Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Since the prep football preview stories aren’t online just yet, I’m posting some here. I figured this, like the players to watch, was another that might inspire some discussion.
I tried to sprinkle in some variety, but no doubt omitted some compelling matchups. What games would you include?:
CARDINAL NEWMAN VS. CENTRAL CATHOLIC, 2 p.m. Saturday
These traditional state powers will open the season against each other for the sixth straight year.
And for the second straight season, they will meet at the “Battle At the Capital,” a two-day, six-game event at Del Oro High in Loomis.
The game will be an early measuring stick for the Cardinals, whose 36-12 loss to Central Catholic last year exposed their lack of team speed, a deficiency that plagued them during a 7-5 season.
Newman expects to be improved.
And so do the Raiders, whose 2009 season was also short of their sky-high standards. Central Catholic went 11-2 last year, but didn’t advance past the Sac-Joaquin Section quarterfinals for the first time in a decade.
PIEDMONT AT HEALDSBURG, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
This matchup, on the surface, may not grab your attention.
But Piedmont’s offense will.
The Highlanders run the A-11 offense, an attack that’s grabbed national attention and was designed by Piedmont coaches Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries in 2007.
The A-11 typically employs formations with two quarterbacks, three linemen and six wide receivers.
You probably won’t see another game like this one all year.
MONTGOMERY AT CASA GRANDE, Sept. 24
Unlike the Egg Bowl (Casa Grande vs. Petaluma) or the Golden Apple (Analy vs. El Molino), this is not a traditional rivalry.
But it’s become one of the Empire’s fiercest, and most competitive, in recent years.
The Gauchos and Vikings have met the past eight seasons and the series is tied 3-3-2 during that span, with Montgomery barely outscoring Casa Grande, 116-108.
Last year, Montgomery avenged a 21-20 regular-season loss with a 14-7 victory in the North Coast Section Division II semifinals in which it limited the high-scoring Gauchos to their fewest points in their past 21 games.
The game will be televised, on tape delay, by Comcast Hometown Network.
CARDINAL NEWMAN AT MONTGOMERY, Oct. 22
These longtime North Bay League powers have met in some of the most memorable games in Empire history, contests that have featured some of the area’s best all-time players (See Mel Gray, Jerry Robinson, Koa Misi).
The Cardinals will be seeking revenge after getting physically battered in a 9-0 loss last year.
One series oddity: The road team has won the past 10 meetings.
OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:
Rancho Cotate at Castlemont, Sept. 17: Castlemont of Oakland will be led by first-year coach Russell White, Cal’s all-time leading rusher.
Valley Christian at Cardinal Newman, Sept. 17: The Warriors, ranked 13th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, feature RB Byron Marshall, Cal-Hi’s Sophomore of the Year in ’09.
Casa Grande at Maria Carrillo, Sept. 24: The second-seeded Gauchos’ 18-17 first-round playoff win over the No. 15 Pumas last year might have been the best game of the season.
Petaluma at Rancho Cotate, Sept. 24: If Casa vs. Carrillo wasn’t the top game of ’09, this first-round classic (No. 1 Petaluma 12, No. 16 Rancho Cotate 7) wins the prize.
Montgomery at Rancho Cotate, Oct. 8: This one figures to have NBL title implications.
Analy at El Molino, Oct. 15: Footballs will be flying in the Golden Apple as Analy QB Jake Zanutto and El Molino QB Mike Pierson square off.
Casa Grande at Windsor, Nov. 5: Can the Jags challenge for SCL supremacy? This late-season game could provide the answer.