Eighteen local football teams were selected for the CIF-North Coast Section playoffs on Sunday, including three named top seeds in their divisions: Rancho Cotate in Division 2, Cardinal Newman in Division 3 and Kelseyville in Division 5.
While Newman and Kelseyville each have byes in the first round, Rancho hosts No. 16 seed Casa Grande in the D2 first round Friday.
“I feel it’s well-deserved,” Rancho coach Gehrig Hotaling said of the Cougars’ top ranking. His team finished 9-1 overall this season, only losing to North Bay League-Oak Division winner Newman.
“From now on, we don’t deserve anything,” he said. “We have to go earn it.”
The Cougars sent a message about their readiness for the playoffs in Friday’s 62-0 drubbing of Ukiah.
“Our kids knew what was at stake as far as seeding goes,” Hotaling said. “The committee got it right.”
Rancho is led by two juniors, running back Rasheed Rankin and quarterback Jared Stocker. Rankin averages 116 yards a game, with five 100-plus yard games this season and 16 touchdowns. Stocker has connected on 127 of 200 passes for 1,876 yards and 17 touchdowns this year.
The Cougars scrimmaged Casa Grande (3-6 overall, 3-2 in the new Vine Valley Athletic League) before the season began, but didn’t play the Petaluma school during the regular season.
“It seems like an eternity ago,” Hotaling said. “We’ve got to dive into the film.”
In Division 3, Newman won the top seed and a bye in the first round. The Cardinals, 9-1 overall and 5-0 in Oak, lost only to Liberty, which is one of only four NCS teams to play in the highly competitive Open Division.
Cardinal Newman, which outsccored opponents by a 391-108 margin during the regular season, will play the winner of Saturday’s game matching No. 9 Petaluma and No. 8 Encinal.
Kelseyville enters sectionals as the team to beat in D5, the first time the school has been seeded No. 1, coach Erik Larsen said.
The Knights, 9-1 and 7-0 in the North Central League I, have a bye and face the winner of Saturday’s matchup of No. 8 Cloverdale vs. No. 9 Arcata in the second round.
Kelseyville beat Cloverdale 22-15 (6-4, 3-4) in October during NCL I play.
“Looking at our side of the bracket, Cloverdale and Arcata will be close. Fort Bragg-Middletown is going to be close,” Larsen said. “All of those teams are tough.
“It’s not a cake walk, that’s for sure. It’s a nice competitive bracket.”
The Knights’ only loss came to No. 3 seed Stellar Prep, which they could face in the divisional title game. The Knights have qualified for the playoffs the past two years, but lost in the semifinals both times.
“My kids would love to play Stellar Prep again,” Larsen said. “But we have a lot of good teams to go through.”
Other teams that qualified include:
As the NBL-Redwood winner, No. 9 Montgomery will host No. 8 American Canyon of the VVAL. But since the Vikings’ field was condemned last week, the game will be played Saturday at Santa Rosa High.
NCS FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
(seeds in parentheses)
Division 2, first round
(16) Casa Grande at (1) Rancho Cotate, 7 p.m. Friday
(9) Montgomery vs. (8) American Canyon, Santa Rosa HS, 7 p.m. Saturday
(12) Santa Rosa at (5) Marin Catholic, 1 p.m. Saturday
(11) Maria Carrillo at (6) Ukiah, 7 p.m. Saturday
Division 3, first round
(1) Cardinal Newman, bye
(9) Petaluma at (8) Encinal, 7 p.m. Saturday
Division 4, first round
(11) El Molino at (6) Fortuna, 7 p.m. Friday
Division 5, first round
(1) Kelseyville, bye
(8) Cloverdale vs. (9) Arcata at Humboldt State, 7 p.m. Saturday
(13) California School for the Deaf at (4) Fort Bragg, 7 p.m. Friday
(12) St. Vincent at (5) Middletown, 7 p.m. Saturday
(10) Hoopa Valley at (7) St. Helena, 7 p.m. Saturday
8-person, first round
(5) Upper Lake at (4) Tomales, 7 p.m. Friday
(3) Rincon Valley Christian, bye