six seed will come down to how well Livermore performs against Amador Valley. If the Cowboys can win that game, and the EBAL-Valley, they will be a top six seed for sure, and possibly crack the top five.

The debate for the final seed right now comes down to Napa and Dublin. If either team can pull an upset in the final weeks – Dublin against Amador Valley, Napa against Vintage – then that team would essentially punch its ticket. Otherwise, two schedules void of common opponents will be difficult to sort out. Dublin’s win over Granada gives the Gaels a strong win in the division, while Napa’s best win to this point is over a Middletown team which will likely win its league, but plays in a much lower division.


Projected seeds:

1. Las Lomas

2. Rancho Cotate

3. Benicia

4. Hayward

5. American Canyon

6. Windsor

7. El Cerrito

8. Bishop O’Dowd

Rationale: Unbeaten right now, Las Lomas has the inside track to the top seed, as long as the Knights finish no lower than second in the DAL-Foothill, and last week’s win over Acalanes all but assures that will be the case. Rancho Cotate and Benicia should be an interesting debate for the two and three seeds, but what we see in the Cougars’ favor right now are the better quality wins. Rancho has wins over Pleasant Valley-Chico and Windsor, plus the win over El Cerrito just got better when the Gauchos beat Kennedy-Richmond. Benicia’s lone loss is by three points to an outstanding Sutter squad, and the Panthers should be the DAL-Valley champions, but playing in a lower-tier league is hurting the strength of schedule and Benicia’s best win right now is either Maria Carrillo or College Park.

American Canyon and Hayward find themselves in similar situations right now. Both could finish the year as one-loss teams, except that American Canyon’s loss to Vintage means that Hayward would be a league champion while the Wolves would not. That being the case, if one of them is the four seed and the other is the five seed, it will make no difference. Hayward would be in line for a home game regardless in that scenario, as the only league champion.

Windsor is the team looking to move up, as the Jaguars’ win over Eureka could pay dividends depending on how the Loggers do in HDN-Big 4 play, which starts this week. But their loss to Livermore could also end up hurting, unless the Cowboys win the EBAL-Valley. For now, assuming Windsor wins two of three games to finish the year, the six seed looks likely as a third-place team in the NBL-Oak.

Two big results last week have influenced some movement in our seeds at the bottom. One was El Cerrito’s win over Kennedy-Richmond, which puts the Gauchos in the driver’s seat for the TCAL-Rock title, along with Salesian. If El Cerrito wins that league, it might not be enough to move any higher than the six seed, but the Gauchos might prefer the seven seed anyway, since that could mean a home game if they are matched up with a non-league champion. O’Dowd still appears on track to get in, assuming it can beat Piedmont and Castro Valley, but the Dragons won’t be any higher than an eight seed unless they also beat Encinal.

While sorting out the eight teams listed above is pretty tricky due to lack of common opponents, there does seem to be a clear line between those eight and any other teams looking to snag a playoff spot. Bethel’s loss to Pinole Valley really damaged any case the Jaguars might have had, and they absolutely now have to beat De Anza to have a shot. Casa Grande will be eligible if it splits its final four games, but to really have a shot at getting in, needs to win at least three of the four.

Ukiah needs to win three of its final four to have a shot at the field, which would mean beating Windsor, while Northgate likely needs to upset Benicia to have a shot. Washington will be eligible, but with no quality victories to make the field, and the same goes for Santa Rosa.


Projected seeds:

1. Cardinal Newman

2. Marin Catholic

3. Piner

4. Acalanes

5. Tamalpais

6. Newark Memorial

7. Tennyson

8. Kennedy-Fremont

Rationale: The top two seeds are pretty much a slam dunk at this point, though they could go in either order. Piner has blasted every opponent thus far, but lack of a true quality win will leave the Prospectors relegated to no better than the three seed.

Meanwhile, Acalanes played tough against Vintage and has wins over Berkeley, Sacred Heart Cathedral and El Cerrito already. If the Dons knock off Campolindo, they would secure the three seed. If not, four might be more likely when compared to an unbeaten Piner team which routed Miramonte.

After Tamalpais, simply filling out this field becomes a matter of who can get eligible, and the resulting first-round games will probably not be what the section had in mind when they reduced the fields to eight teams. Newark Memorial has wins over Tennyson and Kennedy-Fremont, which means the Cougars have secured eligibility, though the recent loss to Washington all but guarantees that Newark will be sub-.500 overall.

Tennyson is 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the WACC-Shoreline. The Lancers do have a two-point loss to Newark, but should win at least one of their remaining three and slide in behind the Cougars. The final spot could come down to Kennedy, Vallejo or Concord. Concord only needs to beat Mt. Diablo to be eligible, but probably has the weakest overall argument with a loss to Arroyo in there, unless the Minutemen upset Benicia or Alhambra. Vallejo is likely to finish .500 in league play, but if Kennedy gets eligible, the Titans have a better strength of schedule and a narrow loss to Newark. Kennedy needs to split its final four games to be eligible, which will likely mean beating American and Washington.

It is important to note that if Maria Carrillo can get eligible, they would make the field, but at this point, it does not appear likely. Carrillo is 4-3 overall right now, but has games remaining against Cardinal Newman, Rancho Cotate and Windsor. An upset victory against any of those three teams would certainly guarantee a berth for the Pumas, however, and a top six seed.


Projected seeds:

1. Encinal

2. De Anza

3. Del Norte

4. Moreau Catholic

5. Eureka

6. San Marin

7. Miramonte

8. Piedmont

Rationale: All six of Encinal’s wins are by shutout, and its one loss was a competitive showing against McClymonds, so for now we have the Jets in the top spot, but that could easily change.

The top two or three seeds are going to be pretty up for grabs in this division. Del Norte could certainly go 9-1 in the regular season, but if Encinal beats either O’Dowd or San Leandro in league play, the Jets will have a strong argument for the top seed even at 8-2 overall. The biggest knock against De Anza will be the league that the Dons play in, but with Miramonte routing Alhambra last week to get in this field, the Dons now have a higher level of quality non-league win against a team in the field. That being said, Del Norte in the two spot also will not be a surprise if the Warriors run the table in the HDN-Big 4.

Moreau Catholic’s win over San Marin should keep the Mariners in front of the Mustangs, just like their loss to Del Norte solidifies their place below the Warriors. Eureka will get its chance to fight for a better seed in league play, and the Loggers could shake this up with a win over Del Norte, which would likely get Eureka a top-three spot.

San Marin’s seed will be determined by the next three weeks. If the Mustangs run the table, they should be the six seed. A loss to San Rafael or Tamalpais could slide them down a spot, however. Miramonte’s big win over Alhambra now has the Matadors in the field, and they should be no lower than the seven seed.

Piedmont could become eligible with wins over Berkeley and Castro Valley in the final two weeks of the season, and that should also be enough to get them in over Alhambra, who should become eligible with a win over Concord. Anything but a split of the four games, however, will leave the Highlanders on the outside looking in. Defending NCS champion Fortuna could also still get eligible, but the Huskies will need to win two of three games during Big 4 action. If they do so, however, they should crack the field and keep their chances of repeating alive.


Projected seeds:

1. Kennedy-Richmond

2. St. Bernard’s

3. Middletown

4. Justin-Siena

5. Lower Lake

6. St. Patrick-St. Vincent

7. Pinole Valley

8. Arcata

Rationale: Kennedy’s loss to El Cerrito certainly hurt the Eagles’ chances for a league title, and they now have to both beat Salesian and get some help from the Pride when they face El Cerrito, but if the Eagles can still run the table in their league, that should be enough for the top seed. Unless, of course, St. Bernard’s goes unbeaten in the HDN-Big 4, because that would move the Crusaders into the top slot.

Middletown’s win over St. Helena has the Mustangs needing only to beat Willits to claim the NCL title, and Justin-Siena’s loss to Casa Grande is the worst loss among the top four teams. Lower Lake boosted its stock considerably with the win over Willits, which had previously beaten St. Helena, who has a convincing win over St. Pat’s. St. Pat’s, meanwhile, will be eligible even if it loses its next two games, and has a one-sided win over Alhambra, who beat Pinole Valley. The Bruins also have a stronger schedule than the two teams listed below. Pinole Valley’s win over Bethel will be huge for the Spartans if they can run the table.

The final two spots will likely come down to three teams – Lower Lake, Arcata and Ygnacio Valley. Arcata’s win over Willits is the best on the board among those three teams right now, especially after Willits beat St. Helena, but it lost a little bit of luster when the Wolverines lost to Lower Lake. The Tigers, however, will need to pick up wins over Hoopa Valley and/or Ferndale in the second trip through league play to solidify their case.

As for Ygnacio Valley, the Warriors are likely to finish 7-3, including a forfeit win early in the year. But wins over Concord and Berean Christian won’t add much to the playoff resume, while a win over Northgate would clinch no worse than the seven seed. YV could still have a strong shot at the eight seed, however, if Arcata slips up during the remainder of league play. Also, if Pinole drops one more game, Ygnacio and Arcata could both get in.


Projected seeds:

1. Salesian

2. Ferndale

3. Willits

4. St. Helena

5. St. Vincent de Paul

6. El Molino

7. Hoopa Valley

8. California School for the Deaf/Oakland Military Institute

Rationale: Salesian is the clear front-runner for the top seed, especially with a win over Moreau Catholic and St. Helena’s recent losses to Willits and Middletown. Ferndale appears in line for the two seed, especially after Willits’s loss to Lower Lake last week, and considering that the Wildcats have a win over Fortuna. If they sweep Little 4 play, there is little to suggest they would not get the two seed, except a bad early loss to Clear Lake.

El Molino needs to beat Healdsburg this week to secure eligibility, and could run the table with Montgomery and Harker also remaining. Hoopa Valley just needs to beat McKinleyville next week to secure eligibility, and already has a win over the Panthers.

The season-ending game between CSD and OMI will determine which of those programs is eligible for the post-season. Stellar Prep has officially been eliminated from playoff eligibility, while Cloverdale needs to beat St. Helena or Middletown in the final two games of the season to become eligible, which appears unlikely at this point. Clear Lake could also become eligible with a win over Cloverdale, and if that happens, the Cardinals would likely make the field over either of the two teams we have listed at eight right now.

To visit GameCenter for this game, please click here


Are you a high school student interested in a career in sports journalism? For more information, please click here.