|Cougars hope playoff history doesnít repeat
Rancho Cotate faces opponent which pulled off the upset opening round of 2008 NCS postseason play
The situation is all too ominous for Rancho Cotate head coach Ed Conroy.
The last time Rancho Cotate High’s football team earned a first-round bye in the playoffs was in 2008, and the first-round opponent was Las Lomas of Walnut Creek. This year, the Cougars were given a first-round bye in the North Coast Section Div. II playoffs, and guess who will be the opponent? That’s right, the Las Lomas Knights.
What may be giving Conroy the creeps is the fact his team lost to Las Lomas, 21-17, when the Knights got a touchdown in the waning seconds.
“This is weird because the last time we had a bye, we played the exact same team and lost,” Conroy said. “Hopefully, that won’t happen again.”
The game kicks off tonight (Nov. 16) at 7 p.m., a half-hour earlier than normal, at Cougar Stadium. If the Cougars are victorious against the Knights, they’ll host a semifinal playoff game against the winner of Saturday’s game between Newark Memorial and Northgate. Should Rancho Cotate emerge victorious in the semifinals, they’ll play at a site yet to be determined.
When Rancho Cotate reached the NCS Div. II title game in 2010, the Cougars played Concord in the Oakland Coliseum. This year the cavernous stadium is not an option because it is too expensive for the NCS to rent.
On paper, this game looks as if the Cougars should win handily. After all, the Knights enter the game with a 5-6 record while the North Bay League champion Cougars are the No. 2 seed with a 10-0 record. Conroy, however, believes Las Lomas’ record doesn’t reflect the quality of the team.
“That alarms me a bit because they are a much better team than their record,” Conroy said. “They’re well-coached, disciplined and have a good quarterback, a few good linemen and a good receiver.”
The bye week, according to Conroy, allowed the Cougars to work on some basic things he feels the team doesn’t practice enough. The Cougars were likely to shore up their kickoff coverage unit, which has allowed two returns for touchdowns this season.
He said the Cougars also worked on attacking the offenses of both Las Lomas and Washington.
“It’s a little tough when you don’t exactly know who you’re going to be playing,” Conroy said. “I really was hoping to play last weekend, but we got to do some hard conditioning and we got some rest. It was a good week…we accomplished a lot.”
Rest may have been the last thing the Cougars needed as they are, according to Conroy, “very healthy heading into this game.”
Rain has been forecast for tonight’s game, which could impact the players’ footing on the artificial surface at Cougar Stadium, but Conroy isn’t all that worried.
“You just never know with the rain…you hope it stays dry, but then again, both teams have to play in it,” he said.
Las Lomas earned the right to face the Cougars by whipping Washington of Fremont, 31-14, in the opening round of the playoffs. Their most effective player in that game was running back Kyle Hill with 104 yards rushing on 24 carries. Knights quarterback Adam Wood passed for 94 yards and scored a rushing touchdown against Washington.
Rancho Cotate’s defense has been the strength of the team all season. If it is able to put the clamps on Hill, the Cougars’ chances of winning are enhanced. The Cougars’ defense has pitched four shutouts this season, and the only team to score more than 20 points against Rancho Cotate was Maria Carrillo. The Pumas actually got seven of their points on a kickoff return.
The Cougars have outscored opponents by an average score of 35-7 this season, having allowed only 77 points this season.