With the football season winding down, every game is critical. Petaluma and Tomales face almost must-win games against mammoth opponents this week just to keep their playoff hopes flickering, while Casa Grande and St. Vincent must beware slips as they look forward to their own big challenges still a week down the road.
Petaluma's Trojans, still harboring North Coast Section playoff hopes, will take their break-even record to Sebastopol to face Analy's mighty Tigers, the No. 2-ranked large school in the Redwood Empire. The Tigers are 8-1 on the season, and will be looking to complete a perfect Sonoma County League season after winning their first six straight league games.
Tomales' Braves, coming off a tough 18-14 loss to St. Vincent last week, are 5-3 but just 2-2 in the North Central II/Bay Football League as they travel to Calistoga to meet the unbeaten (7-0 overall, 4-0 league) Wildcats.
Casa Grande's Gauchos, already with the longest regular-season winning streak in school history, hope to take another step toward an undefeated regular season when they host Windsor Friday night. The Gauchos must beware looking past the 4-4 (2-3 NBL) Jaguars toward a final game showdown against powerhouse cardinal Newman.
St. Vincent also must be careful of looking too far ahead as it hosts Upper Lake Saturday afternoon. The win over Tomales last week gave the 5-2 (3-1 in the NCL II/Bay Football League) Mustangs not only playoff hopes, but hopes of a share of the league championship if they can topple unbeaten Calistoga the following week, but a win over the Wildcats won't mean much if they slip against Upper Lake's winless Cougars.
Petaluma's Trojans march into the Tigers' den in Sebastopol knowing full well they are taking on one of the top teams in the Redwood Empire and perhaps in the North Coast Section. Petaluma coach Rick Krist says his team's best defense against the explosive Tigers may well be its offense. "Hopefully we will be able to keep the ball away from them," he explained. "The key for us will be time of possession."
A major factor in Petaluma's success in maintaining ball control will be he continued strong play of its offensive line, a group that is coming into its own after a nearly complete season of learning and rearranging. Anchored by center Chris Remple, the Trojan front of Justin Mahrt and Travis Plank at guards, Nick McCloskey and Joey Reed at tackles and Hunter Williams at tight end, has pushed hard enough to allow the Trojans to score 112 points in its last two games, with the offense being generated almost exclusively on the ground.
A big part of the recent line success has been the willingness of senior Kevin Crudo to switch from running back to line to provide desperately needed depth for players who generally work on both sides of scrimmage.
If the line continues to perform well, the Trojans have the potential to generate offense even against the big and tough Tiger defenders with quarterback Patrick Bailey complementing speedster Gabe Medina and junior Yusef Kawasmi, who has added even more speed to the Petaluma backfield. He became eligible three games ago after setting out the first half of the season because of transfer rules.
But Krist knows the Tigers will be tough.