Game of the Week: Bragging rights on the line in River Bowl XXVI

The coveted River Bowl trophy is starting to get comfortable on the west side. And that’s a problem for those in Black and Gold who have yet to experience holding the cup.

Shasta High looks for a fourth-straight victory in the annual rivalry game, River Bowl XXVI, when it hosts Enterprise Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Thompson Field in the Redding Rancheria Game of the Week.

The Wolves have not won three straight since the game was dubbed the “River Bowl” in 1993. They waited 11 years until claiming their first one in 2003 and now are on the verge of taking four straight in the series since winning five consecutive years from 1987-1992. No one on this Shasta squad has been at the school to experience an Enterprise victory in the River Bowl. And they’re not ready to give it up.

“We want to hold the legacy, keep this going and keep the ball rolling on the win streak,” Shasta senior Blake Blomquist said. “(We) definitely don’t want to be those people.”

Enterprise holds the edge in the River Bowl era 17-8 but the all-time series that dates back to 1956 is all square at 32-32-1.

This year’s edition isn’t the most intriguing matchup on paper with Shasta entering 2-5 and Enterprise 1-6. But none of that matters when it comes to River Bowl.

“It’s Shasta this, Shasta that, it’s all earful every single day,” said Jayden Campbell, Enterprise’s senior running back. “The announcements in the morning is it’s River Bowl week after every single sentence.”

The Hornets (0-3 Eastern Athletic League, 1-6) are reeling with a five-game losing skid and injuries to starting quarterback Leslie Cummings (broken forearm), wide receivers Sean McDonald (MCL injury) and Matt Amasaki (knee). Cummings played through the injury against Foothill last week and Enterprise head coach Chris Combs’ expectation went from “10 percent” for him to play on Tuesday to “doubtful” on Thursday. That puts junior Don Stradley in the starting roll under center. Amasaki is probable and having that type of two-way receiver and defender back could be huge for Enterprise. But the Hornets have seemed to found their running game with Campbell rising above the rest the past two weeks, including a career-best 229 yards on 27 carries in last week’s loss to Foothill.

Meanwhile Shasta (1-3 EAL, 2-5)  has struggled with consistency and experience after graduating a lot of last year’s senior-laden squad that took the Wolves to the CIF 3AA state championship game. James Weaver, Brayden Coon, Bryson Kimp and Alec Meek are the engines that drive the Wolves run-heavy Wing-T system that has given opponents fits since head coach JC Hunsaker took over the program three years ago.

More than anything, these teams need a win. Especially with the last-place finisher in the Eastern Athletic League being left out of the postseason. River Bowl isn’t the only thing at stake, a chance at the postseason is also on the line.

“We’re really focused on River Bowl but we’re really just trying to get a win,” Combs said. “A win in the River Bowl would be the cherry on top.”

Who: Enterprise (0-3 EAL, 1-6) at Shasta (1-3 EAL, 2-5)
Where: Thompson Field, Shasta High School
When: 7:30 p.m.  Friday
Key stat: Shasta and Enterprise all-time series since 1956 is tied 32-32-1

Pleasant Valley (3-0 EAL, 5-2) vs. Foothill (2-1 EAL, 4-3) at Chico , 7:30 p.m. 
The Cougars head to Chico High to play the Vikings, riding the momentum of beating Enterprise last week. Quarterback Jayden Gordon is finding his groove with six scores last week in the rivalry game against the Hornets. Joey Brown’s squad is looking for a three-game win streak and a victory that could conceivably set them up for the No. 2 seed in the Division II playoffs. Red Thunder lost to Paradise, but wins over PV and Chico could give them the tiebreaking edge for a playoff bye.

The Vikings are coming off a bye week and have a lethal QB-WR combination of Tanner Hughes and Caleb Cooley. Special teams has also been a boom for Mark Cooley’s bunch.

Anderson (0-2 NAL, 4-3)  at Central Valley (0-2 NAL, 2-5), 7 p.m.
The Cubs are coming off a rough two-week stretch in which they were outscored 75-0 to West Valley and Lassen with talk of infighting on the team as well. Parker Phillips is as good a football player as there is in the Northern Section, but the Cubs have to figure out a way to play together.

The Falcons are coming off a loss to Corning and down in numbers, but Jesse Rogers has players who want to be there and believe they’re laying the groundwork for the future. Two wins is more than the program has had in the past four years total. Will Flowers continues to show that size doesn’t matter as much as heart does.

West Valley (2-0 NAL, 6-1) at Corning (2-1 NAL, 3-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles control their own destiny for a possible No. 1 seed in the Division III playoffs. A Week 9 game at home against Lassen might be the sticking points, so Greg Grandell’s team can’t look past a Corning team capable of big plays. Bailey Sulzer is a beast and the Eagles defense has been dominant most of the year.

The Cards have big-play weapons in Christian Briceno and Devin Toth and are coming off a big win against Central Valley.

Mt. Shasta (1-1 MVL, 3-2) at University Prep (1-1 MVL, 4-3), 7:30 p.m.
This is a litmus-test game for the Panthers as the Bears have shown the ability to ground and pound despite low numbers. U-Prep has won the games it’s supposed to win against the likes of Hamilton and Trinity. Now, Darren Trueblood’s squad needs to show it can win the games where the opponent is close to evenly matched. Junior Riley Seay has been having a great year at running back and quarterback Dylan Cabral has shown poise leading the Panthers.

The Bears have a backfield duo of Kayden Crisco and Elijah Rodriguez that will punish you on defense.

Modoc (4-1 CVL, 4-3) at Fall River (5-0 CVL, 7-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Braves are riding a three-game win streak into the meeting with the Bulldogs, but all three wins have been against sub-.500 teams. Modoc is going to need a prime-time performance against Bailey Small, Gavin Dobson and coach Todd Slot’s crew.

The Bulldogs appear to be on a collision course for the Division V title game, a game it lost last year to a generational Chester team.

Maxwell (1-5 CVL, 3-5) at Burney (0-5 CVL, 0-7), 7:30 p.m. 
The Raiders are still looking for heir first win, hosting a Maxwell team that played Fall River tough earlier in the season but comes to the Intermountain area riding a two-game skid.

Weed (2-3 North, 4-3) at Redding Christian (4-1 North, 5-3), 6 p.m.
The Cougars last on-field win was on Sept. 14 in a 52-36 victory against Dunsmuir. A forfeit win and a three-game skid have happened since for Weed.

The Lions, on the other hand, enter Friday’s game on a three-game win streak and riding the senior leadership of Isaiah VanDenend.

Other Northern Section Games
Red Bluff at Paradise, 7:30 p.m.
Lassen at Yreka, 7:30 p.m.
Gridley vs. Oroville  at Harrison Stadium (Oroville), 7:30 p.m.
Las Plumas at Orland , 7:30 p.m.
Sutter at Wheatland , 7:30 p.m.
Biggs at Portola , 7:30 p.m.
Chester vs. Quincy at Feather River College (Quincy), 6 p.m.
East Nicolaus at Hamilton, 7:30 p.m.
Williams at Trinity, 7:30 p.m.
Esparto at Colusa, 7:30 p.m.
Durham at Willows, 7:30 p.m.
Winters at Pierce, 7:30 p.m.

Butte Valley at Hayfork, 6 p.m.
Dunsmuir at Happy Camp, 6 p.m.
Tulelake at Big Valley 7 p.m.
Princeton at Loyalton, 4 p.m.
Westwood at Greenville, 6 p.m.

Los Molinos at Herlong, 1 p.m.