New leagues mean new start
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 3:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 3:46 p.m.
Area high school football teams start all over again this week.
After what were tough pre-league schedules, local teams get down to the serious business of league play this weekend. And, it will all be different for Petaluma, Casa Grande, St. Vincent and Tomales.
Casa Grande opens league play with a familiar opponent, going to Santa Rosa Friday night to face Montgomery's Vikings. Over the years, the two schools have developed an intense, but friendly, rivalry on the football field.
What is different this season is that their meeting is a league game, as Casa Grande joins the North Bay League for the first time.
Petaluma remains in the Sonoma County League, but will have a new opponent as it hosts Piner Friday night. Piner is moving from the NBL to the SCL.
St. Vincent and Tomales both begin play in the all-new North Central League II/Bay Football League, a hybrid NCL II league that now includes small-school teams from the East Bay.
St. Vincent starts at home with an early evening (5 p.m. kickoff) game against Stellar Prep from Hayward while Tomales begins its league season Saturday afternoon at St. Elizabeth in Oakland.
New league, old rivalry
The only thing new about the Casa Grande vs. Montgomery game at Montgomery is the league. The Gaucho and Vikings are longtime intense rivals, and it doesn't much matter what their records are going into the game.
Last year, Casa Grande enjoyed a 9-4 season, while Montgomery was a disappointing 3-8, and yet the Gauchos had to battle furiously to pull out a 14-10 win.
This season Casa is 2-1 going into the game, while Montgomery stands 1-2. However the team's are coming off distinctively different games. The Gauchos were idle last week after suffering a disappointing 35-14 loss to Napa. Montgomery, after losing back-to-back to Pinole Valley, 38-28, and Clayton Valley, 57-35, found its defense in a 40-0 win over Washington of San Francisco.
The game, on paper, looks to be an offensive showcase. Despite its 1-2 record, Montgomery has scored 100 points in three games, an average of better than 33 a game. They counted 40 against Washington last week playing without standout wide receiver Etienne Ezeff, who sat out the game with an ankle injury. He is expected to be back this week, creating more problems for a Gaucho secondary that must also be concerned with 6 foot, 7-inch tight end Dakota Row.
Montgomery quarterback Chris Hester had to learn quick varsity lessons last week when injuries forced him into the starting lineup. As the Viking scoring shows, he is having a productive senior season.
Leading ball carrier for the Vikings is senior Logan Francavilla.
Casa Grande is not without offensive weapons of its own. Led by quarterback JaJuan Lawson, fullback Elijah Qualls, running back John Porchivina and receivers Cole Boggs and Jarred Roberts, the Gauchos have scored 112 points of their own in three games, averaging better than 37 points a game.
But the teams went into last year's games featuring similar scoring machines and managed just three touchdowns between them. It is that kind of rivalry.
New season for Troy
Petaluma High's Trojans are definitely looking forward to the start of the SCL season after a very difficult pre-league campaign that has them 0-4 with just three points in their last two games.
Piner's Prospectors are new to the SCL, joining the league, along with Elsie Allen, in the switch that sent Casa Grande and Windsor to the NBL.
Piner got its season off to an impressive start with a 21-8 win over San Rafael, but then its defense showed holes in losses to Drake, 38-27; Justin Siena, 46-6; and, last week, Hercules, 32-23.
The Petaluma secondary, led by ball hawk Danny Murphy, who had two thefts against Rancho Cotate last week, will be tested by Piner quarterback Noel Hernandez, who leads a potentially high-powered Prospector offense. Still a junior, Hernandez was tested under fire as a starting quarterback in the NBL as a sophomore.
He has an excellent receiver in Natu Hezchias and a pair of swift running backs in Austin Nahmens (also a receiving threat) and Dominic Wilson.
Both teams have been plagued in the pre-league by turnovers.
Despite strong efforts from fullback Sam Spurling and quarterback Patrick Bailey, and an improving offensive line, the Trojans have failed to deliver the consistency necessary to make their grinding triple-option offense a success.
With the strong-armed Bailey throwing to Eric Hunsicker and Bradley Alvarez, the Trojans have the potential for a dangerous passing game, but turnovers and their strong opposition have too often forced them to throw when they had to as opposed to when they want to.
A bright spot for the Trojans has been the strong kickoff returns of junior speedster Gabe Medina, who has already returned one to the house and routinely gives Petaluma good drive-starting field position.
Much will be strange about St. Vincent's first North Central League II/Bay Football League game. Not only is it the first game in the new league for the Mustangs, it is the first time they have played the Stellar Prep Thunder. Stellar Prep is a private school in Hayward playing its first varsity season.
Another unique aspect of the game is that it was originally scheduled to be played at Stellar Prep, but the school could not locate a field and the game was moved to St. Vincent. Because of a conflict with a volleyball jamboree being played at St. Vincent, the game could not be played, as St. Vincent normally does, on Saturday afternoon and since St. Vincent's Yarbrough Field has no lights, the contest has been slated for a 5 p.m. Friday kickoff.
Actually, the junior varsity game will kick off at 3 p.m. and the varsity game will start as close to the end of that game as possible.
Stellar Prep has already recorded its first varsity football victory. After losing their opener to Mendoto, 48-14, the Thunder made school history with a 52-26 victory over Stone Ridge Christian. Last week, the Thunder got their first look at North Central League football and were beaten by Clear Lake from the NCL I, 41-0.
St. Vincent last week got back on the winning track. After being handled by small school power, St. Helena the week before, last week the Mustangs responded with a 21-14 victory over Cloverdale. Overall, the Mustangs start league play with a 2-1 record.
It is comeback time for Tomales' Braves after they suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of St. Helena's big-play Saints, 41-14, last week.
The loss leaves Tomales with a 2-1 record to take into its league opener at St. Elizabeth in Oakland Saturday afternoon.
The Braves, winners of the NCL II title last season before Bay Football was added to the league, have faced St. Elizabeth several times in the North Coast Section Division V playoffs over the last few seasons with mixed results.
However, St. Elizabeth has hit on lean times. Last season the Oakland team was 0-10. This year it is 0-3 with losses to Fremont, 42-23; DeAnza, 64-21; and John Swett, 65-0.
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