Powerful Analy may bury more opponents as the season continues.

Each week I will try to cover a game in Marin County as well as the North Bay and/or the Sonoma County leagues. I like to see the top teams play each other. That way, my overall ranking system for the Redwood Empire will have the same type of validity as my past work in the San Diego Section. Also, how can there be rankings without including our friends from Humboldt/Del Norte, especially when they compete against and win games against foes from the rest of the Redwood Empire and beyond?

Here are this week's expanded rankings and summaries for the featured games within.

Super Seven

1) Eureka (4-0) -- We have to admit when we make a mistake. We had the schedule turned around. As a result, we were a week early for the Loggers rolling 300 miles into wine country...that will happen this coming Friday night in Napa. Instead, Eureka had an even more difficult trip, going completely across the state at one of the widest margins of distance with no freeways, 300 plus miles to Susanville to face perennial Northern Section power Lassen, large school section titlist the past two seasons. The trip started at 8 a.m. Friday, and by the time the team arrived home Saturday morning at 6 a.m. it was 22 nonstop hours of travel, football and more travel. Eureka players had a right to celebrate as well as sleep.

Lassen may have its share of volcanoes and Grizzly bears, but it was the Loggers' Sam Vainuku who erupted as the Loggers prevailed over the Grizzlies 28-14. "We feel we provide our kids with a unique opportunity by travelling to meet top teams," says coach and athletic director, Jack Lakin. "We could stay at home in Eureka, but we want to play the best competition available to us."

You can't penalize the Loggers for anything at this point. By the time they settle into their home and league schedule in two weeks, they will have "logged" almost 2500 miles.

2) Analy, Sebastopol (4-0) -- During pre-game warm-ups, I was walking the field with Analy coach Mike Moreda when we came to a spot that looked like a freshly dug grave. Unfortunately for the Tigers' opponent, Petaluma, that very spot was where the Trojans were buried, losing three second half fumbles to the strong Analy defense...all three partially forced and recovered by Analy linebacker Keith Herman. The 6-3, 225-pound senior ended the night with 12 tackles and two sacks to go with the three fumble recoveries in leading the Tigers to an easy 27-6 victory over the Trojans at Analy's homecoming.

Analy has a punishing running game and the Trojans had no answer for the constant pounding of 6-2, 195-pound senior running back Jack Hayes, junior running back Marty Ponzo, or the Tigers' big man, 6-6, 230-pound Greyson Gunheim. Hayes had two TDs, punching it in from two yards and one yard out, Ponzo had nine carries for 78 yards while Gunheim carried the majority of the load, just as he has each of the first four weeks of the season. Against Petaluma, the highly recruited (mostly for defense) Gunheim carried 22 times for 126 yards with a 12-yard touchdown run up the gut of the Trojan defense.

Most prospective colleges interested in the services of Gunheim see him as a defensive end or possibly a linebacker. Almost all Pac 10 schools as well as Colorado, Colorado State and Ohio State have contacted the big guy who admits "I like to hit the quarterback more than carrying the ball."

Homecoming is always an interesting game and if not for over 100 yards in penalties and a few mental mistakes for the Tigers, the margin of victory could have been even greater. "Our defense has been the identity of this team," said Moreda, who while acknowledging Eureka as a pretty tough team told Cal Hi Sports that his team wants to "prove we are the top team in the Redwood Empire."

They will get another opportunity to prove their toughness as they travel to Fortuna to meet a squad fresh off a home drubbing of Healdsburg. This should be an interesting game.

3) Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa (4-0) -- The Cardinals withstood the challenge of a strong Maria Carrillo squad by going to an out-of-character ground game to counter the Pumas' tough defense against quarterback Matt Fitts. The result was a 31-13 victory to spoil the Pumas' homecoming. Newman tailback Prince Edwards led the ground attack with 27 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown. For Maria Carrillo, replacement running back Joey Monize scored both of the Pumas' TDs on the ground and finished with a rather nice effort of 176 yards on 25 carries. Next up for the Cardinals is Santa Rosa, which has given up 196 points in its first four games while failing to score. It goes from ugly...to uglier.

4) Marin Catholic, Kentfield (3-1) -- It was a sweet homecoming for the Wildcats as they lit up the scoreboard in a 48-27 nonleague shootout with Catholic school rival from San Francisco, Sacred Heart Cathedral. Khalil Bell shook off last week's bumps and bruises to rack up 195 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 38, 28 and 50 yards. The Wildcats cross the creek to take on local rival Redwood for this week's game. A couple of weeks ago this looked like a close game, but now with a surging and improving Marin Catholic team, it should handle the Giants.

5) Novato (3-1) --The Hornets improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in Marin County Athletic League play with a convincing 21-0 blanking at home of the Sir Francis Drake Pirates. Novato's defense, handicapped by an unusually high 130 yards on penalties, was still superb, holding their second straight opponent without a point after shutting out Redwood at home last week, 42-0.

Leading 7-0 midway through the second quarter, and with Drake still very much in the game, Novato put on a punt block play. The result pretty much put the Pirates in a hole from which their offensive minded passing game could not climb. Three Hornets burst past the Pirate blockers with senior defensive back Tim Burmaster blocking the punt into the Drake end zone where Victor Vasquez corralled the pigskin for six points. Jason Adcock, who kicks with either foot, added the extra point to make it 14-0. Novato would add another touchdown in the third quarter when Billy McKie scampered over from seven yards out.

Vasquez had an outstanding day, playing the unusual combination of quarterback on offense and linebacker on defense. Defensively, the 5-10, 160-pound senior not only had the fumble recovery for a touchdown but also recorded a sack and a half. On offense, while sharing duties at the helm with senior Jesse Jones, Vasquez completed 6 of 12 passes for 70 yards while adding one carry on the ground for nine yards.

"I like playing defense and especially linebacker because as a quarterback I can read the defenses quickly," said a beaming Vasquez, obviously pleased with his outstanding performance for the Hornets homecoming game.

Paul Knell was the workhorse of the Novato offense as he gained 139 yards rushing on 23 carries. The 6-0, 200-pound senior also accounted for the Hornets' opening touchdown on a seven-yard plunge that capped a drive after the opening kickoff that covered 64 yards in 14 plays.

For Drake, the lone bright spot was the performance of senior quarterback Matt Silver. Constantly harassed, hurried, bumped and sacked all game by the hungry Hornet defense, the Marin County League's leading passer still managed to complete 15 of 32 passes for 132 hard-earned yards.

Next up for the Hornets is a non-league home game against a big squad from Vintage of Napa.

6) Casa Grande, Petaluma (3-1) -- Many of the local prognosticators and pundits picked the Gauchos as this year's top team in the Redwood Empire. The loss to Novato had some shaking their heads...then the defeat of Montgomery made them look like the exorcist as their heads swivelled around...and now Casa hands Sonoma its second straight whitewashing, 16-0. Gaucho workhorse Joe Trombetta led the Gauchos with 120 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown. Next up for Casa Grande is a home game against Windsor. Casa should be at least a two touchdown favorite.

7) Montgomery, Santa Rosa (3-1) -- Some locals would argue the Vikings should be higher than No. 7. But I cannot overlook the loss to Novato, who then lost to Marin Catholic. Montgomery needs to rebuild its credibility by winning big games. Santa Rosa came into this past week's game scoreless for the season and Montgomery kept the streak alive...to the tune of 57-0. An up and down Ukiah team, whose health is improving, comes south this week to take on the Vikings. Our prediction...Montgomery adds another notch on their march to the 3A Redwood Empire finals.

On The Bubble

8) Maria Carrillo, Santa Rosa (2-2) -- The losses are to Casa Grande and then Cardinal Newman, with star running back Jameson Bonner sidelined due to injury. Defense has been a problem in the losses, but the Pumas can score. The next two weeks will tell if Maria Carrillo will be a title contender...a road game at Rancho Cotate and a critical home game against Montgomery.

9) Redwood, Larkspur (3-1) -- We knew the game against Justin-Siena would be close...and close it was...a 19-13 victory in overtime. The Giants have to believe they have a good chance against Marin Catholic this week...especially at home.

10) Ferndale (4-0) -- Coming from San Diego and knowing the strength of small school teams like the Brian Sipe-led Santa Fe Christian Eagles makes me believe the state No. 2 Div. V rated Ferndale squad can compete with other top Redwood Empire teams...especially after the Wildcats beat Fortuna, which last week walloped Healdsburg . Our sources in the far north tell us that this week's 20-7 victory was over a talented Del Norte of Crescent City.

11) Fortuna (3-1) -- The lone loss was to Ferndale. This week Fortuna hosted and toasted Healdsburg, 40-13.

12) Terra Linda (4-0) -- It may not last, but no one can deny that Terra Linda sits alone atop the Marin County Athletic League at 3-0 after an exciting last minute 29-28 victory over San Rafael in the Marin version of the Bell Game. This week, the Trojans travel to Drake.

Editor's Note: Harold Abend is in his first year as a correspondent for CalHiSports.com covering the Redwood Empire region of the CIF North Coast Section. He previously served as a correspondent for the CIF San Diego Section.

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