|RC vs. Newman for NBL title
More than title on the line for Cougars, Cardinals in showdown
Rumor has it there’s a pretty important football game scheduled tonight, Oct. 26, in Rancho Cotate High’s Cougar Stadium.
Some highly placed sources say this one just might determine the North Bay League champion. They say the winner has a clear track at finishing the regular season unbeaten and nabbing one of the top seeds in the North Coast Section playoffs.
The two participants – Rancho Cotate and Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa – know each other quite well and have been in this position a few times before.
It doesn’t always come down to the Cougars and Cardinals vying for the NBL title, it just seems that way.
Both teams enter the contest unblemished with 8-0 records overall and 5-0 in the NBL. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Also, according to Cal-Hi Sports, both have legitimate shots at advancing to regional bowl games to determine who will play in Southern California for state championships. Rancho Cotate currently is rated No. 3 in Northern California’s Div. II rankings, while Cardinal Newman is No. 3 in the Northern California Div. III rankings.
“This year, because of the way we’ve played and we’re 8-0…we’ve made it an important game,” Cougars coach Ed Conroy said. “The kids are sensing it’s a big game. We know Cardinal Newman’s a very good football team, and we’re pretty good. As for the rankings, they’re fun for the kids to look at, but we’ve emphasized the postseason is a long way off. We have to worry about this one coming up. This is the most important game.”
The Cougars set the stage for the showdown with the Cardinals with a 35-21 victory over Maria Carrillo in Santa Rosa on Oct. 19. Cardinal Newman knocked off Windsor 20-10 in its last game.
One thing Conroy understands is when playing against the Cardinals, there is very little margin for error.
“Every year, Newman’s kids play really hard,” Conroy said. “They’re disciplined and don’t do things to hurt themselves. You have to match that. We’re trying to do it every game. When you do things to hurt yourself, Cardinal Newman takes advantage of it.”
In last year’s game, the Cardinals broke open a relatively close game with a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half, which Conroy admits deflated his team and took them out of the game.
Special teams were a point of emphasis for the Cougars this week, especially after giving up a kickoff return for a touchdown against Maria Carrillo.
“We have to play good special teams,’ Conroy said. “I think the punt team has done a good job, but I’d like to get more out of punt and kickoff returns.”
The Cardinals, according to Conroy, haven’t thrown the ball as much as they’ve done in the past. But in Kenny Carter, the Cardinals have a back capable of moving the chains. Carter rushed for 274 yards last week against Windsor.
“Rancho Cotate enters this game healthy. Inside linebacker Fono Misi was held out of the game with Maria Carrillo because of a minor injury but should be at full strength.
In last Friday’s game, the Cougars had a bit of a challenge defending the Pumas’ Wing-T offense. It’s an offense Conroy said he’ll see only once this year.
“I was just happy to get a win and move on,” he said.
The Cougars ran the ball well against Maria Carrillo, with Jalon Luque leading the way again with 129 yards on 16 carries. He had a pair of 2-yard scoring runs and caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Courchaine, who also had 63 yards on 17 carries. Tanoa Peleti ran it nine times for 68 yards with a touchdown.
Courchaine completed 10 of 14 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.