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<b>Cardinal Newman at Modesto Christian</b>

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Notable: These teams met in the season opener last year with the Cardinals winning at home, 48-20. Tonight the score figures to be closer, possibly much closer . . . When they met Aug. 24, 2012, Modesto was missing quarterback Jackson Finch, who had fractured his tibula and fibula in preseason practice. "He's back and at full strength," Cardinal coach Paul Cronin. "We scouted them in their scrimmage last week against Merced and two other teams. I was really impressed with him and the rest of the team. They're physical and return a lot of guns from last season." . . . Newman lost key personnel to graduation, including All-Empire Defensive Player of the Year Philip "Scooby" Wright . . . To win tonight, Newman will need to establish balance on both sides of the ball and first-year starters will need to overcome opening-night jitters . . . "I like our guys," Cronin said. "They've put in a lot of effort getting ready for the season and I'm looking forward to seeing how they play."

The pick: Cardinal Newman, 28-14

<b>Santa Rosa at Petaluma</b>

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Notable: Both teams finished with 4-6 records last year . . . Despite losing All-Empire running back Jahray Hayes, the Panthers offense should still be potent . . . Vince Jones is back for his third season at quarterback and his go-to receiver will be Alfredo Carretero . . . Gabe Roque is the top running back . . . The Trojans also have a three-year starter at QB -- Patrick Bailey. He got the nod over Brendon White earlier this week. "We'll start the season platooning the two," coach Rick Krist said . . . Gabe Medina will be the primary ball carrier. He missed a portion of 2012 with a quad injury . . . Krist is impressed by film he's seen of Santa Rosa. "The quarterback (Jones) is very talented," he said. "They have good size on defense and will be tough to handle."

The pick: Santa Rosa 21,

Petaluma 14

<b>Pittsburg at Analy</b>

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Notable: Of all the teams in the Redwood Empire, the Tigers have the toughest opening-season matchup. Pittsburg is ranked No. 51 in California and No. 417 nationally . . . The Division 1 school lost to state champion De La Salle, 35-13, in the second round of the playoffs last year . . . Meanwhile, Analy (Division 3) lost a number of players to graduation from the team that finished 12-1 . . . Pittsburg got ready for Analy by scrimmaging De La Salle. "They went toe-to-toe with De La Salle," Tigers coach Dan Bourdon said. "We've got work to do." . . . To be competitive, the home team will have to play mistake free.

The pick: Pittsburg 34, Analy 6

<b>Pinole Valley at Montgomery</b>

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Notable: This will mark the first time in 34 years the Vikings have played a game without Jason Franci as their head coach. Athletic director Dean Haskins, who played for Franci, has taken the reins . . . "The kids are real excited to get on the field for real and I'm feeling the same way," Haskins said . . . Elijah Higgs will start at QB. Look for him to team up with wide receiver Etienne Ezeff throughout the evening . . . Among the new assistants helping Haskins are Marcelo Bautista, Jamon Heard, Albert Higgs and Russell Ponce . . . A year ago, Pinole hosted the Vikings and won, 38-28.

The pick: Montgomery 21, Pinole Valley 14

<B>St. Helena at Tomales</b>

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Notable: Through the years, the running game has been the bread-and-butter for the Braves and 2013 will be no different. Anthony Feliciano, one of the most bruising runners in the Empire, is back for his senior season. The 220-pound son of coach Leon Feliciano scored 18 TDs last year and averaged nearly 8 yards per carry . . . Junior Jack Preston takes over at QB for St. Helena following Richard Hoppe's graduation . . . The Saints were 11-2 last year while Tomales finished 6-5.

The pick: St. Helena 20, Tomales 15