For some reason, I’ve been doing really well with Friday night games, pretty terrible with Saturday games. That means, if you play Friday, your fate has been decided by yours truly. Saturday, not so much.
Last week: 6-1
Aptos vs. St. Francis: The Mariners are beginning to look like a team that’s going to have plenty to say when it comes time to defend their SCCAL title. The O-line is improving, the stable of backs, currently led by Aaron McAnerney, continue to post solid numbers, QB Alex Joh, who had the biggest shoes to fill, continues to be efficient, and the pass defense, I’ve heard, it getting better. St. Francis is in a similar camp, with youth and improvement and a first-year coach; they just don’t have the numbers like Aptos. And health is always a concern with the Sharks. Pick: Aptos.
SLV at Santa Cruz: The Cardinals are looking to snap a scoreless streak here, but they’ll have a tough time doing so against SLV. The Cougars have allowed 71 points in five games, and have forced 14 turnovers — although the majority of those takeaways have come off interceptions, and Santa Cruz doesn’t usually decide to pass too much. Pick: SLV
North Salinas at MVC: This is probably going to be the best game on Friday night. Both teams can score, and both are riding win streaks. I’m wondering what we’re going to see out of North Salinas, though. Obviously, they had two tough opponents to open the season in Carmel and Soledad (both losses), then took advantage of two lesser opponents in Santa Cruz and Pajaro Valley (both wins). MVC will fall in with the former. I liked the Vikings at the beginning of the season, based on the fact that they returned 17 starters from last year’s team. And Steve Zenk is a good coach. I just think the Mustangs, who are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare, will come out firing. Keep in mind the criteria of a trap game, though. MVC has Seaside next week. Pick: MVC.
Seaside vs. Pajaro Valley: The Grizzlies took a bit of a step back last week in their loss to North Salinas. I expected the Vikings to win, but not necessarily hold P.V. to 7 points. Seaside is a different beast, though. And considering the Spartans defeated North Monterey County last week by a 7-6 margin, I’m sure Al Avila and Seaside might want to come out looking to make a point. Pick: Seaside.
Soquel at Scotts Valley: The biggest game of the week — Soquel-Scotts Valley is always a close one. And although I like the Knights slightly more in this meeting, expect it to be a close game, despite what records and rosters may suggest (Of course, this game is on Saturday. So, congrats, Scotts Valley!). The Falcons’ difficult nonleague slate is over, but their schedule by no means takes a week off. After finishing up with Evergreen Valley, Central, Le Grand and Bear River — four teams that have a current combined record of 14-5 — Scotts Valley opens league play with Soquel, Aptos and SLV. Ouch! The Falcons do play better against the run then they do the pass, so it will be interesting to see if Soquel tries to exploit the latter. The Knights are known for their double-wing attack with Fabiano Hale, Ryan Reyes and others, but don’t forget about three-year varsity QB Lucas Cordoza, TE Kevin Kiff and WR Trestan Peacock. I expect to see this game decided by 10 points or less. Pick: Soquel.
Watsonville at NMC: If you watched Double Coverage this week, this was the game I went back and forth on. I like NMC; it’s coming off an impressive loss to Seaside in which they fell 7-6. The Condors picked of four passes and drove the ball into Seaside’s red zone twice early on before turning the ball over on downs. Defensively, they limited one of the most high-powered offenses on the Central Coast to a single touchdown. Impressive. Watsonville is riding a three-game losing streak, but they’re getting better every week. I really feel they just need to put points on the scoreboard early and they’ll be all right. The last 4 games they’ve fallen behind first, and only once have they come back. They looked good last week against Alisal, but a costly mistake to run a fake punt at the end of the first half I think hurt much more by the final whistle. I keep going back and forth on this game, though. If Watsonville can limit those costly errors, they can pull one out. They might have the better offense, too. I’ll keep my pick from Double Coverage. Pick: Watsonville.
Chabot at Cabrillo: So I went back online late last night just to double check Chabot, at 0-4, was still ranked No. 19 in Northern California. It remains true! How a team can play a difficult schedule against four ranked opponents, lose to every one of them, and be ranked in the top 20 is beyond me. Although I wonder if we don’t know how good Chabot just might be — records aside. They lost to San Joaquin Delta by 8 points; lost to San Mateo by 13, although they were tied at one point in the fourth quarter; lost to American River by 21, although it was a 7-point game early in the fourth quarter; and lost to Diablo Valley by 24 in a game that wasn’t ever very close. Like Watsonville-NMC, this is another game I don’t feel terribly confident picking (and it’s on Saturday, no less). Chabot is difficult to read; they’re stats aren’t great, but they’ve also played tough teams. I think Cabrillo is putting itself in a position to win most weeks, it just hasn’t crossed that threshold enough. But as they say, always go with what you know. Pick: Cabrillo.