There’s nothing unusual about De La Salle and Clayton Valley Charter football teams getting top seeds for the North Coast Section playoffs beginning this week. And this year they’re joined in the playoffs by Ygnacio Valley, riding its most wins since 2009 and looking for its first NCS victory since then as well.
Seeded seventh in Division 6, Coach Bryan Shaw’s Warriors (7-3) face a five-hour, 282-mile bus ride to Eureka where they will meet No. 2 seed Saint Bernard’s Academy (7-3) Saturday afternoon for a 1 o’clock kickoff.
The start of all the NCS football playoffs were moved back one week in order for schools who had to postpone games due to wildfires to get their final regular-season games played.
De La Salle (9-1) begins the quest for its 28th successive NCS championship and 14th straight State Bowl game berth hosting Amador Valley (8-2) of Pleasanton in Division 1 at Owen Owens Field Friday night. Clayton Valley Charter (5-5) is also under the lights Friday with Napa (7-3) coming to Gonsalves Stadium in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs.
In their new playoff format that created seven divisions with no more than eight teams in each bracket NCS schools all face one and done circumstances each round. Only Section champions will move on to Northern California and State playoffs this year.
Last fall, for example, Liberty of Brentwood lost to De La Salle in the Open Division finals but went on to win the State Division 1-A championship. That is no longer possible in the new playoff format.
What isn’t different than in recent years is that should the Spartans again win NCS they will be NorCal’s representative in the State Open Division championship and likely go up against national powerhouse Mater Dei or Saint John Bosco, who have defeated DLS in the past three State finals.
De La Salle has continued its dominance of NorCal high school football after losing its season opener to No. 1 ranked St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a nationally-televised game from Concord. Since that mistake-prone outing coach Justin Alumbaugh’s team has followed its usual script of building momentum as the season progresses.
In their past five games—all against Division 1 playoff teams—the Spartans have scored 283 points. Every De La Salle opponent is in the post-season playoffs.
Their other big matchup this fall was at Folsom against the two-time State Division 1-AA champion Bulldogs. When DLS won that game 42-27 and again handing Folsom its only loss of the season, they set themselves up to avoid a Regional playoff game if they run the table in the NCS playoffs.
All four teams in the top half of the Division 1 bracket are from the East Bay Athletic League, along with California in the bottom half. Should DLS beat Amador Valley, which won the EBAL Valley Division with a 5-0 mark this fall, and then one of the Danville schools, Monte Vista or San Ramon Valley, in the semi-finals, they will most likely face an East County foe, Liberty or traditional rival Pittsburg, in the NCS D-1 finals.
Someone who isn’t surprised by the five of eight Division 1 teams coming from the EBAL is Clayton Valley Charter head coach Tim Murphy. His Ugly Eagles suffered through a 1-4 record in their first year in the EBAL. Their only league win came 41-0 over Foothill, who might be their second-round opponent in the playoffs this month.
CVCHS hadn’t lost a league game in seven years until their rude awakening in the EBAL. On the other hand, before the season began the Ugly Eagles were presented with a golden opportunity by being classified in NCS Division 2 rather than the now-eliminated Open Division, where they had to face the likes of DLS, Pitt or Liberty to move on in the playoffs.
They dominated D-2 in Murphy’s early seasons at the Concord school with three NCS titles in four years and a pair of State Bowl Game appearances from 2012-15. “Being in a Division 1 league is definitely an advantage for the playoffs. Now we just have to continue to get healthy and take advantage of being the No. 1 seed for our division,” Murphy said after the playoff schedule was announced.
A win over the Grizzlies would give Clayton Valley Charter another home game in a week against the Foothill-San Leandro winner. In the other half of the Division 2 bracket are No. 2 seed Vintage of Napa and third seed Campolindo, which ironically could meet CVCHS in the Section finals after being outspoken in the process that saw the charter school removed early this year from the Diablo Athletic League in football only due to their dominance this decade.
Ygnacio Valley face a long trip to Eureka to meet Saint Bernard’s Academy. The last time Ygnacio had at least seven wins was in 2009 when they also notched their last Section playoff victory. That year, the Warriors lost in the second round of the playoffs to Eureka High ending a 9-3 season. They’ll hope this year doesn’t end with a loss to a team from the Humboldt County city.
Coach Shaw says, “With the new playoff format we had no idea whether we would be given the nod [to get in the playoffs] so when we received the No. 7 seed our players and coaches were beyond thrilled. We get to work at least another week together to see how good we can get.
“I’m especially proud as an Ygnacio Valley alum to be a small part of the success our team has achieved. I spent Sunday [after the seedings were announced] receiving calls, texts and emails from many of the alumni we have invited back this year to talk and serve our current Warriors, and they too are so excited for our young men.”
Shaw says he’s bringing up six players from the junior varsity to get a little more experience, so he’ll have 32 players traveling to Eureka.
EBAL MOUNTAIN DIVISION
Clayton Valley Charter 5-5
De La Salle 9-1
Monte Vista 7-3
San Ramon Valley 7-3
DAL VALLEY DIVISION
League (Overall) Results
Benicia 6-0 (9-1)
Berean Christian 1-8 (1-5)
College Park 5-1 (7-3)
Concord 2-4 (3-7)
Mt. Diablo 0-6 (2-8)
Northgate 4-2 (6-4)
Ygnacio Valley 3-3 (7-3)
North Coast Section Football playoff results
Division 1 – De La Salle www.cifncs.org/sports/football/2019_Brackets/FB1BRACKET.pdf
Division 2 – Clayton Valley Charter www.cifncs.org/sports/football/2019_Brackets/FB2BRACKET.pdf
Division 6 – Ygnacio Valley www.cifncs.org/sports/football/2019_Brackets/FB6BRACKET.pdf