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Prep football preview: Rancho Cotate, Maria Carrillo set for league showdown

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With Cardinal Newman firmly in the driver’s seat in the North Bay League-Oak Division football standings, the scramble could be for second place — and two of the candidates are squaring off Friday night. In a crucial matchup that could determine the league runner-up, Maria Carrillo will visit Rancho Cotate at 7 p.m.

“We will concede that the league title is lost and we are focusing on getting ready for the North Coast Section playoffs,” Rancho Cotate coach Gehrig Hotaling said. “Maria Carrillo has posed challenges to us in the past. They have been our Achilles’ heel in the league at times.”

The Cougars (4-3, 1-1) have three areas that need to be improved upon to reach the next level, Hotaling said — higher percentage of field goal/extra point conversions, reducing turnovers and reducing unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.

“This stuff needs to be cleaned up or our ship is sunk, but if we clean these up we can go the distance,” Hotaling said. “Our entire focus is on these three areas.”

Meanwhile, Maria Carrillo (4-3, 1-1) is playing its best ball of the season, winning four of its last five games, including a decisive 54-16 win at Analy last week. The Pumas’ wing-t offense will provide a challenge to the Cougars’ defense.

The Pumas were one point from having a five-game winning streak heading into Friday’s contest, with a 20-19 loss at Ukiah the only blemish on their league record.

The teams have similar points for-and-against ratios on the season, with the Cougars scoring 167 points and surrendering 132 and the Pumas scoring 170 points and giving up 149.

Rancho Cotate’s Rasheed Rankin leads the league in rushing, averaging 124 yards per game.

In other games Friday:

WINDSOR Jaguars (5-2, 1-1) vs. CARDINAL NEWMAN Cardinals (6-1, 2-0)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Cardinal Newman High School

The Jaguars could give the Cardinals a tough game, depending on how stout the Windsor defense is. Last week Windsor lost 33-20 to visiting Rancho Cotate. A similar defensive performance Friday will not carry the day for the Jaguars, who will likely not win an offensive shootout with the high-scoring Cardinals. … Newman’s offense is led by the NBL-Oak’s leading quarterback, Jackson Pavitt, who is averaging 181 yards passing, with 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions for the season.

PINER Prospectors (8-0, 2-0) vs. MONTGOMERY Vikings (0-7, 0-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Montgomery High School

A Piner victory would keep the high-flying Prospectors’ amazing undefeated season going. The host Vikings, meanwhile, have seen the bottom drop out on their season. The Prospectors are the presumptive NBL-Redwood champions this season — taking the mantle from the Vikings, last season’s league winners. But Piner does still have a matchup with Santa Rosa to finish off that title quest. … The differences in points scored per game between the teams is stark — Piner is averaging 55.6 points and Montgomery 8.8. Piner has scored 445 points this season and given up only 45. Montgomery has been outscored 243-62 on the season. … Piner quarterback Yonaton Isack leads the nation with 39 touchdown passes.

UKIAH Wildcats (3-4, 1-1) vs. ANALY Tigers (1-6, 0-2)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Analy High School

The struggling Tigers have been beaten handily the past three games — 54-16 versus Maria Carrillo, 47-8 against Windsor and 41-0 versus Piner. Underdog Analy will have to toughen on defense to contain Ukiah’s heavy power-run offense. … The Wildcats are averaging 14 points a game on offense but have surrendered double that on defense.

CASA GRANDE Gauchos (3-4, 2-1) vs. NAPA Grizzlies (5-2, 2-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Casa Grande High School

Casa Grande started out the season in rocky fashion in nonleague play but seem re-energized in the Vine Valley Athletic League winning two of its three league games, including a 35-0 home win over Sonoma Valley last week. … The teams are tied for third place in the VVAL. … Napa has outscored opponents roughly 3-1 this season.

MIDDLETOWN Mustangs (5-2, 4-0) vs. WILLITS Wolverines (5-2, 3-1)

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Willits High School

Defending NCS Division 5 champion Middletown is performing on all cylinders right now, and sits in the driver’s seat to win the North Central I league. A victory over the gritty Wolverines (tied for second with Lower Lake) would be a big step for the Mustangs in clinching the league title. … The key to an upset victory for Willits is to figure out a way to limit Middletown’s punishing run game, no small task.

Also this weekend:

Friday’s games

North Bay League-Redwood

Healdsburg at El Molino, 7:30 p.m.

Vine Valley Athletic League

Petaluma at Sonoma Valley, 7 p.m.

NCL I

Clear Lake at Cloverdale, 7 p.m.

Lower Lake at Kelseyville, 7:30 p.m.

St. Helena at Fort Bragg, 7:30 p.m.

NCL II

Tomales at Calistoga, 6 p.m.

NCL III

Laytonville at South Fork, 7 p.m.

Nonleague

Cornerstone Christian at Upper Lake, 6 p.m.

Saturday’s games

NCL II

Roseland Collegiate Prep at Branson, 1 p.m.

Nonleague

St. Vincent vs. Oakland Military Institute, 7 p.m.

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