Napa (3-1, 0-0 VVAL) at Sonoma Valley (1-3, 0-0 VVAL)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Last year: Sonoma Valley won 28-16 at Napa.
Last week: Sonoma Valley lost 71-0 to visiting Piner. Napa won 42-0 over visiting Armijo.
No offense, but... : Asked what he thinks the biggest challenge his team will face against Sonoma Valley, first-year Napa head coach Richie Wessman pointed his thumbs at himself.
“It’s never about them, it’s about us, and we’re still a team that’s developing and growing,” he said. “We’re still focused on how we practice and the culture that we have and those kind of things and, so far, we’ve had a great week of practice. If we do a great job in the next few days finishing our preparation, I’m confident we’ll have a great evening Friday night.”
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Newton’s return: After sitting out 1 3/4 games with a concussion, third-year varsity quarterback Isaiah Newton tossed three TD passes in the first 1 1/2 quarters last week and finished 7 of 11 passing for 202 yards.
“Isaiah had a very explosive game at quarterback,” Wessman said. “He’s definitely the starter still, but at every position we create competition, and that’s something you’ve got to earn every day. But he’s been doing the right thing and been fantastic helping his teammates out. Our culture has come a heck of a long way on the football team and we definitely are getting some great leadership from guys like Logan Van Zandt, Brock Bowers, Jack Giguiere, Emilio Deianni and Isaiah.”
Injuries and illness: Wessman said Giguiere, one of the few players he lets play on both sides of the ball, will probably be out injured again. Meanwhile, top rusher Benito Saldivar has has been out sick all week.
“I think everybody who wasn’t sick last week is sick this week. The good part is almost everyone has had an injury or an illness, so we should be good for the rest of the year,” Wessman quipped. “One thing we stress is whether you’re out injured, or you’re just not in that place, is getting good mental reps in practice. That’s something that took us a while to figure out, but Isaiah’s got that down and he’s definitely been doing a great job.”
Bye next week: This would be a trap game if not for next week’s bye, as the Grizzlies host undefeated American Canyon next on Oct. 4.
“There’s a lot of excitement and right now we’ve got to win that first league game, which hasn’t happened in a while,” Wessman said. “We still have a long way to go to get to our best and that’s what our standard is and we are we are working toward that.”
Correction: Senior strong safety David Aguilar had the pick-six in the second quarter against Armijo last week.
American Canyon (4-0, 0-0 VVAL) at Petaluma (1-3, 0-0 VVAL)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Last year: American Canyon beat visiting Petaluma 43-16 for its first win of the season after an 0-4 start.
Last week: American Canyon defeated visiting Wood 29-12 last Friday night, while Petaluma lost 49-7 at home to undefeated Del Norte.
Battle-tested? After beating four nonleague foes with a combined record of 2-14, but giving up only 9.0 points per game, the Wolves face another team that’s been slow out of the blocks. Meanwhile, this is only the third time in nine years of varsity football that American Canyon has gone into league play undefeated. The other two times, in 2012 and 2016, the Wolves reached the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals and finished 11-2.
Regardless, American Canyon head coach John Montante likes how Deer Valley, St. Pat’s, Montgomery and Wood prepared the Wolves for the VVAL.
“We’ve seen a variety of offenses and defenses. The programs we played have been either pretty athletic or historically strong,” he said. “We’ll see how well it’s prepared us in the coming weeks.”
Crazy train: After winning a 53-34 shootout at home over Santa Rosa three weeks ago, Petaluma has gone off the rails. The Trojans lost 59-0 at Foothill-Pleasanton and, last week, didn’t get on the board against Del Norte until the fourth quarter. It remains to be seen if playing “up” against two perennial playoff powers will have helped.
“It depends on the program,” Montante said. “Sometimes it can steel your resolve. Sometimes it can break you. Petaluma plays disciplined and plays well in the trenches. I think their coaches will have them ready to go. Right now, everyone in VVAL is 0-0. We need to play a complete game and do our jobs and have fun out there.”
How good is Wood? American Canyon may face a more confident Wood squad than the one that lost 41-0 at Vintage three weeks before.
“I have a lot of respect for Kirk Anderson,” Montante said of the Wildcats’ first-year head coach, a former Napa High quarterback and assistant coach who was on the Wolves’ staff in 2017. “They’ll get to where they want to be soon enough. We played well in spurts, but we need to play a complete game every time we take the field.”
Standing on two feet: Alex Llamas had kicked all of American Canyon’s extra points before last week’s game. But after he missed the first attempt against Wood, another senior wide receiver, Justin Del Rosario, took over and went 3 for 3.
“Both are healthy. We’re excited about both players,” Montante said. “We’re experimenting with some things. That’s one of the benefits of the nonleague schedule.”
Casa Grande (1-3, 0-0 VVAL) at Justin-Siena (4-0, 0-0 VVAL)
Friday, 7 p.m.
Radio: KVON 1440 AM, 6:30 p.m.
Last year: Casa Grande defeated Justin-Siena 36-35.
Last week: Casa Grande lost 21-14 at Maria Carrillo. Justin-Siena won 43-31 over visiting Archbishop Riordan.
New coach: John Antonio, who guided Piner to 22 wins in five seasons from 2011 to 2015, is the Gauchos’ third head coach in four years.
Forget their record: Justin-Siena head coach Brandon LaRocco hopes his returning Braves learned a lesson last year.
“When we played Casa last year, they were 0-4, and I spent all week telling our team that they were the best 0-4 team I had ever seen in my life. They beat us by a point,” he said. “I feel the same way this year. They have been in some really hard-fought games and we know they aren’t that far away from being 3-1. We talk about preparing for every opponent like they are the best team you are going to face all year. This week is no different.”
We did meet before – once: The Braves went into last year’s first VVAL campaign having not played any of their league opponents before, at least in 15 years. After going 1-5 with three losses by a combined 10 points, they are not only familiar with their foes but are hungry for redemption.
“Having some familiarity with the other VVAL schools certainly helps, but the same could be said for their preparation for us,” he said. “I think the most important thing that I learned from last year is that this is a deep league and that we have to be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for the grind of the league season.”
Gauchos to watch: Casa Grande has gained only 1,052 yards in four games behind three players – 6-foot-2 senior quarterback Miguel Robertson (31 of 69 passing, 402 yards, 4 TDs, 5 picks), 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver Dominic McHale (16 catches, 195 yards, 4 TDs) and senior running back Matt Herrera (70 carries, 334 yards, 2 TDs).
“Casa is a run-first team,” LaRocco said, “but (McHale) is a good as any receiver we have faced so far this year. Their QB is capable of pushing the ball down the field and is dangerous when he escapes from the pocket. They have four different backs who are effective in the run game and a big offensive line. We are going to have to be smart, physical, and fast on defense if we want to get off the field and get the ball to our offense.”
St. Helena (3-0, 0-0 NCL I) vs. Kelseyville (1-2, 0-0 NCL I)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Kelseyville High School
Last week: Both teams had byes. St. Helena last beat Winters, 44-30, while Kelseyville fell to Fortuna 29-12, all on Sept. 6.
Last year: Kelseyville handled the Saints 50-29 at St. Helena in the first game of North Central League I play.
League Opener: Heading into league play, the Saints currently have the best record among the NCL I’s eight teams. Willits and Lower Lake each went 2-1 in nonleague, while Cloverdale, Clear Lake, Middletown and Kelseyville are all 1-2. Fort Bragg is the only winless team at 0-2.
None of that matters now.
“You can’t judge anybody by their wins and losses at this point,” St. Helena head coach Brandon Farrell said.
While the Knights went a middling 1-2, their record can best be explained by the caliber of competition they faced. Fortuna won the North Coast Section Div. 4 title last season, while Ukiah (Division 3) and San Marin (Division 5) are both larger schools than Kelseyville, which plays in Division 6 this year.
“They’re very similar to what we’ve seen in the past,” Farrell said. “Great downhill running scheme, very well-coached defensively. They’re prepared; they have played outstanding competition and certainly are league ready in terms of playing people. This is going to be a big test.”
Revenge game? The Saints that returned from last year’s team have not forgotten the drudging the Knights handed them last year. A close game quickly spiraled out of control mainly due to a big scoring plays orchestrated by Jordy Lopez and Robert Chavez, a duo that combined to score six of Kelseyville’s seven touchdowns.
Several Saints players said after their win over Winters two weeks ago that they’ve been looking forward to meeting the Knights since last year’s rout.
“They know each other very well, they’ve played against each other many times over the years and they’ve been on the victorious side more than we have,” Farrell said. “… We just have to go make plays, and it’s going to come down to who makes more plays on Friday night.”
Running threats: The Knights biggest threat on both sides of the ball is Chavez. The senior running back/linebacker was the NCL I Defensive MVP last season on top of being a first-team all-offense selection. He’s rushed for over 100 yards in two of the Knights’ three games this year but has found the endzone in every game this fall.
“He’s a great player,” Farrell said. “He was MVP of the league on defense last year for a reason.”
Backfield mate Dylan McAdon also poses a staunch threat. The senior running back rushed for 110 yards against Fortuna and had 141 yards on the ground against Ukiah.
— Gus Morris