This is the time in every football season when teams look forward to a new beginning as they start league play. That was never more true than for Petaluma and Casa Grande as they not only start new with league play, but with a new league.
The pre-league season has been successful for Petaluma (3-1), but not so much for Casa Grande (0-4). Those records matter little Friday night when the local teams kick off in the new Vine Valley Athletic League. Everyone in the new league — Justin-Siena, Petaluma, Vintage, Sonoma Valley, Casa Grande, American Canyon and Napa — start 0-0 in games that count.
Petaluma starts VVAL on the road, playing at American Canyon and playing at Justin-Siena the following week. Casa Grande opens at home against Justin-Siena.
Leading up to Friday’s historic beginning, the VVAL has been extremely difficult to untangle.
Vintage seems to be the favorite, and the Crushers have done little to dissuade that opinion in pre-league play, despite going 2-2. Its losses were to Wood, 35-7, and Acalanes, 28-27. Since then, the Crushers have looked more like the dominant team most felt they would be, beating Lincoln, 26-20, and Bellarmine Prep, 26-14.
Vintage had one of its best seasons in two decades last year, going 7-3 and finishing second to Wood in the Monticello Empire League.
Led by senior running back Viliami Schaumkel and senior quarterback Michael Webber, the Crushers have high hopes of taking the next step up to a league championship and a North Coast Section playoff win.
In a case of the rich getting richer, the Crushers get a bye in the first week of VVAL play before opening league on Sept. 21 at home against Casa Grande.
Best VVAL teams by record in pre-league play are Justin-Siena and Petaluma, two of the smallest schools by enrollment in the new league. Both are 3-1 starting counting play.
Siena at Casa Grande
Justin-Siena lost its first game to Piedmont, 28-7. but has since rolled off wins over Healdsburg, 61-0; Armijo of Fairfield, 40-14; and Hercules, 39-8.
The Braves were 3-6 last season, but all three wins were in the Marin County Athletic League, a league that is comparable to the Sonoma County League Petaluma played in last year.
The Braves have a bevy of returning players, led by outstanding senior quarterback Barrett Donohoe.
The Braves visit Casa Grande’s Gauchos for their first VVAL game.
Casa Grande, in a script that is eerily similar to last season, has lost its first four games, falling to Windsor, 30-22; Montgomery, 35-7; San Marin, 28-14; and Maria Carrillo, 41-7.
Last year, Casa lost its first six games, but charged at the end of the season, winning four of its last five, including one in the North Coast Section playoffs, to finish 4-7.
Casa has had a difficult time getting its offense untracked but has the potential to have a lethal passing attack with either senior Jadson Bosarge or junior Miguel Robertson throwing to a bevy of outstanding receivers led by senior Dominic McHale.
The Gauchos have had problems stopping the opposition, yielding an average of 33.5 points per game.
Casa Grande coach Denis Brunk said he is counting on the character and integrity of the players to get the Gauchos on the winning track.