We’ve reached the section championship weekend of the high school football playoffs, with title games being held at neutral sites across the Bay Area.
In the North Coast Section’s Division I bracket, Pittsburg will meet Clayton Valley Charter in a matchup filled with storylines.
San Ramon Valley and Campolindo will battle in what should be a high-scoring thriller, and Pinole Valley will try to beat Justin-Siena to complete a surprising run with its first section championship since 1979.
In Oakland, McClymonds will strive for its 87th consecutive win against OAL competition and a 12th straight league championship (not counting the shortened 2021 spring season).
As we’ve done all season, the Bay Area News Group will have coverage throughout.
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Here is the championship preview:
No. 2 Pittsburg (10-2) vs No. 3 Clayton Valley Charter (8-4) at Heritage High School, Friday, 7 p.m.: A year ago, Christian Aguilar started in place of injured Pittsburg QB Jaden Rashada and threw three touchdowns to beat Clayton Valley 28-14, an outcome that gave coach Victor Galli his only NCS title. A year later, Aguilar suits up for the other side and will try to send Clayton Valley to the NorCal regionals with a victory over his former team. Every Pittsburg game from this point forward could be the last for Galli, who announced before the playoffs that he will retire after the season. Pittsburg is aiming for a storybook finish to Galli’s 21-year career leading the Pirates. While Aguilar’s departure strengthened Clayton Valley, Pittsburg remained strong under center with Florida commit Rashada taking snaps and throwing to a bevy of talented receivers such as Rashid Williams and Zachary Card. Pittsburg was able to stay competitive with De La Salle last week in a physical Open Division championship before losing 30-23, and Clayton Valley held off spirited Liberty 21-13. If Pittsburg can prevail over the Ugly Eagles, Galli’s hopes of winning an elusive state championship will stay alive for at least another week. — Joseph Dycus
No. 1 San Ramon Valley (10-2) vs No. 2 Campolindo (12-0) at Dublin High School, Friday, 7 p.m.: The rematch of last year’s epic 17-14 struggle in the semifinals should be another exciting matchup, but don’t expect a defensive battle in the 2022 edition. No. 2 seed Campolindo outlasted Rancho Cotate 42-41 in a brilliant offensive performance as Dashiell Weaver ran for four touchdowns and threw for two against a secondary with two D-I prospects. Meanwhile, San Ramon Valley’s exceptional quarterback Luke Baker took more of a supporting role in his team’s 42-13 win over Foothill in the semifinals, a game in which his halfbacks, John Pau Mendoza and Nick Rivera, ran for 284 total yards. Baker still threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and will need to repeat that level of productivity to outscore a red-hot Campolindo offense that has generated at least 35 points in five straight games. The winner will advance to the NorCal regionals. Campolindo is the defending NCS Division II champion. — Joseph Dycus
No. 2 Windsor (10-2) vs. No. 1 El Cerrito (12-0) at Benicia High School, Friday, 7 p.m.: For many of the Windsor players, last week’s semifinal win over American Canyon was like a replay of last year’s NCS semifinal triumph against El Cerrito. With four minutes to go, American Canyon scored to make it 35-34. But the Wolves failed to convert a 2-point conversion attempt, and Windsor held on to win by a point. Against El Cerrito last year, Windsor led 33-7 in the third quarter, only to have the Gauchos cut the margin to one point with six minutes to go. But the 2-point conversion attempt missed, and Windsor won 33-32. It’s doubtful the Jaguars will score five touchdowns Friday night against an El Cerrito defense that has yielded 62 points all season. Washington State-bound cornerback Warren Smith leads a secondary that includes Kamani Jackson and Jermaine Hargraves, who are also being recruited. The run defense isn’t exactly generous. Junior QB Michael Vanhook has had a solid season, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The Gauchos are attempting to go 13-0 for the first time since 2012, when they won their first 13 games before dropping the NCS title game to Marin Catholic in the days when playoff divisions had 16 teams. El Cerrito last won a section title in 2013. The Jaguars are likely to keep the ball on the ground with sophomore running backs Hayden Anderson and Wyatt Morris. They have combined for 1,231 yards and 15 touchdowns. Anderson, whose older brother Judson is the quarterback, also has 37 receptions for 869 yards and nine TDs. – Mike Lefkow
No. 1 San Marin (10-2) vs No. 2 Miramonte (8-4) at Rancho Cotate High School, Friday, 7 p.m.: Miramonte’s season can neatly be divided into three sections: the first act when the team started 6-1, the 0-3 skid against the Diablo Athletic League Foothill Division’s elite teams to end the regular season, and a revival against Division V competition. After crushing Sonoma Valley by 47 points in the first round, Miramonte routed Analy 34-6, with Cooper Bohlig and John Williams catching touchdowns from UCLA commit Luke Duncan. Defeating No. 1 seeded San Marin will be a much tougher task, as the defending Division V champions have an offense that can go blow for blow with Miramonte’s. Dominic Ingrassia has thrown for 31 touchdowns and backs Charlie Singleton and Jonah Lozano have both run for at least 10 touchdowns. A Miramonte win will give coach Jack Schram’s program its first NCS title since 2013. — Joseph Dycus
No. 4 Pinole Valley (7-4) vs. No. 3 Justin-Siena (7-5) at Memorial Stadium, Napa, Friday, 7 p.m.: Two schools with successful pasts collide Friday night. It has been 43 years since Pinole Valley has won an NCS title, but from 1975-79 the Spartans captured four section crowns under Jerry Deuker, the California State Coach of the Year in 1978. Pinole Valley also produced QB Gino Torretta, the 1992 Heisman Trophy winner from Miami. At Justin-Siena, former coach Rich Cotruvo won six section titles after stints at Acalanes and Monte Vista. While winning isn’t foreign to Pinole Valley or Justin Siena, both are surprise finalists this year. Division VI was expected to be a battle between St. Mary’s-Berkeley and Moreau Catholic, the top two seeds. Pinole Valley took care of St. Mary’s, which entered the game 11-0. Second-year coach Troy McConico, a former star linebacker for the Spartans, relies on a stout defense and the running of seniors Larry McDonald and Ellis Shamsid Deem. McDonald has rushed for 1,021 yards, including 140 yards in a 20-7 semifinal win over St. Mary’s. Shamsid Deem has 555 yards. Meanwhile, the Pinole defense didn’t allow St. Mary’s to score until the fourth quarter, when the Spartans were ahead 20-0. Justin-Siena can be two different teams. In the Braves’ seven wins, they have outscored opponents 165-7. They have posted back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs. But they have been outscored 142-27 in their five defeats, and have been shutout twice. – Mike Lefkow
No. 1 McClymonds (10-1) vs No. 3 Castlemont (7-6) at Fremont-Oakland High School, Saturday, 6 p.m.: Counting the playoffs, McClymonds has won 86 consecutive games against Oakland Athletic Leaguecompetition since the start of the 2010 season. That run has seen Michael Peters collect nine consecutive OAL league titles since taking over as coach in 2012. A 10th seems inevitable. McClymonds has one of the most relentless defenses in the Bay Area. Linemen Malik Richardson and Joshua Shanklin are reinforced by linebackers like Rickari Campbell, who in turn are supported by a secondary with two-way standouts such as Jaivian Thomas and Ferrari Miller Jr. Standing in the way of McClymonds’ latest coronation is upstart Castlemont, which last week upset heavily-favored Oakland Tech 20-8. Lonnell Howard Jr. is the team’s top running back and Elijah Washington is the team’s best receiver. He has an offer from San Jose State. Staying competitive against Mack will be a very difficult task. CalPreps.com’s computer favors the reigning champs by 39. In the regular season, Mack beat Castlemont 60-6. — Joseph Dycus