Casa Grande (2-5 overall, 2-1 VVAL) at Napa (0-7 overall, 0-3 VVAL)
Friday, 7 p.m.
At Napa Memorial Stadium
Radio: KVON-1440 AM, 7 p.m.
Last week: Napa lost, 36-32 to Justin-Siena.
Casa Grande beat Sonoma Valley, 40-7.
Justin-Siena outscored Napa 29-13 the second half and scored the game-deciding touchdown on a blocked punt by Grant Koehler, with Miles Williams returning it 32 yards for the score with 1:27 to go in a Vine Valley Athletic League game at Dodd Stadium. Napa, which had a 19-0 lead in the first half, was led by quarterback Isaiah Newton, who completed 13-of-21 passes for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Brock Bowers and Diego Olvera each caught two touchdown passes. Bowers had seven catches for 121 yards.
“(Newton) had a great game,” Napa coach Tom Petithomme said Wednesday. “But it all starts with the (offensive) line, and the O-line did a good job protecting. If we get protection up front, give our quarterback time to throw the ball, Isaiah can do a lot of great things. And when he needs to run, he can do that, too.
“Offensively, we made some improvements last week. Each week we get better in certain areas and then we regress in other areas.”
Putting up a fight: Petithomme is impressed with the fight, attitude and spirit of his team.
“The guys understand that we’re close. We’re very close,” he said. “And they understand that if we just keep working hard in practice, we’re going to keep getting better. And then once we put a complete game together, good things will happen. They don’t have any quit in them. They just keep fighting.”
Napa-Casa Grande history: The teams have played in nonleague games over the years. Napa has a 5-2 record in games against Casa Grande going back to 2008.
Napa had wins in 2016 (36-0), 2015 (49-18), 2014 (31-0), 2012 (35-14), and 2008 (28-10).
Napa lost in 2013 (31-19) and 2009 (38-32).
A look at Casa Grande: Jadon Bosarge has completed 83-of-149 passes for 873 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Matt Herrera has 364 yards rushing and four TDs. The top receivers are Dominic Mchale (30 receptions, 330 yards, five TDs), Jordan Gramajo (22 receptions, 267 yards), and Nate Busse (21 receptions, 198 yards, TD).
“We’re very similar,” said Petithomme. “I think it will be a very competitive game. It still just boils down to playing a complete game – all three phases.”
— Marty James
Vintage (5-2, 3-0 VVAL) at Justin-Siena (4-4, 1-3 VVAL)
Friday, 7 p.m.
At Dodd Stadium
Radio: KVYN 99.3 FM, 6:45 p.m.
Last week: Vintage defeated visiting American Canyon, 27-14, holding the Wolves to 46 yards rushing. Justin-Siena defeated visiting Napa, 36-32, returning a blocked punt for the winning touchdown in the final minutes.
Battle of Trower Avenue: Outside of summer passing leagues, this will be the first meeting between proud programs that share the same street. They are also the only local teams whose head coaches are alumni of their own programs, Vintage’s Dylan Leach of the Crushers’ Class of 1992 and Justin-Siena’s Branson LaRocco of the Braves’ Class of 1998. But Leach said the game will be a short but important business trip for the first-place Crushers.
“It’s another one of those homegrown games where some of the kids probably know each other and played a little bit with each other, but I also believe they have 11 or 12 players that aren’t from Napa,” he said. “It’s just another league game that we’ve got to win to accomplish our goal.”
Justin-Siena quarterback Barrett Donohoe’s father, Joe, is going into his third season as Vintage’s girls basketball head coach, having guided the Crushers to their first league title in 33 years last season. But the Braves should be focused after finally getting their first VVAL win last week after three close losses.
“It felt good to get our first league win, no doubt about it and more importantly to come out on the positive side of one of these close games,” LaRocco said, praising special teams coaches Matt Lawson and Spencer Joske. “We spend a lot of time on special teams and it paid off with two touchdowns from in the second half.”
Up in the air: The Crushers gave up 277 yards passing a night in their first three games, but have allowed only 104 a game in four games since. Donohoe, meanwhile, is averaging 192 passing yards a night, having thrown for 1,537 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Donohoe throws 25 times a game on average, but neither LaRocco nor Leach thinks the Braves are pass-happy.
“I think overall, defensively what we’ve been focused on is stopping the run,” Leach said. “We try to make teams one-dimensional, limit big plays and keep the ball in our hands. That was our premise going into the first three games, too. Justin will run the ball – they’ve gotten into a couple of power sets the last couple of weeks – but you’ve got to be ready for everything. You’ve got to be able to line up to all their sets and everything they do.”
The Braves have about half as many yards rushing as passing, but LaRocco said they wouldn’t throw the ball at all if they could average five yards a carry.
“The strength of our offense is how we take advantage of a defense’s weaknesses and I think we do a good job of identifying those areas and getting the ball to the guys who have the matchups,” LaRocco said. “What makes Vintage’s pass defense so good is they are able to play against the run with a five-man box against most teams. They’ve got what we call ‘overhang players’ at their outside linebacker spots, between the No. 2 receiver and the tackle and not technically in the box, so they’re able to give the look of a five-man box and defend the run pretty well. That allows them to drop more guys into coverage and they have good athletes in space. They’ll bring a fourth rusher every now and then, too.”
Why they play the game: Justin-Siena feels it’s better than its league record, and that Friday is a chance to show it.
“We feel we have a chance against every team we play, especially if we can be explosive on offense,” said LaRocco. “We have improved our run defense the last few weeks, but we still have a ways to go. If we do our jobs and make plays, we have a chance against any team. The trick is going out and doing that.”
After matching up well with American Canyon last week, Leach wants to see how his team does against a more experienced opponent.
“All we keep hearing about is how good their skill guys are, but the beauty of this game is you have to suit up, put on cleats and a helmet, and eventually meet each other on Friday night,” he said. “We’ve got to be prepared and bring our ‘A’ game, and that’s going to be every week from here on out.”
— Andy Wilcox
St. Helena (4-3, 2-2 NCL I) vs. Fort Bragg (3-4, 2-2 NCL I)
Friday, 7 p.m.
At St. Helena High School
Last week: Fort Bragg defeated Clear Lake 21-6. St. Helena fell to Middletown 34-7.
Last meeting: Fort Bragg dispatched the Saints 12-6 last year.
Responding from Middletown blowout: Last Friday’s 34-7 loss to Middletown was the Saints second-worst loss this season in terms of points. St. Helena’s only worse loss was its 49-21 shellacking at the hands of Winters in week three. On Friday, the Mustangs’ defense swallowed up St. Helena’s offense, allowing it to gain only 186 yards. Daniel Martinez was St. Helena’s leading rusher with 78 yards, while Cody DiTomaso was the next closest with 48. The Saints have played on the road the last two weeks and will certainly enjoy playing on their home field once again on Friday.
Big plays still costing Saints: St. Helena’s Achilles’ heel this year has been allowing big plays from opposing offenses. It happened again against Middletown last week. The Mustangs scored on a 52-yard pass in the second quarter, a 45-yard fumble return in the third and a 48-yard run also in the third.
Fort Bragg’s offense has been inconsistent at best this year. The Timberwolves enter Friday’s matchup averaging 17 points per game but have also been shutout in three games this season. Almost no individual stats are available for Fort Bragg so it’s difficult to get a read on what they do well or their personnel. What little can be taken away from looking at its season as a whole is that Fort Bragg has played NCL I opponents tough. They barely lost to Cloverdale 24-19, held tough in a 16-0 loss to Kelseyville, and easily defeated Clear Lake 21-6.
Mid-standings battle: Friday’s matchup will be a battle between the two teams tied for third place in the NCL I. At 2-2, both the Timberwolves and the Saints are one game back of Middletown and Cloverdale, which, at 3-1, are tied for second behind only Kelseyville (4-0).
The game could also have some serious playoff implications. Nate Smith of Prep2prep.com, projected St. Helena as the six seed in the North Coast Section Div. V playoffs in an article last week. Fort Bragg was not included in the 12-team projection but was named as a fringe team. That was before St. Helena lost and Fort Bragg won last week.
— Gus Morris
Calistoga (5-2, 1-1 NCL III) vs. Tomales (2-3, 0-2 NCL III)
Friday, 7 p.m.
At Tomales High School
Last week: Calistoga lost 36-16 to Branson. Tomales fell to Stuart Hall 56-36.
Last meeting: Calistoga won last season in an 86-56 shootout.
Homecoming loss: Calistoga battled not only one of the top 8-man teams in Northern California last week in Branson but also the distractions that Homecoming brings. Calistoga head coach Jim Klaczak thought that his players were distracted by the festivities throughout the week and that that distraction contributed to the poor performance against the Bulls. Branson scored on the opening kickoff then found the endzone on its next four possessions.
With those distractions behind them, and the weight of playoffs starting to grow heavier, the Wildcats are looking to bounce back with a cleaner effort against one of the two winless teams in the NCL III.
Veteran Braves team: Tomales boasts what Calistoga lacks: offensive experience. The Braves have a senior quarterback and two senior running backs. They also have an experienced offensive line with three juniors who are returning for their third years on the team.
Numbers advantage? At around 15 players on its roster, Calistoga rarely outnumbers its opponents. That should change on Friday. Tomales has a roster of only 12 players. Barring major injuries or eligibility issues, Calistoga should outnumber the Braves, which could give the Wildcats an edge.
— Gus Morris