Foothill’s loss to Amador Valley presents opportunities for many to move up in the rankings, but changed nothing in the CIF North Coast Section seedings for the playoffs. Teams on the move upward include Liberty of Brentwood and Aptos.
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The smaller CIF Central Coast Section is still in league play for one more week and then will send teams to the playoffs in eight-team brackets whereas the larger CIF North Coast Section begins its playoffs this week with 16-team brackets, even though some divisions have fewer teams like 13 in Division I.
As usual, De La Salle, the closest thing to a lock in any of California’s 10 section playoffs, was anointed to the top spot in the top division after receiving the No. 1 seed on Sunday for the NCS Division I playoffs.
At this point, it’s pretty much a perfunctory playoff situation in the NCS D1 bracket since no one has toppled the Spartans in NCS playoffs since Pittsburg did it in 1991 in the old 3A bracket. This fact coupled with how they’ve played this season makes De La Salle about as much a lead pipe cinch as you can get.
There really were no surprises in the top seeds for the other four NCS divisions — Clayton Valley in Division II, Campolindo in Division III, St. Mary’s in Division IV and Salesian in Division V.
In Division II, Clayton Valley continues what has been a rocky quest for a possible NorCal Division II Bowl Game appearance after snagging the top seed this year. Last year, the Ugly Eagles were the No. 2 seed and ended up being upset in the semis by an eventual champion Orinda Miramonte team that wasn’t selected to the NorCal D2 game.
This year, head coach Tim Murphy has a solid shot at winning a second NCS title with a team that leads the state in rushing with 4,305 yards and 62 touchdowns, just ahead of De La Salle with 3,527 yards and 55 touchdowns.
Despite coming into the playoffs at 10-0, Clayton Valley has had to deal with eligibility questions regarding six players that had to have been a distraction. National top recruit Kahlil McKenzie is appealed out but younger brother 6-foot-5, 290-pound sophomore Jalen McKenzie and another transfer, junior defensive back Jamel Rosales, have been made eligible while the other two players still have appeals pending.
Another thing on the mind of Murphy is the health of star running back Miles Harrison.
Despite playing with a nagging bone bruise against Concord (336 yards, five TDs rushing) and not playing the past two games or practicing the past three weeks, the 5-10, 200-pound Harrison still has 1,500 yards and 20 TDs rushing in eight games with some games seeing little or no action after halftime.
“Miles did it on sheer stamina against Concord, and he hasn’t been able to practice since then, but he’s back practicing Monday and will be playing this week,” Murphy told Cal-Hi Sports.
Winning an NCS title his first year at Clayton Valley in 2012 after returning to his native Contra Costa County area three years ago (where he also won an NCS title at Ygnacio Valley in 1999) gives him four section championships total, so Murphy knows a little something about winning.
“The mindset is to not underestimate anyone. I know the kids are all looking at Concord again, and I know it’s a cliché, but we have to take it one game at a time,” said Murphy, who won CIF Central Section titles in 2003 and 2006 at Clovis East of Clovis. Murphy’s 2006 team was on the board for a SoCal Bowl berth but was beaten out by a Canyon Country of Canyon team that went on to topple De La Salle in the very first CIF Division I Bowl Game.
Here are the 10th rankings of the 2014 season (after games of Saturday, Nov. 8; previous ranking in parentheses):
1. (1) De La Salle (Concord) 10-0
The Spartans looked sluggish to start and still posted a 42-0 victory over California of San Ramon. Final score this season: De La Salle 224, four East Bay Athletic League opponents 35. The way the Spartans handled what is one of the top leagues in Northern California this year again is almost like a stepchild. In fact, that’s a good analogy. Neither the EBAL nor the Bay Valley Athletic League has been able to handle Sparta as a member, hence the independent status of the program. Bottom line is that until someone from north of Fresno puts an end to the winning streak that began in 1992, everyone is an ugly cousin until Sparta marches to Carson. Next up is the proverbial bye in the CIF North Coast Section Division I playoffs and a home date in two weeks with the San Ramon Valley at James Logan winner.
2. (2) Milpitas 9-0
The Trojans crushed Palo Alto 47-7 after holding Paly to just 134 total yards and just 37 yards rushing. Santa Clara is next to complete De Anza League play. With Foothill’s loss to Amador Valley, Milpitas becomes a stronger No. 2 in the region but even as an unbeaten CCS Open Division champion it might not be enough to get into the NorCal D1 bowl game with Folsom and Grant in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
3. (4) Serra (San Mateo) 6-3
The Padres started slow again and trailed Sacred Heart Cathedral 10-0 after the first quarter but came back strong to win easy in a 35-17 victory over the Irish. Next up is the showdown with Bellarmine that everyone in the West Catholic Athletic League has been waiting for that should break the three-way WCAL tie at 5-1 between the Padres, Bellarmine and Valley Christian. Serra has a 24-10 win over a Valley Christian team that has a 42-17 win over Bellarmine. The Padres’ loss is to an Archbishop Mitty team that just lost 15-14 to Valley Christian.
4. (6) Clayton Valley (Concord) 10-0
We’ve been reluctant to move the Ugly Eagles ahead of teams from the EBAL because their overall schedule didn’t seem to warrant it, but with Foothill losing we have no choice to make CV the No. 2 team from the NCS. The position can certainly be justified by a solid 54-14 win over a Napa team that has a win over Vacaville. After a 56-14 victory over Pleasant Hill College Park completed a perfect regular season, head coach Tim Murphy and his boys garnered the NCS Division II top seed and open on Friday at home against Newark Memorial of Newark.
5. (5) Valley Christian (San Jose) 7-2
Assuming the Warriors win on the road this week against Sacred Heart Cathedral, they can take the WCAL No. 1 slot into the CCS Open Division should Bellarmine beat Serra on Saturday. If Serra wins, then Serra would be the league’s No. 1 team.
6. (7) Bellarmine (San Jose) 8-1
After several lead changes, the Bells got the final one in a 17-14 home win over a very respectable St. Francis. Next up is Serra in a game that has WCAL implications as well as having repercussions on seedings in the CCS Open Division playoffs.
7. (3) Foothill (Pleasanton) 8-2
Even though the game ultimately didn’t mean much in the eventual big picture since Foothill had already claimed the EBAL title and still received the No. 2 seed behind De La Salle in the NCS D1 playoffs, the Falcons had a huge letdown and it translated into a 25-23 loss to crosstown arch-rival Amador Valley. At a time when ranked teams heading to the playoffs need to peak, Foothill went in the opposite direction. This is where the Falcons land but if they move through the NCS playoffs, they can gain back some spots until a potential rematch with De La Salle. First comes a bye and then they face the Antioch at San Leandro winner.
8. (9) Los Gatos 7-2
The Cats were a 42-6 winner over Saratoga and still gain a spot, but their resume doesn’t allow them to pass Foothill. Next up is Wilcox of Santa Clara for second place in the De Anza League.
9. (11) Campolindo (Moraga) 10-0
With teams below them losing, and taking into account a 52-27 win over a Napa team that is not only the No. 6 seed in the SJS Division I playoffs but a team that has a win over Vacaville, the Cougars get the same consideration as Clayton Valley and move up in these rankings heading into the NCS Division III playoffs. Campo opens on Friday at home as the No. 1 seed against Concord Ygnacio Valley.
10. (10) St. Francis (Mountain View) 5-4
The best four-loss team in the Bay Area outgained Bellarmine in yards 283-171 in a game that saw three lead changes with the last going against the Lancers in the fourth quarter of a 17-14 defeat. St. Francis finishes WCAL play at home on Friday hosting St. Ignatius.
11. (13) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 5-4
The second-best four-loss team suffered the same fate as St. Francis with a tough 15-14 loss to Valley Christian. Mitty still gets tons of rankings points for having a win over Pitt plus the recent upset of Serra. We are still ranking the Monarchs behind St. Francis due to a head-to-head loss. Mitty travels to San Francisco this Saturday to finish WCAL play at Archbishop Riordan.
12. (14) Pittsburg 8-2
After a hard earned 17-14 win at Antioch, the Pirates completed a perfect season in the Bay Valley Athletic League and move up two spots. They still stay behind Mitty and to reflect the NCS Division I pairings. As expected, Pittsburg got the No. 3 seed and a bye in the first round of the NCS D1 playoffs. They meet the Monte Vista at Freedom winner in the second round.
13. (15) California (San Ramon) 7-3
The Grizzlies got mauled by De La Salle but didn’t look any worse than others have fared this season. Although only the No. 4 seed in the NCS D1 playoffs, California gets to move up in these rankings based on a second-place finish in the East Bay Athletic League, including a win over a San Ramon Valley. The Grizzlies and their powerful offensive line will meet Heritage of Oakley at home on Friday to open the playoffs.
14. (16) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 6-4
The Wolves took care of crosstown arch-rival Monte Vista to end the regular season but the NCS seeding committee threw out the win over Pittsburg and gave more weight to the loss to James Logan and the loss to a California team that lost to Pittsburg. Thus, the committee seeded them below Logan as the ninth seed.
15. (12) James Logan (Union City) 8-2
The time has come for an adjustment to the Colts’ positioning in these rankings based on a pretty weak schedule, although only seeding them ninth has a lot to do with a loss to San Leandro more than it does with a win over San Ramon Valley. For its efforts, Logan opens the NCS D1 playoffs with a rematch against San Ramon Valley, only this time it’s at home and not on the road like the early season victory.
16. (8) Palma (Salinas) 8-1
A 17-13 loss to Hollister San Benito is equivalent to the Foothill loss to Amador Valley with respect to the rankings and possible playoff seedings. In the rankings, we’re dropping Palma eight spots. The Cheiftains are still in good shape, though, to wrap up the Monterey Bay-Gabilan title this week and get a high seed for the CCS Open Division.
17. (17) St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 5-4
The Wildcats hold tight after a 45-28 victory across town at Riordan. With teams with solid records knocking on the door, SI may need to win this week against host Saint Francis to stay in next week’s rankings.
18. (NR) Liberty (Brentwood) 8-2
The Lions were roaring after ending an eight-game losing streak to BVAL rival Freedom with a 21-7 victory in the 17th annual Bell Game. Not only does previously-ranked Liberty get to come back in the rankings, more importantly the team received the No. 5 seed in the NCS D1 playoffs and face an Amador Valley (Pleasanton) buoyed with confidence after the upset of Foothill.
19. (18) Concord 8-1*
*Does not include forfeit win. The Minutemen trounced visiting Ygnacio Valley of Concord 54-0 in a tune-up for the NCS Division II playoffs where Concord drew the No. 2 seed and a matchup with Hayward at home on Friday night. With teams above them playing each other, the one-spot drop to make room for Liberty could be temporary. Concord should move through the early rounds of the playoffs rather handily.
20. (19) McClymonds (Oakland) 10-0*
*Does not include four possible forfeit losses still under appeal. After a 48-0 win at Castlemont, the Warriors have now outscored four OAL opponents 174-16 with Oakland Tech remaining this week before the playoffs begin in two weeks.
21. (20) Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) 9-0
The third team to drop a spot in what is most likely only temporary goes to 9-0 for the first time ever after knocking off previously unbeaten Burlingame 35-14 in a game they led 21-0 at halftime. The Gators finish up Peninsula – Bay League action with a game against arch-rival and nearby Menlo School on Friday night at Woodside High.
22. (22) Salesian (Richmond) 8-2*
*Does not include possible forfeit win that could still be changed back to an official loss. The defending NCS Division V champion isn’t showing the loss to McClymonds on the section website’s draw sheet, but we still count it and it’s not for certain still how it will all play out. What’s certain is that Salesian is the top seed in this year’s D5 playoffs and based on how the team has looked recently would seem to be a prohibitive favorite to repeat.
23. (NR) Aptos 8-1
We’re moving up the Mariners to coincide with the D3 North bowl game rankings and they’ve just been mauling everyone in Santa Cruz County. The team’s only loss is to Granite Bay of the Sac-Joaquin Section and the best win is 21-14 over Salinas. Unlike Sacred Heart Prep, Aptos also doesn’t have to move up to the Open Division in the CCS and therefore has a better chance to win a section title and gain consideration for the D3 North bowl game.
24. (23) St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 9-1
After a bye, the Panthers rolled host Pinole Valley of Pinole 55-14 and now move on as the No. 1 seed in the NCS Division IV playoffs where they are the defending champions. After a second bye in three weeks, the Panthers meet the Moreau Catholic (Hayward) at Fort Bragg winner in two weeks at home.
25. (21) Freedom (Oakley) 6-4
Despite the 21-7 loss to Liberty, the Falcons get to stay in the rankings due to a 42-12 win over San Leandro and also a 14-6 win at CIFSJS D1 No. 7 seed Tracy to open the season. They now enter the NCS D1 playoffs as the No. 6 seed.
Dropped Out: Previous No. 24 Wilcox (Santa Clara); No. 25 San Leandro.
Teams On the Bubble
(In alphabetical order)
Acalanes (Lafayette) 7-3
Alhambra (Martinez) 7-3
Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 6-4
Analy (Sebastopol) 9-1*
Aragon (San Mateo) 9-0
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 7-3
El Cerrito 5-5
Fremont (Sunnyvale) 9-0
Justin-Siena (Napa) 7-3
Kennedy (Fremont) 10-0
Las Lomas (Walnut Creek) 8-2
Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 7-3
Monte Vista (Danville) 4-6
Pioneer (San Jose) 8-1
Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park) 7-3
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 3-6
San Benito (Hollister) 5-4
San Leandro 6-4
Terra Nova (Pacifica) 4-5
Wilcox (Santa Clara) 6-3
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend