Here are the picks …
Last week: 7-3
Silver Creek at Soquel: The Knights are coming off a loss, which I can only imagine isn’t sitting well with them. And they’re at home after the game was switched to Soquel from San Jose in recent weeks. But the biggest thing for Soquel will be running the ball, and the biggest thing for Silver Creek will be stopping the run. The Knights have amassed nearly 1,000 yards on the ground as a team through 3 games, and will assuredly pass that mark tonight. Two Knights, Fabiano Hale and Ryan Reyes, have combined for more than 600 yards rushing. On the other side, Silver Creek has allowed more than 600 yards rushing in just two games, according to stats provided by maxpreps.com. Pick: Soquel.
Alisal at Aptos: Alisal is going to cause problems for Aptos, and they return plenty from last year’s team that lost to the Mariners by two touchdowns. Aptos didn’t return much from last year’s team, but its offense has developed steadily through 3 games, having a breakout performance last week against Watsonville. I don’t know how coach Randy Blankenship does it, but to lose as many players as Aptos did a year ago, only to cycle in fresh bodies and run the hurry-up wing-T like they did last week is impressive. It looked well-oiled against Watsonville, and I expect the same this week against Alisal. Pick: Aptos.
Santa Cruz vs. North Salinas: These two teams enter at rather similar stages in the season. Both are looking for their first win, both like to run (although North High will throw the ball) and both have difficulty stopping the run. Santa Cruz needs to show me something defensively, though. And they need to limit their mistakes — an 8-6 score at halftime last week against Irvington led to 34 unanswered points after three second-half turnovers by the Cardinals. I’m giving an edge to North Salinas based on what they returned from a year ago, though — nine starters on defense, eight on offense. Pick: North Salinas.
SLV at Watsonville: Probably the game of the week, at least locally (Aptos-Alisal a close second). This is also a game which I’m not totally sold on with my pick — I think it could go either way. Through 2 weeks, we know Watsonville can score points. They did so against Santa Cruz and Aptos. But a slow start against Aptos prevented them from perhaps winning that game. Remember, they trailed 20-0 at one point, only to pull back into the game and cut the deficit to six on two different ocassions. Will that happen again, against a strong defensive team in SLV? The Cougars have shown they can play defense. They have forced 10 turnovers in the last two games. But two weeks ago they struggled offensively against Edison, scoring 0 offensive touchdowns, only to return a week later to post 59 points against Hillsdale — a single-game record at SLV. The one constant has been SLV’s defense, though, which is why I’m giving them the edge. Pick: SLV.
MVC at King City: MVC and Soquel played against each other last year. Who wouldn’t want to see that game this year? I could be wrong, but MVC probably doesn’t have a true test until Oct. 12 when it visits Seaside, which could have Game of the Year status just based on the league implications (only one MBL-Pacific Division team earns a guaranteed playoff spot). As for King City, I saw them play St. Francis a couple weeks ago. The Sharks found the big-play on a couple of ocassions, then went to the run and nearly mounted a comeback with their starting QB injured. MVC’s offense is much more potent, and they can pass and run really well. King City will have its moments, but I don’t see them slowing MVC enough to win. Pick: MVC.
Pajaro Valley at Gilroy: P.V. is off the schneid. The Grizzlies snapped an 11-game winless streak last week and saw RB Anthony Cantrell set the single-game rushing mark in Santa Cruz County. It has a lot going for it against Gilroy, which is expected to be without its top RB Brandon Boyd. Boyd was leading the Southern Conference schools in rushing through two weeks. Cantrell is now leading through three weeks. But Gilroy can still score — 85 points through 3 games — and is looking for its first win. And they’re big, and fast and still have plenty of weapons without Boyd, namely WR Brandon Holler and QB Michael Guerrero. If P.V. has a chance, it’s going to have to find the end zone … a lot. Pick: Gilroy.
St. Francis at Stevenson: The Sharks got their first win last week, which I think will help enormously this week. I saw Stevenson two weeks ago against Harbor, and they stopped the run and ran the ball well with Stephen Hotta and Bob Lee (Lee would leave the game with cramps). Those two backs looked like fairly legitimate playmakers that could control a game. St. Francis will counter with Jonathan Carmona, who had a strong second half against King City a few weeks ago and found the end zone twice against Marina. The difference for the Sharks will come in the passing game, which will only help Carmona. Nick Ciandro returned last week against Marina, and WR Nate Ceballos is one of the top playmakers in the area. That offensive balance, I think, will give St. Francis the edge. Pick: St. Francis.
Marina at Harbor: I’m not going to pretend I know much about Marina. I do know they haven’t won a game since going to 11-man football in 2010. Can they beat Harbor? Sure. As initially pointed out by John Devine at the Monterey County Herald, Marina scored the fewest amont of points among the Southern Conference schools last season. Harbor scored the second fewest. Of course, it was a 96-27 difference, so maybe these two teams aren’t on the same level, but it’s interesting to point out. With that said, I’m still picking Harbor. Here’s to hoping QB Milo Small has his breakout game. Pick: Harbor.
Cabrillo at Mendocino: I said earlier this week on Double Coverage that this game will be decided by which QB Mendocino goes with. Starter Kyle Harmyk leads the Bay Valley Conference in passing, although he is said to have been injured during last week’s game against Hartnell. His backup, Andrew Paulson, came in and threw five picks. If Paulson’s the guy, I think Cabrillo has a chance (although Paulson will have an extra week to prepare, which will help). Cabrillo coach Bill Garrison said the Seahawks are preparing for Harmyk to start, which is smart. You have prepare for their best personnel, unless, of course, you know full well they’re out of the lineup. Furthermore, Cabrillo’s secondary is banged up, which doesn’t exactly help. Pick: Mendocino.