The North Coast Section playoffs kick off with seven Marin teams in action this Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Both San Marin and Marin Catholic enter as No. 1 seeds and will be favored to host section title games in two weeks. Redwood snagged a No. 4 seed and is hosting a playoff game on Saturday. Tam finds itself in yet another 4-5 matchup and travels to face Casa Grande on Friday.
Terra Linda and San Rafael both made it into the Division V brackets but face long roads as the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, respectively. Branson enters the newly restructured eight-man playoffs as the final of four teams in the D-I bracket.
The top half of this bracket was stacked with four 9-1 teams – Marin Catholic, Las Lomas, Cardinal Newman, and Casa Grande, in that order – so as the No. 5 seed, the Red-tailed Hawks were always in for a difficult game here. Tam went 0-2 in two games against those teams, losing a 27-26 overtime heartbreaker on the road against Las Lomas and 35-14 against MC after falling into a quick 21-0 hole. Casa Grande has won nine consecutive games – all by at least two touchdowns – but lost 27-13 against Cardinal Newman in its season opener. Casa QB Danny Mercado threw for almost 2,000 yards this season with 18 touchdowns against five interceptions. His top target, WR Clint Rea, had 626 yards and seven touchdowns. RB Zach Herrera had 724 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns. Both teams fielded high-octane offenses this season, with Tam holding a slender 383-363 edge in points scored. Defensively, the Gauchos could have a decided advantage, allowing just 128 points to Tam’s 242.
Kennedy’s two losses came by a combined eight points against Deer Valley and Piedmont. The Titans have been in every game but they haven’t faced anyone near San Marin’s caliber. The Mustangs sit fourth in CalPrep’s NCS rankings while Kennedy sits in 62nd – a few spots behind San Rafael and one behind Terra Linda. San Marin won its previous two NCS D-V openers by a combined score of 104-6 before getting promoted to D-IV this season. The Titans are a run-first team, led by RB Maynard Lorenzo (1,060 yards, 6 TDs). Kennedy has only thrown for 995 yards and seven touchdowns as a team this season. San Marin WR Wesley Timmel has 1,010 receiving yards and 15 scores individually. The Mustangs have thrown for 3,051 yards and 39 touchdowns.
The Matadors enter the postseason on a three-game losing streak but those defeats came against strong teams from D-I (No. 7 Campolindo), D-III (No. 2 Las Lomas) and D-IV (No. 2 Acalanes). San Rafael and Miramonte had one common opponent this year in Pinole Valley. The Bulldogs won that game 30-14 and Miramonte blanked Pinole Valley 59-0. To make things more difficult, the Bulldogs will be missing two key players due to suspensions caused by the accumulation of unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties in recent weeks. The Bulldogs weren’t necessarily expected to make much noise in last year’s playoffs either, but played one of the wildest games of the season in pushing Analy to the brink before falling 49-42 in the quarterfinals.
There’s been plenty of history between these two programs in recent years with the Bulls beating the Knights to win section titles in both 2021 and 2022. Last season’s title victory came after Branson lost to Stuart Hall in the regular season. A title this season would require a similar turnaround after the Knights defeated the Bulls 44-26 three weeks ago, essentially wrapping up the top seed in the process. Branson followed that loss up with a 70-32 win against Tomales but a road loss to South Fork last week dropped the Bulls into the fourth seed and set up this North Central II rivalry game a round earlier than usual.
Redwood is set to host what is believed to be the school’s first home game in the 49-year history of the NCS playoffs. The Giants have found the D-II playoffs a bit unforgiving over the years, either being sent out on the road or being left out entirely after seven-win campaigns on a handful of occasions. This season, Redwood’s ticket was essentially punched early on following wins over San Leandro and No. 6 Rancho Cotate. The Giants will be seeking just their second playoff win in program history, the first being a 56-14 blowout victory at Casa Grande in 2016. Redwood and Heritage met in the 2008 playoffs, a 21-7 victory by the Patriots. Redwood took a 7-0 lead in that game courtesy of a touchdown pass from Jake Anderson to Joe Klemme. Redwood’s defensive leader, Nick King, left the game with an injury and the Patriots scored 21 unanswered points to advance. The 2023 Patriots have struggled to move the ball through the air, completing under 50% of their passes for 1,256 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. RB Mekhi Adanandus has run for 776 yards and eight touchdowns.
There’s a rich playoff history between these two programs which culminated in two championship games and a semifinal clash between 2016 and 2018. Bishop O’Dowd won section titles at MC’s expense in 2016 and 2018. The Wildcats bested the Dragons 25-20 in a semifinal en route to a title in 2017. Bishop O’Dowd has posted a 25-24 record since beating MC in 2018 while the Wildcats have gone 53-5 in that span. The teams met for the first time since those high-profile battles this season in a game MC dominated en route to a 52-0 victory. MC’s offense had three one-play scoring drives against the Dragons. WR Greer Arthur caught four passes for 105 yards and three touchdowns. RB Charles Williams ran for 81 yards in limited action. MC’s defense held the Dragons to well under 100 yards of offense.
It’s been a rare sight over the years to see six MCAL teams make the playoffs in a single season. TL was the sixth and final team to secure its place following a dramatic 21-14 victory in the Bell Game over already playoff-bound San Rafael last week. The Trojans leapfrogged the Bulldogs in the bracket and their reward was a 250-mile bus trip up Highway 101 to Eureka. St Bernard’s has been stopped at the semifinal stage by San Marin each of the past two seasons, including a dramatic 26-25 Mustangs win sealed by a late-game interception by Dominic Mancuso. With San Marin now in D-IV, St. Bernard’s will be looking to go at least one step further and reach the section final. The Crusaders have leaned on a balanced attack all season, rushing and passing for just over 1,600 yards this season. TL’s defense will be tasked with stopping RB Wyatt Simoni, who has run for 1,323 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Simoni is also the team’s leading receiver with 24 catches for 559 yards and another four touchdowns.
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