Prep football preview: NBL schedule opens with a bang

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Rancho Cotate High School would love to stop playing second best to Cardinal Newman in their league football battles. Friday could be the Cougars’ chance.

In the first game of 2019’s North Bay League-Oak Division schedule, the top two teams face off in what many see as the contest that will determine the league championship.

Newman has owned the NBL since 2014, when the Cardinals and Cougars shared the North Bay League title with identical 6-1 records.

Rancho last won the league title exclusively in 2012, when today’s Cougars seniors were preteens.

To call this a possible league title game, assumes, of course, that neither team loses any of their other four division games in the next month.

“It’s a big test for us,” acknowledged Cougars coach Gehrig Hotaling. “Newman is a tough group. They are probably higher ranked than they’ve ever been playing us at this time of year.”

By the numbers, Newman has the advantage.

Newman is ranked 42nd in the state by MaxPreps.com, compared with Rancho’s 170th.

The north Santa Rosa parochial school is 4-1 this season, its only loss to No. 23 Liberty, 17-13, on Sept. 21.

Rohnert Park’s Rancho lost in the season’s opening week to Sacramento, 24-6, and last week, 34-14, to Campolindo, with three wins sandwiched in between.

The Cardinals have won the pair’s past four meet-ups. Since 2004, Newman has walked away the winner of 13 of 16.

Rancho last won in 2014, their co-championship year, 45-38, in overtime.

That was Newman’s last NBL loss. The Cardinals have lost only nine league contests since 2004.

Hotaling said the Cougars can test Newman, if they play consistently.

“The first game, we beat ourselves by giving away three touchdowns,” he said of the 24-6 loss at Sacramento. “And last week we got beat by a bigger, more physical team.”

His team hasn’t truly found its identity yet, he said.

“We just need to improve ourselves. If we concentrate on that, do what we need to do, we give ourselves a chance,” he said.

Part of that includes wrapping up the play — specifically, tackling.

“We’ve been in good spots at times, but then just not been able to finish it,” he said.

For Newman’s part, coach Paul Cronin is wary of veteran Rancho quarterback Jared Stocker’s leadership.

“Anytime you have a senior quarterback who started the year before, they’re a lot more composed. I’ve been impressed how well he’s managed the team offensively,” Cronin said of Stocker. “He’s running the ball, making plays on scrambles.”

Rancho running back Rasheed Rankin is a major threat, Cronin said.

“We’ve seen a lot of teams in preseason that were predominantly run teams,” he said. “We’ve had some challenges with that.”

Rasheed averages more than 120 yards on the ground and has scored seven of Rancho’s rushing touchdowns.

Newman is more of a high-flying team, with quarterback Jackson Pavitt, averaging 187 yards in the air per game, and receivers Tsion Nunnally (five touchdown catches) and Giancarlo Woods (three).

Pavitt hasn’t thrown an interception all season.

Cronin expects the game to be an exciting one, whoever wins.

“That’s always a fun game. You really enjoy playing Rancho,” he said. “The program, the energy they put into their athletics. We’re excited about the opportunity to play a really fun game.

“The kids are excited about Friday night. That’s what you look forward to in games like these. You know the other team is really going to try.”

The Rancho band, student body and fans are set to come out strong in support of the Cougars, Hotaling said.

The game begins at 7 p.m. in Rohnert Park.

In other games Friday:

ANALY Tigers (1-4) vs. WINDSOR Jaguars (4-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Windsor High School

Windsor seems to be finding a groove, winning its last two games by scores of 67-12 over Santa Rosa and 27-0 over last year’s league winner Montgomery.

The Tigers have struggled in nonconference play, losing four straight after opening up with a victory over Santa Rosa. Piner shut them out last week, 41-0.

Jags quarterback Billy Boyle averages more than 150 yards in the air per game, having a plethora of receivers at his disposal.

Nico Contreras has caught six TDs, Landen Estrela three, and E.Z. Woodard, Jake Sievers and Lorenzo Leon one each.

Leon leads the run game, scoring six rushing TDs and avering 117 yards a game.

EL MOLINO Lions (3-2) vs. SANTA ROSA Panthers (1-5)

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Place: Santa Rosa High School

The Lions had a bye week following their 39-24 victory over local rival Analy in the Apple Bowl, but still bring strong momentum with them to face the Panthers.

Santa Rosa has a couple of narrow losses, but hadn’t been able to notch a win until last week with a 30-6 victory over visiting Franklin.

But they lost starting quarterback Trevor Anderson to a broken hand, suffered in the Sept. 20 game against Maria Carrillo, a game he finished despite the injury.

Junior quarterback Weston Lewis leads the Lions’ offense in the air and on the ground, leading the team with yards gained in both categories.

PINER Prospectors (6-0) vs. HEALDSBURG Greyhounds (0-6)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Healdsburg Recreation Park

This may be the biggest mismatch of the season, but Piner knows what it’s like to rebuild a lagging program.

Piner has rolled through the nonconference season on the arm of Yonaton Isack (33 touchdown throws) and receivers Isaac Torres (14 TD catches), Michael Collins (8) and Jake Herman (6).

The Greyhounds are rebounding from their shortened season last year as their roster dwindled, while still looking for their first win of the year.

WILLITS Wolverines (4-1, 2-0) vs. ST. HELENA Saints (5-0, 2-0)

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Place: St. Helena High School

Both undefeated in the North Central League I, Willits and St. Helena look to keep the pressure on Middletown, which is also 2-0.

Wolverines slot back Jacob Arms leads Willits, whose only loss came Sept. 14 in Arcata, 20-7.

Willits’ defense is solid, allowing just 40 points in five games.

The Saints are stingy on defense as well, allowing 98 points but scoring 237. Their closest game was a 44-30 victory over host Winters last month.

St. Helena attacks primarily on the ground, gobbling up more than 300 yards per game rushing, led by Ivan Robledo, Daniel Martinez and Cody DiTomaso.

Friday’s other games:

North Bay League-Oak

Maria Carrillo at Ukiah, 7:30 p.m.

Vine Valley Athletic League

Petaluma vs. Vintage, 7 p.m.

Sonoma Valley at Justin-Siena, 7 p.m.

NCL I

Clear Lake at Middletown, 7 p.m.

Cloverdale at Lower Lake, 7 p.m.

Kelseyville at Fort Bragg, 7:30 p.m.

NCL II/III

Laytonville at Calistoga, 6 p.m.

NCL III

Upper Lake vs. South Fork, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games:

NCL II

Roseland Collegiate Prep at Stuart Hall (San Francisco), 1 p.m.

Nonleague

St. Vincent at Morro Bay, 7 p.m.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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