The NCS Division 2 championship match-up is no surprise with top-seeded Clayton Valley (7-5) in the title game, and although Campolindo (10-2) only drew the No. 3 seed, their 28-21 victory last week at No. 2 seed Vintage-Napa was not nearly an upset.
Vintage earned the second seed as the Vine Valley League champion but most still favored Campolindo as the more seasoned NCS playoff team with a wily veteran playoff experienced coach in head coach Kevin Macy, and although the Cougars did not win the Diablo Athletic League – Foothill Division title, that league is much the better than the Vine Valley, and the strength of schedule for Campolindo was considerably higher than Vintage.
Even so, it was no cakewalk against Vintage, and although Campolindo never trailed the score was tied 7-7, 14-14 and 21-21 in the fourth quarter before the SMU-bound senior defensive end Mason Mastrov helped force and then recovered a fumble and senior quarterback Grant Harper took it from there and drove the Cougars for the final score that came on a 19-yard pass to senior Rex Curtiss with under a minute left.
Clayton Valley has taken its lumps this season after being moved to the East Bay Athletic League – Mountain Division, but despite their record and the grumbling by some about them deserving the top seed or being placed in Division 2, Coach Tim Murphy and his boys have lived up to their top billing and did it in style with a crushing 49-7 defeat of a decent Foothill team that had a win over San Ramon Valley and almost upset Monte Vista, but had no answer for the Ugly Eagles last Friday or in an earlier meeting in league when the Uglies won 41-0.
So now two familiar foes meet but it will be for the first time this season. From 2016-2018 when the two were in the same division of the Diablo Valley Athletic League they met three times and it did not go well for Campolindo. In 2016 to Uglies won 50-15 at home, then in 2017 they won 54-21 at Campolindo, and finally last season it was a 35-7 home victory.
Whether or not the level of play is or will be equal to the past three year’s games is hard to say since they are not playing in the same league any longer, but Clayton Valley has a stronger competitive equity resume and will be favored.
Primary running back and junior Omari Taylor has done a good job of putting the killing of his brother in the Orinda shootings behind him, and followed up a solid performance two weeks ago with 205 yards and three TDs in the rout of Foothill.
The grind it out style running game of Murphy produced 407 yards rushing and four TDs, and if they can control the line of scrimmage like that against Campolindo it could be a long night for the Cougars.
The two biggest questions for Campolindo are what are they going to have to do on offense they didn’t do the least three times, and how can they stop the Clayton Valley running game in order to reverse and avenge the three previous losses?
“We had four trips into the red zone last year that didn’t produce points. We have to convert in the red zone,” Macy said. “Also, we ran the ball less than 10 times in each of those games . We need some type of running game.”
The flu bug has bitten Campolindo, their top receiver Maxwell Weaver is still out and Mastrov, who had the huge fumble recovery last week, only played the second half and Macy is “not sure how much he can play.”
“Everyone knows a lot of good things need to happen, and early, for us to make a game of this,” continued Macy. “Spirits are high and our kids are looking forward to playing in a championship game.
For Clayton Valley the questions are what if anything is different now than the last three years, and can the same strategy win on Saturday?
“We need to not think the past has anything to do with the present, and Campo is hungry to beat us,” Murphy said. “But rest assured our guys are ready,” Murphy remarked.