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Different roads to playoffs

The boot goes on for the Petaluma and Casa Grande High School football teams. Both local schools have been selected to participate in the North Coast Section playoffs.

Casa Grande is seeded No. 7 in Division 2 and will open at home Friday night against Montgomery from its own North Bay League. Petaluma is seeded No. 12 in the talent-loaded Division 3 and will start Friday night in Lafayette against No. 5 seed Acalanes.

Trojans on the road

Petaluma High’s impressive 8-1 record was not enough to earn it a high seed in a division that features Marin Catholic, Cardinal Newman and Rancho Cotate as its top seeds. Analy, champion of Petaluma’s Sonoma County League, is seeded only No. 10.

The result is that Petaluma starts playoff life in the East Bay against a strong Acalanes team that is 8-1 on the season and finished second behind Clayton Valley Charter in the Diablo-Foothill League. Clayton Valley Charter is one of four schools chosen to compete in the prestigious NCS Open Division.

The Dons, particularly on offense, are pretty much built around senior quarterback Robby Rowell. He has completed 143 passes in 227 attempts for 2,081 yards and 33 touchdowns, compiling a 126.9 quarterback rating. He also is the Dons’ leading rusher with 495 yards on 81 carries and three more touchdowns.

“He’s a quality player with a strong arm,” noted Petaluma coach Rick Krist. “We will have to contain him.

“Defensively they don’t do anything we haven’t seen, but they are good.”

The Dons are led on defense by Nick Henderson, a solid 6-foot, 2-inch, 212-pound senior, who has 97 tackles on the season, twice as many as any other Acalanes player. Down lineman Ryan Nall, a 6-foot, 4-inch, 235-pound senior, has 11 tackles for loss.

Krist and his staff know the Dons are good, but the Trojan coach believes his team can give them a battle.

“If we play well, we will be able to compete with them,” Krist said.

Petaluma hasn’t played in two weeks since its bye week fell on the last regularly scheduled week of the season. “It was good for us,” Krist said of the week off. “It gave us a chance to get healthy and prepare. I thought we might be playing Acalanes.”

The Trojans have been vulnerable to a passing attack on occasion this season, but their secondary play, led by Eric Diaz, Isaiah Blomgren and Garrett Freitas, has greatly improved as the season progressed.

Much of the Trojan defensive success will depend on how much pressure Luke Haggard, Xavier Crysdale, Tru Overton and the front line can put on Rowell.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Playing at home

At Casa Grande, the Gauchos’ match against Montgomery is not only a playoff game, but an opportunity to make up a North Bay League match the teams lost because of the fires during the regular season.

Each team goes into the game with just three wins (Casa is 3-6, while Montgomery is 3-5), but the teams are coming from different directions. The Gauchos won their final three regular-season games, while Montgomery lost its final three prior to the playoffs.

Still, the Vikings can be dangerous.

Montgomery quarterback Joey Tresch has carried the Montgomery offense with his right arm, completing 174 of 311 pass attempts for 2,522 yards and 28 touchdowns.

By contrast, Casa Grande has evolved into a smashmouth ground team, running the strong Kenneth Fitzgerald and the swift Jack Leonetti behind a big offensive line.

The combination clicked the best it has all season in last week’s 38-36 must win over Santa Rosa. Fitzgerald rushed for 156 yards and Leonetti 123 in that game.

Casa Grande coach Denis Brunk says the Gauchos have a good shot at a NCS win.

“I like our match-ups,” he said. “Our challenge is to step up our game, but I like our chances.

“This is really exciting for our players. To be in the playoffs and to have a home game is exciting not only for the players, but for the whole school.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.