Los Gatos (12-1) at Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa (12-1), Friday, 7:30pm
The CIF Northern Regional Division 3-AA Bowl Game pits a public school against a private catholic school, but both teams, CIF North Coast Section Division 4 champion Cardinal Newman, and CIF Central Coast Section Division II champion Los Gatos are proven winning programs.
Cardinal Newman, the Cal-Hi Sports No. 43 ranked team but is only No. 71 in the power rankings, has won 13 CIF North Coast Section titles but this was the first since 2016 when the Cardinals were then selected for the 2-AA Division and sent to Valley Christian-San Jose where they were soundly beaten. After winning an NCS title Newman wasn’t selected for a Bowl Game under the old system in 2010, but in 2008 they went to Carson and lost to St. Bonaventure-Ventura. In 2006 and in the first year the CIF re-established state championships in football, they gave Southern California powerhouse and heavily favored Oaks Christian a scare before falling 27-20 in overtime.
If Coach Paul Cronin and his boys can get past Los Gatos they’ll get a third crack at a Bowl Game championship against the winner of the Temecula Valley-Temecula at El Camino-Oceanside contest going on at the same time for the Southern Regional 3-AA title.
Beating Los Gatos is not going to be an easy task against a team that has won 15 CIF Central Coast titles but Newman will be favored whether or not there are wet and windy conditions.
Last week, in the rain and blustery winds, the top-seeded Cardinals outlasted a very good No. 2 seed Marin Catholic team behind the arms and legs of 6-1, 190-pound senior quarterback Jackson Pavitt, and the left foot of senior kicker Ethan Kollenborn.
After Pavitt rushed for the Cardinals only TD of the game, Kollenborn booted a 46-yard field goal despite the conditions that gave Newman a 10-0 halftime lead. Then, after Marin Catholic fought back to tie it at 10-10, Pavitt converted a fourth-and-13 on a pass to Justin Lafranchi in the waning seconds to get within field goal range, Coach Paul Cronin called Kollenborn’s number and the 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior connected from 38-yards as time expired.
Pavitt finished with 257 yards passing on 20 for 33, but he did have an interception. He also rushed for 70 yards on 21 carries with the one TD, but Newman is going to need others like 5-10, 190-pound junior running back Shane Moran to do more in the rushing department since against Marin Catholic the rest of the team only had seven yards.
The receiving corps led by senior Giancarlo Woods, rising junior star Tsion Nunnally, Lafranchi, and Moran out of the backfield, played well against Marin Catholic and will need to catch some balls against Los Gatos.
The defense has been stout led by Moran at linebacker, senior linebacker Hunter Graniss, junior linebacker Mitch Russell, and Woods and Nunnally in the backfield.
“The keys to winning big games like this is making big plays,” Cronin remarked. “We need to put the focus into playing football and not worry about the score or title of the game. The game never changes only your perception of the game changes.”
Pavitt, who looked very sharp in a mid-week practice feels up to the task.
“We feel like if we play our game things will most definitely take care of themselves. That’s what we trust,” Pavitt remarked. “The key will be execution on offense. Our defense has been solid all season long.”
“Our offense isn’t exactly where it needs to be,” Pavitt continued. “It wasn’t last so we’ve got room to move forward.”
Los Gatos comes into the game on a seven-game winning streak since a lopsided loss to Wilcox-Santa Clara, and last week they coasted to a 21-0 victory in the CCS D2 title game over Oak Grove-San Jose.
Wildcats quarterback Yost Girvan, a 5-11, 190-pound senior who like Pavitt is a dual threat, hardly broke a sweat last week, and neither did primary running back Adam Garwood, but on the season Girvan has passed for 1,626 yards and 20 TDs with six interceptions, and he’s rushed for 548 yards and six more scores. Garwood, a 5-6, 145-pound junior, has rushed for 1,215 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Los Gatos, who will be making their first even appearance in a CIF Regional Bowl Game, is not on the Cal-Hi Sports radar screen but they are not far behind Cardinal Newman at No. 78 in the power rankings, and part of that is the De Anza League, where they finished second to Wilcox, is considered one of the top leagues in the Central Coast Section based on power rankings.
Even so, Cardinal Newman would seem to have played a stronger schedule, and in their lone loss, 17-13 on the road to NCS powerhouse Liberty-Brentwood, they gave the Lions all they could handle. Newman will be a favorite but anything can happen, particularly if the weather turns ugly.
“Needless to say the players and the town are excited to be playing in a NorCal game, and it’s a first for us so there is a little extra excitement,” Los Gatos Coach Mark Krail said.
“As far as keys to victory it’s pretty similar to the last several weeks,” Krail continued. “On offense its being assignment perfect and ball security, and on defense it’s again being assignment perfect and eliminating the big plays. Our guys have played very well for several weeks in a row. It’s going to be a hard-fought four-quarter battle, and should be fun.”
Newman was projected by some analysts, and the chit chat on social media was the Cardinals would be in 2-A against McClymonds, so how did Cronin and his staff prevent the team from somehow thinking Los Gatos would not be as tough as a 2-A team.
“Being in this situation before helps,” Cronin said. “The message we talked about this week to our players was about focusing on the right things, assignments, eyes and playing with great effort. We tried to explain that if we become fans and look at projected brackets and message boards that we would become fans and that is a hurtful distraction.”
Look for game coverage on Prep2Prep either late Friday night or early Saturday morning.