It seems like this season two things are apparent in the Redwood Empire. First, the top teams in Marin and Sonoma counties may be as evenly matched as they have been in quite a few years...and second, the best team in the Empire is from far up in the Redwoods. Here is this week's expanded rankings.
1) Eureka (3-0) -- The Loggers left no doubt as to who is the top team in the region. By the time it plays its homecoming game, Eureka will have logged a couple of thousand miles on the road. Last Friday night, the Loggers rolled into Ukiah...and you guessed it...their defense blanked the Wildcats, 28-0, with potential All-American Rey Maualuga (we have the right spelling from the Eureka roster) contributing on both offense and defense.
The 6-3, 235-pound junior had four out of nine team sacks and six tackles for losses. He also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown to get Eureka on the scoreboard in the first quarter. Punishing senior running back Sam Vainuku contributed two TDs on the ground plus a pair of two-pt conversions. Outstanding senior wideout Maurice Purify had 5 catches for 133 yards, including a 13 -ard catch for a touchdown. It's another 700 mile round trip to Napa this week. All I can say to those people who make such fine wine in the valley is this: Look out when those logs come rolling through town.
2) Analy, Sebastopol (3-0) -- Greyson Gunheim carried 8 times for 151 yards and 2 TD's as the Tigers outgained Santa Rosa 353-25 on the ground in ...surprise...shutting out the Panthers 52-0. Analy comes into its league season having outscored the first three opponents, all 3A schools, 120-12. After years of getting close in the 2A Redwood Empire Playoffs, it looks like this year they may be in it for all the marbles. This week's homecoming against Petaluma will be my featured game of the week. See you in apple country.
3) Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa (3-0) -- The Cardinals took it to the Greyhounds on Healdsburg's home turf last Friday, falling behind 6-0, then scoring 18 unanswered points to post an 18-6 victory in front of a disappointed and packed house in Healdsburg. uarterback Matt Fitts gave the Hounds "fits," passing for 243 yards and 3 TDs while scampering for another 112 yards on the ground. Paul Cronin's group gets another test against high-scoring Maria Carrillo this week on the road across town. The Cardinals have outscored their first three opponents. 94-20.
4) Marin Catholic, Kentfield (2-1) -- This is where the "who beat who"...and the shutouts really come into play. With Casa Grande beating Montgomery...and Novato with a shut out of Casa Grande...and Marin Catholic with a shut out of Novato, the Wildcats are beginning to look better and better as each week goes on. Against San Rafael and highly regarded quarterback and safety Winston Venable, Marin Catholic...guess what??...no kidding...shutout the Bulldogs 34-0. Khalil Bell led the charge with 17 carries for 128 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half. Bell left the game just before halftime after a five-yard carry in which he slightly twisted his knee. That didn't stop Bell from rumbling along the sidelines in the second half and cheering on his teammates even with a wrapped knee. The "horse" as coach Ken Peralta called him, told Cal Hi Sports he was walking fine, felt minimal pain and planned on being in the starting lineup for the homecoming game this Saturday against San Francisco Catholic school rival, Sacred Heart Cathedral.
5) Novato (2-1) -- Two weeks ago, the Hornets defense played pretty well even though they gave up 14 points to Marin Catholic. The offense, however, failed to gel or score. Last week, the offense exploded for 40 points and the defense humbled upstart Redwood, holding the Giants to just 108 yards total offense, as Novato...not another one!!!...blanked visiting Redwood 42-0. Running back Paul Knell led the Hornets' onslaught with 20 carries for 140 yards and one TD.
6) Casa Grande, Petaluma (2-1) -- The chickens were dancing in the streets of Petaluma Friday night after the Gauchos shocked previously rated No. 1 in the Empire, Montgomery, 28-27. The Vikings looked to have secured the victory when they drove 81 yards after faking a punt on fourth down to score and take a 27-20 with less than two and a half minutes remaining in the game. ot to be denied, and proving they belong with the Redwood Empire's top teams, the Gauchos marched 80 yards after the kickoff, aided by Montgomery penalties and blown coverages to score on a 30-yard pass and run from quarterback Pat Pezet to receiver Matt Hinds with 11 seconds remaining. The touchdown brought Casa Grande within a point at 27-26. Then with everyone in the stadium holding their breath, the Gauchos went for two and converted on a pass from Pezet for the victory by the slimmest of margins. Next up for the Gauchos is a road game against Sonoma, a shutout loser 20-0 against Maria Carrillo.
7T) Montgomery, Santa Rosa (2-1) -- Clay Farrell threw for 387 yards on 27 for 44 passing with three TDs against Casa Grande, but unfortunately he also had three interceptions as the Vikings were upset, 28-27. I don't even want to think about what the score will be this coming week against Santa Rosa with the Vikings licking their wounds and Santa Rosa being outscored in their first three games by a combined 139-0.
7T) Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa (2-1) -- The 48-31 loss to Casa Grande two weeks back is not looking as bad as it did then after a...this is too much...rare blanking last week of Sonoma, 20-0. We will see if Maria Carrillo is for real over the next three weeks. This week, the Pumas host Cardinal Newman and in three weeks they host Montgomery.
On The Bubble
9) Petaluma (2-1) -- lone loss to Montgomery...this week in very deep against Analy.
10) Healdsburg (2-1) -- The Greyhounds proved no match for Cardinal Newman last Friday, however, Healdsburg and its fine coaching staff remain among the Empire's elite. This week they hit the road to play Fortuna.
11) Justin-Siena, Napa (3-0) -- A tough 6-0 win against San Marin to open league play coupled with a 42-27 drubbing of Drake puts coach Matt Silver's Braves in the Marin County Athletic League title hunt.
12) San Marin, Novato (2-1) -- Took apart Lincoln (SF) in another of the myriad of blankings, 21-0. Tamalpais hosts the Mustangs this week in what should be a good game.
13) Redwood (2-1) -- Hard to keep the Giants in this group after a 40-0 loss, but Novato wanted blood after being shut out by Marin Catholic. This week, Redwood is at home against Justin-Siena, which will tell which team is a contender.
Editor's Note: Harold Abend is in his third year as a correspondent for Cal-Hi Sports. He helped out last year in the CIF San Diego Section. Abend also has been a public relations consultant for numerous CIF state championships in recent years.