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Santa Rosa joins NCS playoff field

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NCS FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

Division 3 Friday, Nov. 15: (8) Santa Rosa at (1) Las Lomas, 7 p.m. (7) Windsor at (2) Rancho Cotate, 7 p.m.

Division 4 Friday, Nov. 15: (8) Tennyson at (1) Cardinal Newman, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16: (5) Piner at (4) Tamalpais, 1 p.m.

Division 6 Friday, Nov. 15: (5) Lower Lake at (4) Justin-Siena, 7 p.m. (6) Pinole Valley at (3) Middletown, 7 p.m.

Division 7 Friday, Nov. 15: (5) St. Vincent at (4) St. Helena, 7 p.m. (6) El Molino at (3) Willits, 7 p.m.

Division 8 (8-person football) Friday, Nov. 15: (5) Calistoga at (4) Tomales, 7 p.m. (6) Laytonville at (3) South Fork, 7 p.m.

High school football continues for at least one more week for 15 North Coast teams, including Santa Rosa, which Sunday earned a Division 3 North Coast Sectional playoff spot after its league-winning upset Friday over previously undefeated Piner.

League winners earn automatic bids to the playoffs and without it, the Panthers who were ranked 11 among Division 3 teams, likely wouldn’t have been selected for the eight-team sectional bracket.

The 4-5 Panthers, seeded eighth, travel to Walnut Creek to play No. 1 seed Las Lomas (9-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

“Las Lomas looks really good,” said Panthers coach Russell Ponce, who was just beginning his homework on the Walnut Creek team. “They have a back who’s going to Oregon State and have some really talented receivers.”

Running back Isaiah Newell, 6-3 and 215, committed to OSU after receiving offers from 16 universities, including USC and six others from the Pac-12. He averages more than 200 yards a game on the ground.

Ponce will gameplan this week to see if he can guide his Panthers to another upset victory: “We’re pretty versatile. We can play all different styles.”

Also in D3, No. 2 Rancho Cotate (7-3) will host a familiar North Bay League rival, Windsor (7-3), which was seeded seventh. The Cougars defeated the Jaguars, 33-20, in their NBL-Oak divisional game in October.

Division 4

Piner (9-1) may have lost a spot or two with its loss to Santa Rosa, being seeded fifth, behind No. 3 Acalanes (8-2) and No. 4 Tamalpais (7-3).

Cardinal Newman (9-1) earned the top seed and will host No. 8 Tennyson (5-5) on Friday.

The Prospectors rolled over opponents this year, averaging 56 points while allowing only three points per game until Santa Rosa won 31-27 on Friday.

Coach Terence Bell predicted his boys will use the loss and the perceived disrespect of being seeded lower than teams with more losses.

“That’s what our team feeds off,” he said. “I like that they put us where they did. It will light a fire under us.”

After digesting the loss Saturday, the Prospectors have turned the corner, Bell said: “As a competitor, winning is cool, but you hate to lose more than you love to win. They are super motivated.”

Piner will travel to play Tamalpais in an afternoon game Saturday. The winner will play the Newman-Tennyson winner.

Division 6

Middletown (7-2) went undefeated in six games in the North Central League I and won the third seed in Division 6. The Mustangs will play No. 6 Pinole Valley (6-4) on Friday.

Seeded No. 5 last year, Middletown upset second-seeded Salesian, 28-14, to win the NCS Division 5 title.

Lower Lake, which went 5-2 in the NCLI and 7-3 overall, was seeded fifth and will travel to Napa to play No. 4 Justin-Siena (7-3) Friday.

Division 7

Four North Coast teams make up the eight-team Division 7 bracket — and they play each other in two local-on-local games Friday night.

St. Vincent of Petaluma, which went 9-1 losing only to Willits, was seeded fifth, and will play No. 4 St. Helena (8-2), which also lost to 7-3 Willits — seeded third.

NCS FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

Division 3 Friday, Nov. 15: (8) Santa Rosa at (1) Las Lomas, 7 p.m. (7) Windsor at (2) Rancho Cotate, 7 p.m.

Division 4 Friday, Nov. 15: (8) Tennyson at (1) Cardinal Newman, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16: (5) Piner at (4) Tamalpais, 1 p.m.

Division 6 Friday, Nov. 15: (5) Lower Lake at (4) Justin-Siena, 7 p.m. (6) Pinole Valley at (3) Middletown, 7 p.m.

Division 7 Friday, Nov. 15: (5) St. Vincent at (4) St. Helena, 7 p.m. (6) El Molino at (3) Willits, 7 p.m.

Division 8 (8-person football) Friday, Nov. 15: (5) Calistoga at (4) Tomales, 7 p.m. (6) Laytonville at (3) South Fork, 7 p.m.

St. Vincent had the best record among Division 7 schools, but Salesian (8-2) deserved the top seed, coach Trent Herzog said.

“They had a great strength of schedule and are in a higher league,” he said. “They’re definitely No. 1.”

The Mustangs, who don’t play in a league, ended their season Oct. 26 with a 52-44 victory California School for the Deaf of Fremont. The time has been productive, allowing them to prepare for St. Helena or another potential opponent.

Herzog predicts a high-scoring game, with the Mustangs’ Kai Hall, a freshman, and the Saints’ Ivan Robledo, a sophomore, ripping it up.

Hall averages 167 yards a game for the Mustangs and has scored 18 rushing touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Porteus has thrown 17 touchdown passes for St. Vincent.

Robledo can throw up impressive numbers as well. Against Clear Lake this year, he ran for a single-game school record of 284 yards on 12 carries, six of which were touchdowns.

Also Friday, Willits will host No. 6 El Molino, which finished 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the NBL-Redwood division.5-3)

Eight-player division

Four North Coast teams also qualified for sectionals in the eight-man tournament.

From the NCL III-South, South Fork (6-2) is the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 Laytonville (4-5).

Representing the NCL III-North is No. 4 Tomales (6-2), which will host No. 5 Calistoga (5-3).

The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, Cornerstone Christian and Branson, won byes and will face the winners of Friday’s games.

Three teams from the Vine Valley Athletic League, Vintage, Napa and American Canyon, also qualified for sectionals. The three local teams, Casa Grande, Petaluma and Sonoma Valley, didn’t qualify for playoffs.

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

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