After seeing its season end at the hands of either De La Salle or Liberty in the last three seasons, Clayton Valley is back away from the Division 1 powerhouses, and the Ugly Eagles would love nothing more than to restore their glory days from 2012-2015. But they are also joined by numerous schools which previously were classified as Division 1 schools, including Vintage, San Leandro, Foothill and Napa.
The first round in the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs will feature one rematch from the regular season, as San Leandro and Foothill meet at Burrell Field, while the city of Napa nearly had a rematch of its regular season-ending Big Game between Vintage and Napa, but with those two teams now on opposite sides of the bracket, the only way they can meet is in the title game.
This bracket, however, could be filled with intriguing twists in the later rounds. The possibility of a Vintage-Campolindo semifinal would match up two very disciplined teams on the field, but the most intriguing possibility would be a Clayton Valley versus Campolindo final, after the Ugly Eagles were shipped out of Campolindo’s league – the Diablo Athletic League – for competitive equity purposes.
With all that said, let’s take a closer look at the entire field.
No. 1 Clayton Valley Charter, No. 2 Vintage, No. 3 Campolindo, No. 4 San Leandro, No. 5 Foothill, No. 6 Livermore, No. 7 Redwood, No. 8 Napa
It was hard to dispute the selection of Clayton Valley as the top seed in this division, despite an overall record of 5-5 for the Ugly Eagles. All five of their losses came to five of the top six seeds in Division 1, and they had a big-time non-league win over a Turlock team which thumped Del Oro in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs. And after playing three straight years in the Open Division, Clayton Valley is hungry to extend its season. The last time the Ugly Eagles were in Division 2 was in 2015, when they captured the section crown, won in the CIF NorCal regional round and reached a state final against Narbonne-Harbor City.
Vintage made a name for itself while playing in Division 1 last season, reaching the section semifinals before falling to San Ramon Valley. Now the Crushers are looking to go even further in their second year as an NCS school. Vintage went unbeaten in the Vine Valley Athletic League for the second straight year, and its non-league win over Acalanes ended up being a tipping point to get the two seed over Campolindo, which fell to Acalanes during league play. Campolindo, of course, tied for the DAL-Foothill crown this season with Las Lomas and Acalanes, and the Cougars are looking to get back to the Division 2 title game after winning back-to-back Division 2 crowns in 2016 and 2017, to go with their Division 3 titles the previous two years.
San Leandro earned the four seed by virtue of its second-place finish in the WACC-Foothill and its season-opening head-to-head win over Foothill. Foothill lost to Clayton Valley during league play but did have a big win over San Ramon Valley, part of a five-game win streak for the Falcons which was followed by a four-game losing streak playing in the rugged EBAL-Mountain. Livermore dropped its last two games of the season, falling out of first-place tie in the EBAL-Valley to finish a couple games behind league champion Amador Valley, but can point to a big non-league win over Windsor as proof of what the young Cowboys are capable of.
Redwood earned the pennant as Marin County Athletic League champion this season, but did not get the automatic berth for that league since it goes to Marin Catholic. The Giants played tough in a 14-0 loss to Marin Catholic, but their seeding was ultimately hampered by bad loss to Berkeley in the season opener and a lack of quality victories during the rest of the season. Napa could be a dangerous eight seed, after playing Vintage tough in the regular season finale. The Grizzlies’ three losses were all by seven points or less, and they have arguably the top player in this playoff field, with highly-recruited junior standout Brock Bowers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CVC RB Makhi Gervais, CVC WR/DB Rayshawn Jackson, CVC LB Lukas Linkhart, CVC WR/DB Seth Gwynn, Vintage QB Jacob Aaron, Vintage RB/DB Mauricio Castro, Vintage OLB Bryer Scott, Vintage RB/LB Dylan Smith, Campo QB Grant Harper, Campo RB Ryan O’Neil, Campo LB Mason Mastrov, Campo RB/OLB Brandon Manty, San Leandro RB/LB Osaro Aihie, San Leandro QB DJ Bryant, San Leandro OL/DL Hunter Thompson, San Leandro OL/DL Jared Palega
Foothill ATH Pete Montini, Foothill RB Jayden Payne, Foothill LB Max Masajlo, Foothill OL/DL James Parisi, Livermore QB Shaun Smith, Livermore LB Eli Nuddleman, Livermore RB Dom Belluomini, Livermore WR/DB Ritchie Fenton, Redwood RB Luke McKernan, Redwood QB Matt Smalbach, Redwood WR/DB Max Tribuzio, Redwood DE Henry Minturn, Napa ATH Brock Bowers, Napa QB Isaiah Newton, Napa RB Benito Saldivar, Napa LB Issac Rojas
THEY SAID IT
“This game provides a lot of motivation for us, having played San Leandro five times in the past three years now. They are a well-coached team with a lot of good athletes,” said Foothill senior Pete Montini. “The biggest thing for us is to keep their quarterback in the pocket and contained because the last time we played them, he ripped us apart. It would also be nice to get another shot at Clayton, because the last time we played them, we got embarrassed.”
“Our regular season did not end how we planned it, but these last couple losses will fuel us to play a perfect game and get back on track to where we were earlier in the season,” said Livermore junior quarterback Shaun Smith. “Campolindo is very solid and it will be a tough game for us, but I wholeheartedly believe in my guys. Grant Harper is a great quarterback, someone I have trained with, and our defense will have to account for his skill. And facing players like Mason Mastrov, we have to game plan for taking them out of the game and be able to score while dealing with their pressure.”
“We have to take this top seed and make the most of it,” said Clayton Valley coach Tim Murphy. “We are definitely battle-tested now, so we just have to continue to get healthy and truly take it one game at a time.”
In a field full of battle-tested teams, San Leandro is certainly among the most experienced. A one-point loss to Encinal was all that stood between the Pirates and a WACC-Foothill title, and three of their four non-league games were against Division 1 opponents.
San Leandro has standout athletes on both sides of the ball, and runs a style of offense which shortens the game and places emphasis on each possession. The Pirates are also seeking their first title game appearance since a 14-0 loss to De La Salle in the 2005 4A championship.
Clayton Valley Charter