It is time for the East Bay Athletic League football teams to get down to business as the league seasons get underway.
The EBAL is split up into two divisions -– the Mountain and the Valley. The Mountain is comprised of the higher ranked teams based on a 2-year-competitive balance.
De La Salle is a member of the Mountain division but is not eligible to win the Mountain championship.
Both leagues are deep, with the championship likely to be determined on the final week of the season. I will make my predictions for the season, while analyzing each of the teams.
The toughest things when doing previews is not knowing how injuries will come into play with the teams as they move through the second half of the season.
What looks like a good prediction this week, can drastically be altered over the next 4-5 weeks of games. The Mountain division is insanely good as a team could play well every week and not win a game.
It could be that type of season.
I really do feel that the team at the bottom of the standings could beat the first place team every week –- it’s that good.
The Valley is almost as competitive, but I really think it will come down to one of two teams that will win the division.
(Predicted order of finish.)
1. San Ramon Valley (4-1 non-league): I went back and forth between Cal and San Ramon Valley, but after watching the Wolves up close and personal, it was easy to make my final choice. The went out and manhandled a good Foothill team and they did it by turning in a complete game. They can pound the ball, or they can throw the ball, with the blocking schemes for both extremely strong. The lone loss came to a strong 5-1 Central Catholic of Modesto in a 21-14 road game. They just seem to have talent at every position on the field, allowing for an adaptable game plan without dropping off.
2. California (5-0): The Grizzlies have taken care of business in every game, dispatching whoever has been put in front of them. The best passing team in the league, Cal will produce defensive issues for each opponent. The offense has been elite, averaging 47.8 points per game on the way to the perfect non-league campaign. Even though the level of difficulty goes way up starting this week, I think the Cal offense will continue to get better as it is the first real, full season under coach Danny Calcagno, a long time prep/JC coach known for his offensive architecture.
3. Amador Valley (4-1): The Dons are a bit of enigma right now. There is no denying the defense has been the key thus far as they are giving up just 5.6 points a game through their first five contests. But and it makes their success a riddle, the one time they faced a good offense, they did get scratched for 21 points on three long drives. This team has some studs, and it is time to see them come front and center. I think the loss to rival Foothill will benefit this team and I look forward to them taking on San Ramon Valley this week. Will be a measuring stick as to what we can expect from the Dons.
4. Clayton Valley (4-1): At the end of the season if Clayton Valley is standing on top of the Mountain I would not be surprised. The Eagles have played the toughest non-league schedule of all the EBAL teams. The lone loss came on the road early in the season at Del Oro in Loomis. Things you can count on when playing Clayton Valley – they are well-coached, and they will come to hit hard. You must be ready to lace them and climb in the ring for these games.
5. Monte Vista (5-0): Might seem like an unfair ranking for the Mustangs as they have gone out and done everything asked of them thus far. Then again, this is exactly what to expect when playing in the Mountain division. Under first year coach C.J. Anderson – the former NFL and Cal-Berkeley star – the Mustangs have been solid on offense average 29 points a game, with the defense only giving up 8.4 points per contest. It is a substantial step up now from their non-league schedule but closing with a 48-7 win over a decent Livermore program shows they are ready to compete.
1. Dublin (4-2): This was another back and forth decision. Dublin’s two losses came to Mountain division teams, and they played well in both, losing 7-0 to Amador and 30-20 to Cal, holding the Grizzlies to their lowest point total of the season. This team abounds with athleticism and toughness, but some inconsistency on offense is a concern. Opens with an improving Granada team and with little margin for error in the Valley, the Gaels need a strong start.
2. Foothill (4-2): The Falcons would have been my choice a couple of weeks ago, but a series of injuries leaves serious questions. Receiver/defensive back Connor Perez is out for the season, and six other starters – including top player Kenny Olson - were out in the 42-0 loss to San Ramon Valley. As the injuries go, so will the Foothill season. When healthy it is a dynamic offense, but the Falcons are not a deep team and need to be healthy to contend. I have a feeling they will be getting healthy, but this week a 5-0 Dougherty Valley could be a trap game.
3. Livermore (4-2): May be a step back from where I thought they would before the season started, but still a solid, well-coached unit that will enter Valley play after a bye this week, giving them two weeks to prepare for Foothill. It is a confident team that has every right to expect to be in the thick of things in the Valley title race.
4.Dougherty Valley (5-0): I think the Dougherty Valley people would be the first to admit that the Wildcats have not had the toughest non-league schedule. But when a good team faces sub-par teams you should blast them and that’s what Dougherty Valley has done, outscoring their opponents by a 45.4-18.8 margin. One key entering the season is that winning breeds confidence and the Wildcats should be brimming with that as the lone unbeaten team in the Valley non-league campaign.
5. Granada (2-3): The Matadors might still be suffering some from a tough spring season where they were 1-5 and well beaten in all the losses. The team appears to be getting better each week and under the guidance of coach Tim Silva, I know the team will be a tough out each week. The opener at home against Dublin will be a huge measuring stick for the Matadors.