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Casa Grande will wait and heal, while St. Vincent and Tomales begin their new seasons with old foes as the North Coast Section football playoffs begin this week.

Petaluma, which finished with a 4-6 overall record, but with a solid 4-2 Sonoma County League mark, did not apply for a spot in the Division 3 playoffs.

"We felt with less than a .500 record we would have a hard time getting in, and we wanted the kids to end with a good experience," explained Petaluma coach Rick Krist.

Casa Grande's Gauchos, seeded No. 4 in Division 2, draws a first-round bye and will open Saturday, Nov. 17 against the winner of Friday night's game between Concord (8-2) and Mt. Eden (6-4).

The lower half of the Division 5 bracket is made up entirely of NCL II/Bay Football League teams. Co-champions St. Vincent and California School for the Deaf both play at home Saturday afternoon, with the Mustangs hosting Calistoga and CSD meeting Tomales.

Time to heal

"The bye is a great thing for us," said Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog. "It will give us a chance to get some kids healed up. We've got a lot of kids who have been playing banged up."

Most important of the walking wounded for Casa Grande is quarterback JaJuan Lawson who suffered a high-ankle injury in last week's game against Cardinal Newman. Herzog said the Gaucho coaches talked about holding Lawson out if Casa would have had to play a first-round game this week. The coach said that with a week to heal and rest, the junior should be completely ready for the second-round.

Although Casa Grande has a multitude of offensive weapons, Lawson is the key. He has passed for 1,820 yards and 17 touchdowns and run for 622 more yards.

Casa Grande also needs healthier bodies on the offensive line, where it has lost two starters for the season and has others playing with aches and pains. The hurt in the front line forced the coaches to move 280-pound Elijah Qualls, the team's leading rusher, to center and insert junior John Porchivina into a starting backfield position.

Herzog points out another advantage to receiving a first-round bye for the Gauchos — they have played extremely well coming off a bye week. In the third week of the season, the Gauchos were beaten by Napa, 35-14. The next week was their bye week and they came back refreshed and ready to dominate Montgomery, 49-19.

Once again, the Gauchos are coming off a loss, 25-7, to Cardinal Newman, into a bye week.

The loss to Cardinal Newman was only Casa Grande's third of the season against seven wins. Their first year in the North Bay League the Gauchos finished with a 5-2 record.

Of Casa Grande's two possible second-round opponents, Concord's Minutemen would appear the most dangerous. They would bring an 9-2 record and a second-place standing in the Diablo Valley Athletic League into the contest.

Mt. Eden's Monarchs from Hayward would be 7-4 on the season coming into the Big House with a first-round win.

Not a good thing

St. Vincent's Mustangs are happy about getting a home game for the first round of the Division 5 playoffs. They are not happy with their first opponent. The Mustangs open with Calistoga, a team they beat, 47-21, just last week.

"It is nice we're playing at home, but I don't want to play Calistoga back-to-back," said St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway."I would really have liked to play someone else."

The game will also mark the third time in the last four years that St. Vincent has opened the playoffs with Calistoga.

But the Mustangs have to dance with the date given them by the NCS seeding committee, and that means the Wildcats are coming to town.

Galloway says, despite last week's score, he expects a tough game Saturday, pointing out that Calistoga was within a score of the Mustangs (27-21) in the second half.

"They gave us everything we could handle,' he said.

St. Vincent goes into the game with an 8-2 overall record and a 6-1 league record that gives it a title tie with California School for the Deaf.

The Mustangs have some very impressive offensive numbers to show for the regular season. Quarterback Mitch Sheppard has completed 121 out of 197 passes for 1,952 yards and 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 126.

Over the second half of the season, the Mustangs have become a more run-oriented team. Junior Derek Murphy has rushed for 841 yards, but has sat out most of the second half of what have become customary Mustang blow-out games.

George Sammon, who has played most of those second halves, has rushed for 551 yards and has twice run for more than 100 yards in a game.

Calistoga comes calling with a 6-4 overall record and a 4-3 league mark.

The Wildcats got the attention of the league when they beat then league unbeaten Upper Lake, 10-6, and Tomales, 33-14, back-to-back before running into St. Vincent last week.

Calistoga, as it showed the Mustangs last week, has an outstanding quarterback in Orion Harrell, who hit in eight of 15 passes last week against the Mustangs. His problem was that St. Vincent caught four of his throws for interceptions.

Dylan Alvarado rushed for 78 yards against the Mustangs, breaking one run for a 39-yard touchdown.

His complement in the Calistoga backfield is Max Caldera, who worked inside for 59 tough yards.

Tomales also has a rematch to start the playoffs, facing league co-champion California School for the Deaf in Fremont.

CSD defeated Tomales, 17-14, in league play. CSD was one of the few teams able to stop the Anthony Feliciano-led Brave running attack.

Tomales rebounded from that loss to defeat Stellar Prep's first-year varsity team, 51-14, before losing back-to-back to St. Vincent, 34-0 and Calistoga, 33-14.

The Braves bounced back again to defeat playoff-bound Upper Lake last week, 36-8, to clinch a playoff berth.

CSD hosts the Braves with a 9-1 overall and 6-1 league record.

The Eagles only defeat was at the hands of Upper Lake, 20-3.

Using a defense that has recorded three shutouts and allowed a touchdown or less in two other games, the Eagles have rolled off six straight wins since their loss.

Both games kick off Saturday at 1 p.m.

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