The El Molino football team has two more games on its nonleague schedule before launching into the newly crafted North Bay League Redwood Division.
They didn’t go light.
The Lions, 1-2 after collecting a win against Sonoma Valley, falling to St. Bernard’s on opening night and then Lower Lake last week, travel to Petaluma Friday to play a Trojans team that has had their number in recent years.
“They are always good,” El Molino coach Randy Parmeter said of the Trojans. “We have always struggled with them. It’s a team I have never personally beat.”
Last year, the Trojans won 56-21. In 2016 it was 35-0 and the year prior, 48-6.
But Parmeter says he knew what he was getting into when he crafted this schedule.
“I want to play with people we have to compete with,” he said. “I don’t want to play anybody I know I can beat easily. We want competition.”
The Lions are going to get it with the Trojans.
Petaluma comes in at 2-1 after beating Montgomery 21-7, losing to Santa Rosa 42-26 a week later and beating Terra Linda 21-7 last week.
On offense, senior running back Garrett Freitas has been a machine for the Trojans, averaging 11 yards per carry. Quarterback Cole Powers has punched it in for three touchdowns and Petaluma coach Rick Krist says he has confidence in Powers’ arm if opportunity presents.
“Cole Powers has the ability to give us a whole other element on offense,” he said.
But first must come Petaluma’s calling card: a show of strength in the trenches.
“Our offensive and defensive lines need a great game this week,” Krist said. “Offensively, we need to control the line of scrimmage.”
And defensively, they have to stop the one-two punch of El Molino senior Sam Wilson-Mietz and junior Jalen Hall.
“Sam is a two-year guy. He’s a stud,” Parmeter said of Wilson-Mietz, who plays running back, linebacker and cornerback for the Lions. “He had three interceptions against Sonoma. The guy is all over the place. Him and Jalen are probably our major threats.
“It’s mostly the Sam and Jalen show,” he said. “It’s a little dynamic out of the backfield.”
Krist is doing his best to ready his guys.
“They may be the two best running backs we’ve seen,” he said.
So Krist will count on defensive captain and middle linebacker Nick Ayers to help dim the lights on any Sam and Jalen show.
“We count on him,” Krist said.
The Lions will have to get a better start than they have had in early outings if they want to find success against Petaluma. That has been a challenge with this group, according to Parmeter.
“All year, we’ve been slow to start,” he said.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that they battle back.
“The thing I like about them is they do finish,” he said. Even when juggernaut St. Bernard’s put the game seemingly out of reach, the Lions kept grinding.
That grind is not likely to let up, for either team.
The Lions follow this contest with a biggee. They host rival Analy on Sept. 14. They may no longer be league-mates within the now-disbanded Sonoma County League, but the Apple Bowl battle will remain on the calendar for the long haul.