The Valley Christian offense prefers to punish opponents on the ground
Brian Dewitt

NorCal Games of the Week: Intersectional private school battle, WCAL opener and a small-school SJS clash take spotlight, and more

September 27, 2019

It wouldn’t be a feature involving the top games in Northern California if De La Salle was omitted, particularly playing a perennially top team, so only on rare occasions are the Spartans not featured, and so not surprisingly they make the feature since the season began and for the sixth straight week. We have one other intersection game this week but the other three are top-notch section matchups.

De La Salle-Concord (4-1) at St. Mary’s-Stockton (1-3), Friday, 7:15 pm

This game would seem like a foregone conclusion, and as everything points to it should be a big Northern California No. 1 De La Salle victory, but the two teams do have a common opponent in Central Catholic-Modesto, and the scores are somewhat comparable.

De La Salle was a 49-14 winner at Central Catholic after leading 35-0 at the half and then throwing in the subs, while St. Mary’s won 42-7 at home after leading 21-0 at halftime, but the margin of victory over their common opponent is about the only thing that could indicate a close game, because frankly it almost assuredly will not be close.

De La Salle is looking like they’re a marching juggernaut since a loss to fellow nationally-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida in a game they where they were very competitive.

Since then the Spartans have put all four of their games away at halftime although Folsom had Coach Justin Alumbaugh hold the starters in a little longer than a half when the Bulldogs made some noise late.

St. Mary’s has scheduled tough. They lost 42-35 at home to Prep2Prep NCS No. 5 Pittsburg in a game they led 21-20 at the half but where their secondary ended up giving up six TD passes. Next came the Central Catholic win but after that they were soundly beaten at home, 56-28 by Serra-San Mateo where they hung in there for a half, trailing 28-21 before a third quarter collapse. Last week Coach Tony Franks and his boys took a road trip to Cal-Hi Sports No. 5 Mission Viejo and returned from Orange County on the short end of a 63-7 throttling.

De La Salle is No. 3 in the Cal-Hi Sports rankings and No. 13 in the Maxpreps Xcellent 25 and the Spartans have too much tradition to look past anyone, so with all due respect to affable veteran Rams Coach Franks, the goal is to get out of the game healthy and prepare for the Tri-City Athletic League where despite their record St. Mary’s is the favorite.

Saint Francis (1-2) at Valley Christian (3-0), Friday, 7:00 pm

Playing up on the hill is south San Jose is never easy for visiting teams looking to beat Valley Christian at home, and this week in the West Catholic Athletic League opener for both teams the prospects of the Lancers downing the Warriors will be a tall task.

Just like he’s done since he started coaching at Saratoga from 1995-1997 and 1998 to present at Valley Christian, look for Coach Mike Machado to have his team grinding it out on the ground, and so far this season its worked against some solid opponents.

Machado and his boys made a statement in week one when they avenged a defeat last season to a Wilcox team with a 23-13 victory in a game they led 20-7 after three quarters and against a Chargers team that at the time had star runner Paul Rosa in the lineup.

The team has stepped up as a whole but the go to player has been Isaiah McElvane. The 6-1, 185-pound junior with some solid D1 offers, had an 80-yard TD reception against Wilcox and led three Warriors running backs with 62 yards.

McElvane was used sparingly in a 37-0 blowout of defending CIF 4-AA Bowl Game champion Pleasant Valley-Chico. Two weeks ago, and after a sloppy first half that saw the Warriors only leading host Clovis West-Fresno 14-12 in an eventual 34-12 victory, McElvane and the running game put the game away after an early third quarter 61-yard run by McElvane (132 yards rushing, one TD) made it 21-12, and then a pick six by Deven Vanderbilt in the early fourth quarter made it 28-12 and sealed the deal.

Another player to look for in the Warriors running game is Chase Laubach. The junior running back had 104 yards rushing and two TDs against Clovis West.

St. Francis has played and beaten Oak Grove-San Jose handily two weeks ago, but throw out that game and Coach Greg Calcagno and his Lancers have arguably had a rougher non-league schedule than Valley Christian.

In week one St. Francis met a Cal-Hi Sports No. 19 ranked Corona del Mar-Newport Beach team that is ranked higher than any teams in the entire Bay Area other than De La Salle, Serra and Valley Christian. They saw what a state power with a D1 quarterback looks like and fell behind 21-0 before falling 42-14 at home. Speaking of De La Salle, the Lancers couldn’t budge Sparta in a 48-0 loss in Concord.

St. Francis has seen teams as good as or better than Valley Christian so they know what they are up against. The question is can they stop the Warriors running juggernaut and move the ball themselves.

Quarterback Ryan Daly, a 6-5, 205-pound senior, had a so-so day against Oak Grove but could not get untracked in the two losses to state ranked teams. Three running backs have rushed for over 100 yards in the three games, but at 196 yards and three TDs combined by 6-0, 205-pound sophomore Camilo Arquette as the top number, not only is the defense going to have to pick it up for St. Francis to have a chance to win, but the offense as well, and big time.

Both teams will be coming off a bye as will the rest of the WCAL so each squad should be rested and ready to go. Valley Christian comes into the game as the Prep2Prep Central Coast Section top-ranked team and the Cal-Hi Sports No. 16 ranked team in the state. St. Francis is No. 6 in the P2P CCS rankings on the Bubble just outside the Cal-Hi Sports state top 50 rankings.

By all means this should be a Valley Christian win but anything is possible in the wild-and-wacky West Catholic Athletic League.

Rancho Cotate (3-1) at Campolindo (4-1), Friday, 7:00 pm[/bold

After the feature on Rancho Cotate that goes with its Media Guide was completed, Cal-Hi Sports tweeted that in conjunction with Campolindo math teacher and football coach Kevin Macy doing the arithmetic, the wily veteran is currently sitting on 230 career coaching wins. His record is 230-116-3 since he started from 1995-1997 with 25 wins at Oakland Tech, and now has 205 wins since 1998 at Campolindo heading into Friday night. The 230 coaching win ties Macy for eighth all-time in the North Coast Section with Jim Ingram of Washington-Fremont.

Whether Macy can break the tie and get some revenge for losses to Rancho Cotate in the first two meetings between the teams the past two seasons, remains to be seen. For complete details on the matchup and an interesting perspective on the game from both coaches click here.

Menlo-Atherton (1-2) at Folsom (3-1), Friday, 7:00 pm

The second inter-section matchup of this week’s feature is a bit intriguing, as two teams that both won CIF state Bowl Game championships meet for the first time ever.

Defending CIF state Division 1-AA Bowl Game champion Folsom is coming off one of the toughest two-week stretches in a long time. First-year Coach Paul Doherty and his Bulldogs made some noise against De La Salle in the fourth quarter of their 42-27 loss, and last week they came from 33-14 down with 10 minutes left in the third quarter to score 22 unanswered points to pull out a 36-33 victory over Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills in their Sierra Foothill League opener.

With the win Cal-Hi Sports No. 6 Folsom maintained its decade-plus long supremacy in the Sac-Joaquin Section but the gap is closing.

Menlo-Atherton also has a first-year head coach in Steve Papin, and despite the record, below the surface the Bear haven’t played that poorly.

The Bears blew out a Bellarmine that is a shadow of its former self, 51-14, then got handled pretty easily in a 38-13 loss to Serra at Levi’s Stadium, but Serra is No. 2 in the Prep2Prep CCS rankings and is No. 12 in the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings.

Prep2Prep CCS No. 4 and Cal-Hi Sports No. 44 Menlo-Atherton had a bye last week like most of the top teams in the CCS, but two weeks ago they traveled to Utah where they faced an East-Salt Lake City team that is not as strong as the 2016 team that edged De La Salle in Concord, but they are still No. 6 in Utah and their two losses are to Utah No. 5 American Fork in a close shootout, and 24-14 to visiting Cal-Hi Sports No. 4 JSerra-San Juan Capistrano. The Bears jumped out to a 20-7 lead at the end of the first quarter but could not match the firepower or the defense of an East team that scored 42 unanswered points in a 49-20 defeat.

Menlo-Atherton has scheduled tough before. In 2016 they lost their first two games then won 12 straight before losing in the CIF state Division 3-AA Bowl Game championship. Last year they lost in overtime to Palma and then went to Colorado and were blanked 27-0 by Colorado No. 1 Valor Christian-Highlands Ranch. That left them 2-2 but from there the Bears rattled off 11 straight wins culminating in a 21-7 victory over Lincoln-San Diego in the CIF state Division 3-AA Bowl Game championship.

Folsom is equally tough passing or running the ball. Oak Ridge intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Jake Reithmeier twice last week, but the 6-2, 205-pound senior was 20-of-32 for 305 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winning TD pass to senior wide receiver Elijah Badger, who has 16 major D1 college offers, on a 6-yard pass with just under four minutes to play. Two weeks ago he passed for 321 yards and three TDs with one pick against De La Salle.

Running back Daniyel Ngata, a 5-9, 180-pound senior who has two dozen major D1 college offers, has been slowly getting back to full strength after nursing an early season injury. Against Oak Ridge he led the Folsom rushing attack with 77 yards and one touchdown.

The way it’s looking Menlo-Atherton will have its hands full stopping the Folsom offense. When the Bears are on offense they will need a solid game from 5-11, 170-pound sophomore quarterback Matt MacLeod. So far this season he’s passed for 612 yards and seven TDs with one interception. His favorite receivers, junior Tony Franklin and sophomore Jalen Moss, have combined for 27 receptions for 400 yards and five TDs so far this season.

Senior running back Francisco Sanchez leads the Bears with 187 yards and two TDs rushing, but the rest of the team has only matched his total yardage win one additional touchdown.

Folsom will present as big or a bigger challenge than teams like Valor Christian last year or East this year, but even if they lose it can only help them as the season progresses and in the playoffs to see the kind of talent Folsom puts on the field.

Escalon (4-0) at Hilmar (5-0), Friday, 7:00 pm

This game may not make waves outside the greater Modesto area and southern portion of the Sac-Joaquin Section, but as it relates to small school football in the SJS and Northern California as a whole, it’s huge. The bottom line is this may actually be the biggest game in Northern California so it’s time to give the small schools some love

Escalon is a proven commodity from a statewide basis after the 2010 team pulled off a big win when they captured the 2010 CIF Division III Bowl Game title with a convincing 30-14 victory over Madison-San Diego.

That was then and this is now, and the Cougars come into the game at Hilmar as the top small school team in the SJS based on the Sacramento Bee, and Cal-Hi Sports rankings where Escalon and Hilmar are the small school Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state.

Escalon had a bye last week but two weeks ago that had a 49-20 statement win over a host Downey-Modesto team that is a SJS D2 top 10 ranked team.

The powerful running game of Escalon has been unstoppable this season. The Cougars rushed for all seven of their scores against Downey and racked up a whopping 485 yards on the ground. Luke Anderson, a 5-10, 210-pound bruising running back plowed his way to 210-yards and two TDs rushing, and 6-0, 185-pound senior running back Kaden Christensen found pay dirt four times and finished with 175 yards rushing.

Escalon has played a considerably more difficult schedule than Hilmar yet the running game has been punishing. Of the 1,200 yards and 14 TDs they’ve amassed in four games Anderson and Christensen have accounted for 843 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Hilmar will be at home but can they stop Escalon? We shall see.

The Yellowjackets are coming off a signature win of their own, and while their 38-27 win over CIFSJS D5 No. 2 and Cal-Hi Sports Small School Bubble team Ripon might not be as impressive as the Escalon win over Downey, it is certainly a boost to the confidence of Hilmar.

For Hilmar to beat Escalon they will need a loud, raucous home crowd and the arms and legs of quarterback Seth Miguel. The 6-1, 185-pound senior passed for 135 yards and two TDs and rushed for 89 yards and two more scores against Ripon.

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